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DHS Creates Public-Private Technology Exchange

The Department of Homeland Security gives companies the requirements of a technology, product, or service it's seeking and companies spend their own money to build prototypes.

Obama's Tech Tools
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Slideshow: Obama's Tech Tools
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a technology exchange program with private companies to help the government more quickly find solutions to IT problems.

Through the department's Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) System Efficacy through Commercialization, Utilization, Relevance and Evaluation (SECURE) program, the DHS gives companies the requirements of a technology, product, or service it's seeking, according to a DHS blog post. It also provides them a rough idea of what other customers might exist for the technology.

In return, the companies use their own expense to engage in R&D to meet the requirements of developing the technology.

"This saves money on both ends: The government doesn't spend money on research and development, while the company doesn't waste resources trying to figure out on their own what the government ultimately is going to need," according to the post.

The DHS has certified the first product through the program--a video system for mass-transit vehicles that's blast resistant. A company called Visual Defence designed the product, which is meant to act like the flight-recorder "black box" in planes, according to the DHS.

A product can be SECURE-certified only after it's gone through a series of tests by an independent third party. Visual Defence took several months to build a prototype of the system, which was tested against improvised explosive devices and a diesel fuel fire. The company also tested it in a few municipal transit systems in the U.S.

DHS also is looking for systems that involve aviation security and cross-border travel and trade, according to the post.

DHS Chief Commercialization Officer Tom Cellucci--who steers DHS S&T outreach with both the private and public sectors--created the SECURE program, according to the post.

The DHS is one of the federal agencies that works quite closely with the private sector. It currently is part of a larger federal IT professional exchange program with companies, and recently was seeking a cybersecurity expert to spend six months at the department sharing knowledge.

Indeed, cybsecurity is integral for much of the DHS collaboration with the private sector. It exchanges cybersecurity intelligence data with business CIOs through a series of fusion centers around the country, among other information-sharing endeavors.

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