Homeland Security Today’s annual Holiday Hero Awards honor those who have made lasting contributions to our nation’s security and risen to meet myriad challenges, recognizing those who have dedicated their careers to making our nation safer within the homeland security enterprise and those who have used their talents, determination, or platform to contribute to a safer country.
HOMELAND SECURITY PERSON OF THE YEAR
The GTSC Homeland Security Today Person of the Year is awarded to people who serve the homeland security mission in an exemplary fashion. These individuals have directly improved, executed, and/or engaged the proper people, agencies, or departments necessary to tangibly improve the nation’s prevention, protection, mitigation, or response capacity to make America safer.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: NATIONAL
L. Eric Patterson, Director, Federal Protective Service
L. Eric Patterson is the Federal Protective Service (FPS) director and will retire in January after more than 43 years of military and public service. Appointed as the FPS director in 2010, he is the longest-serving director in the agency’s 51-year history. He previously served as the deputy director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center at the Defense Intelligence Agency and as commanding general of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which culminated his distinguished 30-year career.
Throughout his tenure as director, Patterson provided inspirational leadership and strategic vision to a national law enforcement organization of 15,000 officers, personnel, and contractors protecting approximately 9,500 federal facilities where more than 1.4 million people work, visit, and conduct daily business with the U.S. government resulting in more than $4.5 trillion in annual economic activity. Faced with an ever-dynamic threat environment, Patterson spearheaded transformational initiatives which significantly prepared, integrated, and professionalized the FPS workforce to become a recognized leader within the facility protection and law enforcement communities, domestically and internationally.
Just a few of his career accomplishments include:
- Provided leadership among DHS law enforcement agencies to harmonize use-of-force policies, equipment issuance, and training across the department and develop new Public Order Policing policies to better protect those exercising their First Amendment rights.
- Named the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) 2022 Partner Agency of the Year (out of more than 150 partners) after opening a new National Training Academy on the FLETC campus this year. The building was nominated for the 2022 Law Enforcement Design Awards, which showcases new architectural designs that represent the very best innovations in security and technology today. His vision was key to this facility being constructed.
- Served as a named member of President Biden’s Safer Federal Facilities Task Force as part of the Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. His leadership was instrumental to keeping federal facilities open for business.
- Prepared FPS to protect facilities against emerging threats. This included helping agencies navigate the nexus of cyber-physical technologies and mitigate inherent vulnerabilities; additionally, FPS deployed a counter-unmanned aerial system capability and policy that resulted in DHS’s first custodial arrests for violation of national defense airspace.
- Drove the development of new systems and technology to allow FPS to automate manual processes, increase officer safety and facility protection, and collect information to make evidence‐based decisions. Notably, FPS’s Modified Infrastructure Security Tool (MIST), which assesses the security of federal facilities, has won three national homeland security “Astor” Awards. As a result of his vision, MIST has become the leading source of facility vulnerability information and mitigation efforts within the federal government.
- Spearheaded efforts to increase law‐enforcement professionalism and standardize tactics, techniques, and procedures across the nation.
Additionally, he created a Rapid Protection Force. Collectively, his leadership allowed FPS to surge forces to meet multiple national emergencies and high‐profile operations with minimal impact to daily operations. During the summer of 2022, FPS simultaneously surged officers to support the resettlement of Afghan nationals, augment the Supreme Court of the U.S. police during a period of heighted risk, and protect emergency intake sites for unaccompanied migrant children.
Patterson’s record of achievement as FPS director is nothing short of extraordinary. The result of his efforts tremendously benefits DHS, the federal workforce, and millions of Americans. He consistently demonstrates a high and unwavering commitment to public service.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: STATE
James “Chris” Stallings, Director, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency
James “Chris” Stallings has served as the director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS) since Sept. 1, 2020. During that time, he has faced some truly daunting challenges, assuming additional roles and responsibilities while continuing to put the people of his state first and working to find ways to increase our nation’s security. In addition to his responsibilities to Georgia, he sits as the chairman for the National Emergency Management Association’s (NEMA) Homeland Security Committee – a role in which he identifies and disseminates best practices from around the country, identifies security gaps, and facilitates coordination and communication among key stakeholders throughout the nation.
Additionally, Stallings represents the NEMA by sitting as a tri-chairman for the National Homeland Security Consortium (NHSC). The NHSC is a unique group of 22 state and local associations representing elected officials, homeland security and emergency management organizations, and the private sector who work together to address the complex challenges of homeland security. These leadership roles demonstrate the strength Stallings brings to all situations in which he finds himself, and the respect held for him by his colleagues.
In Georgia, Stallings brought over 12 years of public safety experience to his director position. During his first year in charge, he coordinated the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included an incredible launch with minimal supplies of nine major mass vaccination sites in three days helping thousands of Georgians have shots in arms. Prior to joining GEMA/HS, Stallings served as director of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Dignitary Protection Section. He started his career at the agency in 2008 and was rapidly promoted through the ranks. He was often recognized as a leader among his peers. Stallings currently serves as vice chairperson on Georgia’s Board of Homeland Security, and serves on the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Georgia Cybersecurity Board.
To facilitate the best mitigation and resilience efforts for his state, Stallings makes it a point to visit all his counties in the state on a regular basis. This type of commitment, down to each community, allows him to lead with the best understanding of the needs of his communities – not just what can be seen at the state level, but hearing from localities themselves.
Highlighting his innovative use of decreased federal homeland security funding, Stallings understands that the amount of money available would be ineffective split among all Georgia counties. Seeing there could be greater utilization of the funding as a statewide project, Stallings directed homeland security grant funds to be used to establish an intelligence unit within the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to specifically monitor infrastructure during all-hazards events and make the information available in real time to all counties. The intel center serves emergency management as well as law enforcement. This type of step forward is the perfect example of the progress Stallings has brought to the table in his roles.
The passion and enthusiasm for protecting our country at every level is exuded throughout Stallings’ daily activities and his career. His expertise and skillset are an asset that inherently enhances the homeland security network of this country. He swiftly executes actions with the betterment of the people of this country in mind at all steps – consistently making the correct decisions and leading by example in every aspect.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: LOCAL
Sergeant Michael Satter, Deputy Director, Kansas City Regional Fusion Center, Kansas City Missouri Police Department
Sergeant Michael Satter has demonstrated excellence in outreach and engagements with private, local, state, and federal agencies to comprehensively strengthen stakeholder capacity through education, information sharing, and information empowerment. As a sergeant with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department and as the deputy director of the Kansas City Regional Fusion Center, Satter has taken on additional duties to enhance fusion center awareness at the local, state, and national levels. His promotion of the regional fusion center and capacity building of private stakeholders in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area led to his selection as the co-chair of the National Network of Fusion Centers’ Private Sector Engagement Committee. There he continues to grow private-sector partnerships with state and regional fusion centers, while also facilitating the improved communications and information sharing of the committee with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Domestic Security Alliance Council, the Department of Homeland Security’s Private Sector Office, and the National Council of Information Sharing and Analysis Centers.
His leadership and persistence to improve private-sector outreach helped lead to his selection as a member of the National Fusion Center Association’s Executive Board and an April 2022 appointment as co-chair for the Central Region, where he directly represents 16 of the 80 fusion centers in the national network. In 2022, Satter delivered multiple educational presentations at the federal, local, and private partnership levels. He served as a keynote presenter and trainer at the National Fusion Center Association Annual Training Event and the National Homeland Security Conference to educate and share best practices for improving information sharing and educational initiatives for private-sector partners to improve threat reporting and assessment. Satter took the lead to engage with private, local, state, and federal agencies to capture accurate regional data. He helped review the analysis on, and syntheses of, information that led to Kansas City’s metropolitan area being awarded the federal designation as an Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) city in 2022. Satter is a recognized principal contributor for protection and resiliency planning in the multi-state (Missouri and Kansas) region. He served on several regional committees such as the Mid-America Regional Council’s Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee, including key participation on regional terrorism and bio/agriculture meetings to facilitate private and public understanding of threats, risks, and consequences. His insights were instrumental in these committees developing threat mitigation strategies and plans. Satter skillfully championed outreach and engagements with large private-sector lifeline critical infrastructure organizations in the region. Through his outreach, Satter facilitated discussion, planning, and information sharing that enhanced the protection level and resiliency of these large private organizations. He served as the lead municipal anti-terror outreach coordinator with the siting and security development of the future largest data center in the U.S. owned by Meta. He provided key outreach and collaboration between Kansas City and private stakeholders to include the NFL for the 2023 NFL Draft. He facilitated private, local, and federal engagement, outreach and information sharing with critical infrastructure stakeholders such as Evergy energy and AT&T communications.
Satter’s contributions in the discipline of outreach and engagements comprehensively improved the information sharing, training, and education capacities of all he has interacted with at federal, state, local, and private partner agencies and organizations. His contributions indicate his professionalism, commitment, and tireless efforts to improve community safety, protection, and resiliency.
CITIZEN OF MISSION
The Citizen of Mission award goes to an individual who devotes their personal time, energy, and resources to work for causes related to homeland security. Volunteers, nonprofit leaders, corporate employees — anyone is eligible for nomination as long as they devote time and dedicated effort to supporting the homeland mission.
RC Smith, Board Member, INLETS
A member of the volunteer-run InfraGard since 2011, he joined the Maryland chapter board of directors where he furthered the collaborative information sharing between DHS and other federal agencies by designing and hosting meetings at LM sites. He started a defense industrial base (DIB) working group in protected space where the competitors could gather and share threat concerns while facilitating the FBI and other intel agencies to share threat updates to the specific industry. He attended and graduated from the FBI Citizens Academy and serves as a member of the Baltimore chapter’s Alumni Association. There he has maintained and furthered relationships with industries with similar threat challenges and furthered discussion on resolutions.
Additionally, Smith has helped plan and deliver the INLETS training since 2013. INLETS is a nonprofit created to support law enforcement investigators and analysts with leading-edge training on the most relevant topics by the most experienced individuals possible. There, he serves on the INLETS board of directors and chairs the benefactor program, which he designed to recognize and reward those who serve our communities.
Through all these official positions, Smith is also a noted pen turner. In that quiet role, he humbly designs unique, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind writing instruments for individuals who serve our country or support those who do. For instance, his pens have been requested by organizations who presented them as tokens of appreciation to Col. Oliver North and Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise. In his own principled way, he has never sold a pen for profit but rather as a personal gift to individuals with a servant’s heart.
In his “day jobs,” Smith became a U.S. Marine shortly after graduating high school. He served a 21-year career with distinction throughout the Pacific and then as the Senior Enlisted for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Once entering civilian life, he joined Lockheed Martin where for 25 years he has served in physical security, crisis management and counterintelligence roles at multiple facilities in the DMV. For over 45 years he has led, facilitated, and protected defenders of our nation.
For his 45 years of supporting the national security mission abroad and at home, as a U.S. Marine and as a defense contractor, in designing substantive training programs, and creating unique gifts of appreciation, RC Smith is a Citizen of Mission. He has lived his life in “Oscar Mike” fashion. That military phonetic alphabet stands for “On Mission.” And if you know RC, that is the way he lives — with focus, purpose, and intention.
ORGANIZATION OF MISSION
Integrated Community Solutions to Active Violence Events (ICSAVE)
Integrated Community Solutions to Active Violence Events (ICSAVE) is an Arizona-based charitable foundation created by volunteer professionals from throughout the state who are united by their dedication to the prevention of traumatic events through education, preparedness training and community outreach programs.
Living and working within their respective communities, they actively strive to develop integrated preparedness and response practices and strategies to prevent or mitigate the physical, psychological, spiritual and financial impact of incidents ranging in severity from common workplace and recreational injuries to violent mass casualty incidents. To date, they have provided lifesaving education to over 160,000 Arizonans.
Throw Away Dogs Project
The Throw Away Dogs Project is a nonprofit whose mission is to rescue high driven dogs who cannot easily be rehomed, train them and then donate them to law enforcement departments that cannot afford one. The project is living proof that you CAN teach a old dog new tricks and it provides a much needed service for departments in need.
Many dogs have already been trained and supplied to law enforcement and emergency services departments. Examples include Hansel, an arson detection dog for the Millville Fire Department, and Dubai, a dual-purpose explosives detection and patrol dog who was supplied to the Philadelphia Transit Police Department.
EXCELLENCE IN OUTREACH
Much of partnership requires knowledge and understanding. Communication between industry and government to achieve the best products and services requires outreach in all stages: requirements building, request for information, effective industry days, outreach through engagement and much more. The Excellence in Outreach award recognizes the agency, department, or individual that has excelled at engaging, explaining and educating to benefit the mission of securing the nation.
Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
In the emergency management world, campaigns are often focused on educating adults, seniors, small businesses, etc., on preparedness and available resources. Oftentimes the younger, but equally important, demographic of children can be overlooked. This inspired HCOHSEM to create a campaign that would inform and educate children on disasters that can occur right in their backyard.
Launched in 2020 in partnership with the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition, the aim of the Olivia the Preparedness Opossum campaign was to educate children on different types of disasters they can face in their lives, and how they can safely prepare for these times. The campaign first began with the creation of the mascot, Olivia. The cartoon opossum is regularly featured on HCOHSEM’s social media accounts, reminding children to stay safe and informed in their communities. To further outreach into the community, HCOHSEM also created a Kids Preparedness Activity Book. This interactive book features Olivia the Preparedness Opossum, who teaches kids about different types of disasters, what to wear in various emergencies, and how to create an emergency kit. The book also includes a family communication plan, which encourages children to memorize their name, address, guardians’ names, phone numbers and more.
Not only is the Kids Preparedness Activity Book available for free to the public, but it is also accessible in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic. The initiative to make this activity book available in multiple languages allowed it to reach a large demographic in diverse Harris County. As of today, more than 5,000 activity books have been distributed to children all throughout Harris County, and the Olivia Preparedness Campaign continues to grow on social media. With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, there is now greater opportunity to continue expanding this campaign. HCOHSEM continues to increase their efforts on preparing children for any type of disaster.
Tania Bougebrayel Cohn, Community Engagement and Resilience Manager, Arlington County Department of Emergency Management
Tania Bougebrayel Cohn works tirelessly to protect and promote the well-being of all she serves, building inclusive, equitable, and proactive community outreach and engagement programming in line with the homeland security mission to “Ensure Resilience to Disasters.” Tania is new to the emergency management and homeland security field, with just two years of experience after over a decade working in community empowerment. Still, she brings firsthand experience of the importance of homeland security and emergency management after moving to the U.S. as a refugee from Lebanon. Bougebrayel Cohn’s lived experience with social and political instability, her professional community empowerment background, and tireless work ethic led to an exceptional whole community approach to COVID-19 vaccine outreach that resulted in the county’s 88.8 percent vaccination rate, one of the highest in the nation. She capitalized on the momentum of this work to found the county’s first grassroots, community-based emergency management citizen advisory group, Community Advancing Readiness and Resilience Together (CARRT).
Bougebrayel Cohn founded and led the county’s Complete Vaccine Committee (CVC), a volunteer group made up of more than 150 diverse community leaders who served as ambassadors, sharing COVID-19 updates and vaccination information across their network and community. The group donated more than 2,000 hours to hosting over 70 multi-language outdoor, socially distanced community listening events, assisting hundreds of residents in registering for the vaccine and sponsoring special all-volunteer events at houses of worship, food pantries, and at pop-up sites throughout the county. The CVC focused on underserved communities most impacted by the pandemic, and members met monthly to share community needs and strategize the best ways to address them. For example, CVC members shared feedback that many working mothers in an affordable housing complex had trouble scheduling leave or securing childcare to get vaccinated. As such, the CVC and Emergency Management hosted pop-up vaccine clinics at the housing complex to help residents overcome transportation, work, and childcare barriers to vaccination. This sort of grassroots strategizing built overall community resilience by bringing information and services to those least likely to have access to it.
Bougebrayel Cohn capitalized on the success of the CVC throughout the pandemic to launch CARRT, an agile, diverse, and sustainable resident-driven group that works alongside the county’s emergency management team to identify barriers and solutions for enhancing community resilience. CARRT uses a whole community and equity lens to bring emergency preparedness, response, and recovery information to underserved communities through trusted partners such as faith leaders and social services providers. The group meets monthly at roundtable sessions facilitated by Bougebrayel Cohn and the emergency management team to discuss community needs to build emergency preparedness and overall resilience and to identify grassroots solutions to address them. This group is the first of its kind in Northern Virginia and will provide a landmark shift in delivering a sustained, diverse, community-driven lens to ground emergency planning and response. The planning and launch of this group took over a year of data analysis and community engagement. Her work occurred while also navigating emergency response priorities including hazardous weather response, COVID-19 response and planning for significant events such as Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall. Through it all, Bougebrayel Cohn maintained her focus on the homeland security mission of Ensuring Resilience to Disasters and has built a more secure, united, and empowered community.
EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION AND TRAINING
This award recognizes an organization’s exceptional efforts in building partnerships and capacity for entities to be able to better detect, prevent and respond to a range of threats.
The purpose of the Intel & Law Enforcement Training Services organization is the definition of the acronym: Just as an inlet connects large oceans to smaller bays, rivers, and tributaries, the INLETS connects large law enforcement agencies to the smaller agencies and organizations and, together, all are made more effective. Over the past 11 years, INLETS has collaborated with the private sector and all levels of law enforcement to provide the most relevant training by experienced instructors at the most affordable registration cost for attendees. Based in Annapolis, Md., it was created in 2011 by four FBI agents who responded to the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on 9/11. They were tasked with creating a training program for state and local law enforcement in matters of violent crime and terrorism. To develop a holistic approach, they partnered with the Maryland state fusion center and with local InfraGard chapters. The intentional design and triangular approach allowed for the greatest impact, benefit, and collaboration. They use the strengths of each element: the FBI has connection to subject matter experts, the state has connection to the local jurisdictions, and InfraGard has connection to the private-sector practitioners and supporting partners.
Using this model, the team has created agendas that are equally important to both the private and public sectors. INLETS has reached over 10,000 attendees from more than 1,000 agencies and companies, over 20 InfraGard chapters, 30 state fusion centers, and 40 institutions of higher education from 47 states and seven countries. A one-day program on active shooters was requested through the private sector including faith-based organizations, schools, and retail companies. While among the most common topics offered by hundreds of entities, this agenda averages 150 attendees from 100 entities and companies traveling from seven states for the one-day program. Similarly, the team offers a one-day program on cyber-based financial institution fraud. With an average of 120 attendees traveling from the four largest financial institution markets, they learn from law enforcement and industry experts on the current and emerging threats. After the onset of the pandemic, the team identified and worked with an academic partner to use these same presenters in webinar programs (INLETS Online) so that the attendees could safely maintain their professional development while complying with health department and company policies. And in the past two years, the team has focused on returning to traditional training platforms.
The five-day program (2021-22) is regarded as the best violent crime and terrorism training available. Referred to as “an experience, not a training,” the program averages 9.3 out of 10 with 175 attendees from 100 agencies across 15 states in three time zones. It is mandatory training for a number of police agencies. In 2023, it heads to New Orleans for its third visit. Newly added focused training includes a 4-day agenda specifically on homicide investigations (2021, 2022) with a 9.7 survey evaluation. Using that same format, new for 2023 are investigative social media and tech resources and another on behavioral threat assessment. With the academic partner, these programs are also being evaluated for academic credit in addition to CEUs. Through 2022, INLETS has been collaborating on expanding the training aspect of the program to include investigative support. And INLETS is developing a platform to support law enforcement with cold case consultations and investigative genealogy set for late 2023. This team, made up of federal, state, and private-sector colleagues, has been afforded great opportunity to successfully support, collaborate, and train attendees from the federal, state, and private-sector communities.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING HERO OF THE YEAR
This award recognizes an individual’s exceptional efforts in building partnerships and capacity for entities to be able to better detect, prevent and respond to a range of threats.
Jason Kepp, Assistant Director for Training and Professional Development, Federal Protective Service
Jason Kepp is the assistant director for the Training and Professional Development (TPD) directorate within the Federal Protective Service (FPS). He leads training and professional development for both sworn and non-sworn employees, which includes administrating basic and advanced training programs, formulating strategic and operational plans, and providing executive-level direction and guidance to managers. Kepp understands that cultivating a culture of continuous learning at FPS means embracing innovative technologies, researching modernized approaches, predicting the future by learning from the past, engaging diverse perspectives, and building coalitions.
The mission of the FPS covers all U.S. states and U.S. territories. To reach the entire workforce, Kepp constantly identifies new ways to deliver consistent and quality training efficiently with limited resources. For example, he integrated virtual reality (VR) training with existing in-person and computer-based training. To improve his understanding of this technology and see if it could enhance TPD’s capabilities, Kepp first inquired about the capabilities with a half-dozen vendors in the private sector that offered VR-based training. This outreach led him to the New York Police Department (NYPD), which was using the technology to learn about its effectiveness within law enforcement. The knowledge-sharing with the NYPD eventually led to Kepp teaching others about VR in law enforcement training. Not only did he speak on the topic during a Protective Agency Comparison group meeting — this FPS-founded group brings together 13 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that are similar to FPS in mission, size, and capabilities — but he took representatives from the D.C. Metropolitan Police, Baltimore City Police Department, and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) to New York to determine if VR training was advantageous to the law enforcement industry.
In the past several years, Kepp has worked to shift law enforcement training toward law enforcement education. This new focus trains officers to use a skill and explains why they should use it. This has been prevalent in his work developing the Public Order Policing Program and improving use-of-force training. To develop a training and learning program that can increase public trust and safety, he knew both programs had to be evidence-based and backed by research. To achieve this, he reached out and benchmarked with several different agencies, departments, academic institutions, and police forces, both domestically and abroad, to make certain the programs and policies he built would encompass worldwide best practices.
Kepp reached out to and developed longstanding relationships with the U.K. College of Policing Public Order Public Safety Standards, the U.K. National Police Chiefs Counsel, and the U.K. Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre in Gravesend, to name a few. In January 2022, Kepp and other FPS leadership traveled to the United Kingdom to benchmark the U.K.’s national Public Order Training program. Through this strategic engagement, the team learned more about crowd psychology, the National Decision Model and Joint Decision Model, and the importance of policy legitimacy and community engagement. The Public Order Policing Program equips our federal law enforcement officers with the training and knowledge to properly prepare for the unpredictable environment of public order policing. This groundbreaking program in the U.S. that Kepp put together will directly contribute to protecting our law enforcement officers and the public. Participants attending the kickoff of the Public Order Policing Program in November 2022 are from other federal, state, and local police departments, showing how Kepp continues to reach out to others to ensure the protection of the homeland.
Kepp is an outstanding example of how learning and sharing between industry and government partners leads to a robust and better product. In his case, the training and policies he developed based on the relationships he cultivated are some of the best representations of the FPS. Kepp’s ability to reach across any aisle, border, or industry for the sake of the mission of DHS and FPS is unmatched.
Each year, Homeland Security Today honors shining stars in the community who are making their own unique, invaluable contributions to advance the mission of keeping America safer from myriad threats. Their strong commitment to mission touches every part of their work, from day-to-day operations to special projects and work in the community.
Yosry Barsoum, Vice President and Director, Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute, MITRE
From the White House and DHS Secretary’s office to the deputy sheriff working in remote Arizona, Yosry Barsoum is making a difference in homeland security. At the helm of MITRE’s Center for Securing the Homeland (CSH) is Yosry Barsoum, Vice President and Director leading two MITRE-operated Federally Funded Research and Development Centers: the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HSSEDI) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Cybersecurity FFRDC for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Since joining the company in 1990, Barsoum has served in many roles at MITRE including technical and program management positions focusing on cross-agency priorities, technical quality, and R&D strategy and execution, all while ensuring their alignment with emerging priorities and technologies. From 2012-2018, Barsoum served as MITRE’s Portfolio Director for the Army Program Division, developing the portfolio vision, priorities, and outcomes, shaping the program to achieve high-priority customer outcomes and ensuring the delivery of high quality, timely products.
Barsoum’s commitment to the mission and to the delivery of high quality, timely products led to his selection as the Vice President and Director of MITRE’s CSH in 2018. Since then, the HSSEDI work program has grown by approximately 60 percent. In addition to oversight of both FFRDCs, Barsoum is also responsible for making strategic investments to advance capabilities and solutions for the homeland security enterprise. In FY22, Barsoum made strategic investment in the development and delivery of uncrewed aerial systems for first responders. The promise of drones for public safety far exceeds the ways drones are currently deployed by local first responders. Barsoum recognizes this potential and is serving as a catalyst to move this mission space forward through research and development.
- In September 2022, fire chiefs from across the country joined leading drone manufacturers at a MITRE CSH hosted event, the Fire/Rescue Drone Summit, featuring U.S. congressional representatives, to collaboratively co-create the future of drones for public safety.
- Before the end of 2022, a local sheriff’s office will launch a MITRE-created drone to detect human trafficking, and public safety agencies from across the country will join another MITRE-led initiative to dramatically improve the safety and skill of the nation’s public safety remote pilots.
- In development, MITRE’s Drone Selector tool will provide first responders with a trusted source to find the drone that best meets their specific needs by weeding through all the specifications.
- MITRE is building a drone range to test and pilot capabilities, specifically for first responders, with construction expected to start before the end of 2022.
In addition to his investment in drones for first responders, Barsoum also made strategic homeland security investments in a Smart Cities laboratory, election security laboratory, and a digital crimes investigation capability, just to name a few. Barsoum is committed to delivering innovation to the users — whether it is Army soldiers or first responders — to improve their ability to do their jobs and advance mission outcomes. His keen understanding of mission needs, fast operational pace, and collaborative nature are driving innovation, enabling government and industry to move forward with new capabilities.
Troy Choplin, Assistant Director of Emergency Management, Payne County, Okla.
Troy Choplin, Assistant Director of Emergency Management for Payne County, Okla., is active in numerous areas, increasing the capabilities of first responders and safety in the county. He is currently chairing the committee to create a countywide radio program in which all first responders will be on the same system, allowing increased and common communications throughout events in the county, and with other counties and the state emergency management department.
Choplin also designed, organized, and ran a tabletop exercise involving 17 organizations and almost 60 people in a simulated event in the county’s Election Board office. It was designed in a way that was both realistic (using real threats) and adaptable to other government offices, and is being used across the state in other election board offices as well as adapted for university use. Choplin also serves as a volunteer fireman in his local fire department, and is an Adjunct Professor at Oklahoma State University. He produces the weather forecasts when needed for determining burn bans, and conducts safety training classes for county personnel. One of his key strengths, besides leadership, is helping develop good working relationships between people who would not normally even meet until there was an emergency. His exercises have all drawn great praise for this element, and increase the safety of not only the people working an emergency, but also the community and county he serves.
Chief Raied “Ray” Jadallah, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
In the early morning hours of June 24, 2021, part of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., collapsed. Seventy-two of the 136 units of a 12-story building were involved in the collapse resulting in the loss of 98 lives. Chief Raied “Ray” Jadallah, then Deputy Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, responded to the incident immediately, coordinating the initial search- and-rescue efforts following the collapse. Jadallah was then tasked as the fire department representative to the Family Reunification Center, taking part in twice-daily briefings, oftentimes having to tell family members that their loved ones had perished in the collapse. This is never an easy task and was compounded by the fact that Jadallah, a Muslim whose family is from Palestine, was interacting with family members of a predominately Jewish community. Jadallah’s compassion and honesty quickly gained their trust as he coordinated a visit to the collapse site for all the family members and ensured throughout the event that it would be the family who would learn first of their family member’s death. For 28 days following the collapse, Jadallah was the point of contact for the families, and he performed in the role with honor, integrity, and compassion.
Benjamin Podsiadlo, Grants Division Chief for Homeland Security, Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Office of Grants and Research
Benjamin Podsiadlo is a career emergency services leader, with over 30 years of experience as an urban 911 Paramedic, EMS Chief and Emergency Management Director in some of the busiest emergency response systems in the United States, as well as high volume urban health systems. As an EMS Chief and Medic, Podsiadlo has responded to hundreds of major emergency incidents and disasters since beginning his career in 1988 and has served as the EMS Incident Commander at numerous major and declared incidents. Podsiadlo’s professional focus has been public policy that improves collaborative data driven cross disciplinary coordination and integration of emergency response operations. Podsiadlo has been repeatedly recognized and published as a driving force for excellence in out of hospital emergency medical response. He has had specific leadership successes in enhancing capabilities and integrating systems for pandemic response, trauma care, mass casualty, HazMat, cardiac and stroke care, and tactical medicine. Podsiadlo provides advocacy and support for emergency services at the federal level as an inaugural and past board member of the IAEMSC.
Throughout the height of the pandemic, the OGR Homeland Security Division persevered and excelled in delivering federal and state homeland and nonprofit security grants and oversight with a core team of dedicated staff. Despite illnesses, staffing shortages, and complex hurdles from major supply chain disruption to transitioning to a virtual environment, the homeland team ensured seamless support to state and locally funded partners and their critical homeland security missions and capabilities. Emerging from the pandemic restrictions, OGR Homeland has accelerated strategic focus on soft targets and crowded places and combating domestic violent extremism, to address the mounting active shooter hostile event threat while advancing post-restriction procurements and reinforcing the critical importance of operational coordination, interoperability, and information sharing across the enterprise and disciplines. Simultaneously, despite the adversity, the OGR homeland team with EOPSs Senior Leadership has advocated for the state’s risk profile to senior federal authorities, enhanced its metrics and collection process, engaged and trained new and energized staff, advanced state and federal coordination and partnership in the maritime security environment, and ensured and improved alignment and synergy of local partners across local and regional borders and resourced statewide capabilities.