To adapt national security, defense tools, and technologies for use by homeland security practitioners, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Domestic Preparedness Support Initiative (DPSI) are working together in an effort to bridge a “crucial homeland defense gap in a unique way,” and apply proven innovation techniques to homeland defense and security challenges.
Led by CHDS instructors Nick Dew and Rodrigo Nieto Gomez, the partnership involves professional homeland security practitioners in the CHDS Master’s Program working with DoD technologists to co-design technologies that benefit the homeland security enterprise.
CHDS Master’s students in the Strategy and Innovation Lab interact directly with national security and defense technology developers to explore ways to adapt existing life-saving technologies for first responders in the field.
Located in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, the DPSI coordinates DoD efforts to identify, evaluate, deploy, and transfer technology, items, and equipment to federal, state, and local first responders, according to the DoD, and is aimed at fulfilling Congress’ intent to support public safety and homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment.
Both Dew and Nieto said CHDS and DPSI were an obvious match from the start, especially because of the presence of experienced homeland security practitioners in the CHDS Master’s program. They said CHDS responded to a DPSI request for proposals in summer 2021, and the response from DPSI, according to Dew, was “where have you been all these years?”
“We thought this would be a great opportunity for some of our project-based learning approaches,” Nieto said. “It turned out DPSI considered us a great match to their objectives, and we created this very successful and symbiotic relationship with them.”
“The DPSI partnership is getting to expose [CHDS Master’s] students to some of these interesting, cutting-edge ideas that might improve the quality of homeland security, and we’re working to create a better strategy for implementing and modernizing homeland defense and security.”
In the lab, CHDS Master’s students work in teams as they engage in a multi-step process, interacting directly with DPSI and the technology experts, , getting exposed to innovation literature, lean launchpad methodologies, and working to develop and evaluate technologies that as Nieto said “could transform the environments in which they operate. The students ultimately produce a final report, concept of operations, and business plan, he said, basically a “blueprint of execution.”
Students engage in multiple strategic development steps, Nieto said, ultimately producing a final report for the class and DoD.
Dew noted that DPSI already evaluates new technologies using their own personnel and networks, but CHDS offers access to expert first responders with decades of hands-on experience.
CHDS started with a pilot program in early 2022, and both Dr. Dew and Dr. Nieto said it is still a work in progress, but the plan is to continue to form teams to evaluate the DPSI tools and technologies for each CHDS Master’s cohort going forward.
Both professors said the partnership shows that CHDS is renewing its focus on the homeland defense aspect of its historical mission, after years of focusing on homeland security, and in the process helping to transfer promising technology to first responders on a nationwide basis.
“Homeland defense is in our name,” Dew said, noting that CHDS helps provide a link between first responders and defense institutions.
“We’re bringing homeland defense to the classroom in a very strong collaboration with our DoD partners,” Nieto said.
In October, Homeland Defense and Resiliency Director Stephanie Koeshall and DPSI Senior Consultant Dr. Christopher Speller, both from the Office of the DASD for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities, visited CHDS to discuss the DPSI partnership.
Speaking to a CHDS Master’s program cohort, Koeshall called DPSI a “very valuable tool for DoD to gain insight into technology we are actively in,” adding that the goal is to “focus on strengthening homeland resilience through increasing our partners’ capacity and capability.”
That process, she noted, includes identifying gaps in homeland security partners’ capabilities, modifying DoD technology and equipment at a relatively minimal cost, and opening them up to the commercial market where homeland security partners can purchase them to address those gaps.
The process helps inform DOD’s decision-making on investing in certain technologies, and whether they can and should be accelerated to the market, Koeshall said, by answering four basic questions:
- Does the technology meet first responders’ needs?
- What is the logical cost point?
- In a crisis, what are homeland security partners looking for from DoD?;
- How can we better collaborate?
The “transfer of DoD technology to homeland security entities” such as law enforcement, firefighters, emergency managers, public health professionals, and others, she said, is “in alignment with the National Defense Strategy” by reducing reliance on the DoD in a major crisis if an adversary attacks during a disaster.
Examples of DoD technology and equipment being adapted for first responder use include:
- Passive cloth taggant developed by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., that can be used to mark and positively identify first responders in the field.
- Sampling device designed to reduce exposure during the collection of fentanyl powder developed by the U.S. Army Development Command, Chemical Biological Center.
- Smart wound detection shirt designed by Legionaius, Inc. to provide remote wound reporting and triage for penetrating injuries.
- Single-pixel laser imager technology that could help firefighters navigate through structures in conditions with little to no visibility.
- Nano-Fiber wound healing device capable of applying potentially life-saving wound dressing, direct injection, burn spray, and bleeding suppression.