An esteemed group of alumni from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) recently participated in an innovative Technology Foresight Forum that explored the relationship between homeland security and emerging technology. The forum focused on the topics of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles, while integrating a wide range of panelists from the insurance, health care, business, and legal sectors—as well as from academia and government (defense, homeland security, and law enforcement). The event was intended to raise awareness among professionals and students in these fields, to spark discussion, serve as a catalyst for further inquiry, and to encourage collaboration across the field in these pursuits.
The event was hosted by the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, in partnership with the Maritime Security Center (MSC)—a Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Center of Excellence—and the NY/NJ Regional Metro Alumni Chapter of CHDS. One of the leaders who helped organize and successfully execute the forum was CHDS graduate Raymond Bisogno. Bisogno, a recently retired Senior Policy Advisor for the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM), graduated from NPS-CHDS in March 2016 with Master’s cohort 1405/1406. His thesis was titled, “Problem-Solving in Homeland Security and Creating Policy Conditions for Enhanced Civic Engagement: An Examination of Crowdsourcing Models.” Bisogno was one of two students who received the Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award, which honors those whose actions instilled, sustained, and created a spirit of unity and pride within the cohort.
The topic of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning may be abstract concepts in some homeland security disciplines, but these technologies are already deeply embedded in many of the systems CHDS alumni interact within their professions. Bisogno’s thesis can be linked to the topic as well, as we consider the possibility of leveraging the power of crowdsourcing to solve technology-related homeland security issues or improve homeland security techniques. “Technology, and specifically, the private sector, will not stop advancing, so we owe it to our constituencies to have these conversations,” he emphasized, adding that public-private partnerships will continue to take on increased importance. The idea to explore the intersection between technology and homeland security began as a simple alumni event for the CHDS NY/NJ Regional Alumni Chapter, but eventually evolved and grew into a broader forum due to interest from the homeland security community.
The approach was multi-faceted: bring practitioners, academics, and policymakers together for an interdisciplinary dialogue to share perspectives on the potential implications these technologies hold for homeland security and society; intersect professional networks to amplify the collective problem-solving capacity of all involved; and strengthen the relationship between the MSC and CHDS. Borrowing a line from General Michael Hayden, retired USAF four-star general and former director of both the CIA and NSA, Bisogno stresses that we need to look below the surface at the “tectonic plates” that will cause major shifts in society and national security. And similar to tectonic plates, AI has an effect on everyday life, whether we are aware of it yet or not. Common internet-based email applications, social media, marketing algorithms, and “smart” devices used in our homes all use artificial intelligence. According to some reports, AI is currently a $20 billion global industry and poised to triple over the next few years, especially in the fields of image recognition, language processing, robotics, and medical diagnostics. How do we protect ourselves and the general public from potential pitfalls with these technologies? For many users, privacy and security are legitimate concerns. Technology experts have already proven that machine learning systems can be compromised or hacked, and autonomous vehicles represent many unique security concerns as well. Having these types of intentional “what-if” discussions and exploring uncertainties is an integral component of ensuring safety and security.
After welcoming remarks by the MSC Director, Dr. Hady Salloum, and the university’s Vice Provost of Research, Dr. Mohammad Dehghani, the keynote address was delivered by Jared Maples, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP). Prior to his current post as the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor, Director Maples spent over a decade at the Central Intelligence Agency in a variety of leadership roles and previously worked at the U.S. Department of Defense in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He provided insight into the security issues facing the State and discussed how crucial it is for all the professionals represented there to work together to develop solutions that put the region—and the country—on the best possible footing the meet those challenges. The first panel discussion of the forum focused on AI and machine learning with experts representing the defense, medical, academic, and national policy perspectives. The second panel focused on land-based and maritime autonomous vehicles and featured perspectives from the business, insurance, legal, security, and research fields. “From a security perspective, the second panel was off-the-charts good,” Bisogno added. NJOHSP, a strong partner with NJOEM, also recorded interviews with participants for their podcast, “Intelligence Unclassified,” and one of their Deputy Directors served as a speaker on the second panel.
CHDS alumni participating as panelists were Carla Gray, Senior Manager of Global Programs at Uber (ELP1602), and Ray Guidetti, NJ State Police Deputy Superintendent of Investigations (Ret.) (MA 0403/0404). A number of other CHDS alum were present including Jerome Hatfield, NJ State Police Deputy Superintendent of Homeland Security (Ret.) and former FEMA Region 2 Administrator (ELP0901 and REP1301); Tracy Frazzano, Deputy Chief of Police in Montclair, NJ (MA 0903/0904); Thomas Richardson, FDNY Chief of Operations (MA 0901/0902); Frank Leeb, FDNY Deputy Chief (MA 1405/1406); and Chris DeMaise, NJSP Asst. Bureau Chief, Emergency Response Bureau (MA 1505/1506). CHDS professor, David O’Keeffe, was on hand as well.
Bisogno also credited Steve Recca, Director of CHDS’s University and Agency Partnership Initiative (UAPI) and his program’s collaborative framework with academia as a major influence. Finally, he added that the spirit of cooperation of Director Salloum and his Director of Education, Beth DeFares, was extraordinary, and the professionalism and helpfulness of their staff and student volunteers from the Maritime Security Center cannot be overstated. This event was only possible because of their involvement and commitment to its success.
The march of these technologies towards ubiquity may well be inevitable. Ensuring the homeland security community and its partners in academia and the private sector are having open, productive dialogue will contribute to establishing the appropriate policy conditions for successful implementation. The Technology Foresight Forum represents the precursor to this success: open and informed discussion among intersecting networks of professionals. CHDS alumni are well-positioned to lead such discussions thanks in part to their multidisciplinary experience at NPS.