A non profit prize challenge seeks technology for Homeland Security

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An association of national security contractors has a $25,000 challenge grant on the street. The Homeland Security Technology Consortium seeks new federal applications for some specific technologies related to identity management. In studio with the details, the consortium executive director, Michael Dougherty joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:
Tom Temin: So first of all,...

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Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.

An association of national security contractors has a $25,000 challenge grant on the street. The Homeland Security Technology Consortium seeks new federal applications for some specific technologies related to identity management. In studio with the details, the consortium executive director, Michael Dougherty joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: So first of all, tell us about the consortium a little bit, where do you fit in the universe of people trying to reach DHS and related agencies with technologies?

Michael Dougherty: The Homeland Security Technology Consortium, which was formerly known as the Border Security Technology Consortium, it’s about 138 member companies, academics and nonprofits are involved in it. It was established back in 2015 to accelerate innovative pilots and prototypes at DHS to answer mission needs of operators using other transaction authorities.

Tom Temin: So you specialize in that OTA field, at I guess, the Defense Innovation Unit and places like that?

Michael Dougherty: Yeah, it’s a similar thing to that.

Tom Temin: Homeland Security side.

Michael Dougherty: On the homeland security side. That’s right.

Tom Temin: So Homeland Security then does have substantial OTA spending available to it?

Michael Dougherty: It does have good caps on it, the ability for DHS or any other civilian agency to use other transaction authority is really a function of how much they value that type of transaction. So when you’re looking for rapid prototypes, when you’re looking to pilot new technologies, innovative technologies, if you’re trying to get non traditionals into the space, small companies that don’t ordinarily do business with the federal government, but have technology or process options that are important to government, this is what you do is you get an other transaction authority, and then you basically use that authority to bring those folks in to foster innovation.

Tom Temin: All right, so now the consortium though is offering a grant, not DHS. So how does this all work? What are you looking for here? How does the process work?

Michael Dougherty: The process is pretty simple. So we have an open challenge going on right now. Deadline for submissions to the challenge is on June 30. What is the challenge about? Well, what we’re trying to do is to see what innovative companies, what smalls what international companies are out there that are interested in doing things in identity management that we haven’t seen before, that our federal government perhaps hasn’t seen, that the Department of Homeland Security perhaps hasn’t seen. And maybe we haven’t seen. So what is it that’s going on in the world where the edge technologies are working on identity management?

Tom Temin: And just a quick question on identity management, it’s often cited as foundational to zero trust. But is it also useful, say in border security applications, that kind of thing?

Michael Dougherty: It’s important to border security, it’s important to the process and be any type of benefit package that’s going on, say with USCIS. At DHS, it’s important to be able to administer benefits and services to virtually everyone. So the better we can do on identity management, the better we can administer the mission space for DHS.

Tom Temin: OK, so getting back to the challenge grant that’s out there now.

Michael Dougherty: Yeah. So the grant is basically we’re going to be looking for things like pattern recognition software, real time analytics, platforms, sensors, scanners, it can be processes, it can be technologies, it can be widgets, or it can be basically software responses to try to manage identity in the government space. And we’re looking for innovation there. When those submissions come in, we’re going to be examining them and seeing which ones are sort of compliant with the challenge. And then in September, those responses, those challenge participants are going to be evaluated at a Tech Connect event over at the Gaylord in late September of 2022.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Michael Dougherty, he’s executive director of the Homeland Security Technology Consortium. So do applicants need to be consortium members? Or do they just need to be small companies? Or who are you looking for?

Michael Dougherty: It can be virtually anyone. And no, they don’t have to be members.

Tom Temin: Got it. So it could be anyone from Lockheed down to some startup that’s got a really great idea.

Michael Dougherty: Correct.

Tom Temin: So you will choose five that will each get a $5,000 grant from the consortium?

Michael Dougherty: Yeah, well, there’s some judges there, probably, I think we’re looking for a panel of about 10. There’s some very ingenious people that are attracted to these big events like the show and summit that’s going on at the Gaylord at the end of September. So we’ll be able to bring those people in, there will be people who are familiar with the Homeland Security mission, maybe the Defense mission as well. And maybe we’ll get some government folks in there, too. They can’t exactly judge, but they can contribute viewpoints and question people who are competing for prizes to get a better idea of what it is that they’ve got to show the departments.

Tom Temin: Right. And what do you envision as the process of someone say, receiving one of these grants later on in September? How does that translate into a possible OTA deal with Homeland Security Department?

Michael Dougherty: Well, I think on that one, that can be a thing that’s arranged between the vendor and the department itself. We encourage collaboration between government and the private sector. That’s the reason for our existence. But in terms of exactly how that goes forward, I think that could be left to the agency itself with the vendor.

Tom Temin: So the agency could have witnesses there watching this go on and say, oh, those five might be worth exploring for contracts. But what if they really liked the sound of one of the applications that didn’t get a grant the government’s also free to pursue them, too?

Michael Dougherty: That’s correct.

Tom Temin: So it sounds like the event is good for the exposure, if government is there, even if you don’t come away with one of the challenge grants.

Michael Dougherty: Yeah. And there will be so many other things that are going on around that event, too, that are going to I think they’re expected to be thousands of people that are at these different summits, I think there’s a cyber dimension to what’s going on at the summits that are all happening at the same time. So this is sort of co-located in place and time with other things that are going on in the Defense, Homeland Security and government space.

Tom Temin: And how much does your work map over to DoD? I mean, Homeland Security and DoD, of course, have different missions. But from the technology standpoint, there’s a lot of overlap.

Michael Dougherty: There can be overlap, especially in field equipment, where you’re trying to do something like figure out who’s standing in front of you. So whether I’m upcountry in a conflict zone, or I’m basically looking at somebody who’s in a migrant flow in Panama or whatever, can I go ahead and get a look at you? Can I identify you? Can I understand if we’ve seen you before, all those things are terribly important. There are Defense applications and Homeland Security applications that help one another. And remember, for Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard is a .mil itself, right. So it’s, it continues to have sort of a military function. So all of those things that you’re looking at DHS operators trying to do, is to do C5ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) to kind of understand the world around them. And the people that they’re encountering, those are equally important for Defense and for Homeland.

Tom Temin: And is this the first time you’ve run this type of exchange? Or this type of challenge?

Michael Dougherty: Yes, this is the first time that we’ve done this challenge.

Tom Temin: Wow. So you’re looking for some lessons learned and maybe seeing what the translational process for new technologies, how that can be maybe improved?

Michael Dougherty: Yeah, we’re very excited about the type of feedback we think we’re gonna get. Tech Connect is a basically, runs these types of challenges has been doing so for years. And they’re rather enthusiastic about the amount of feedback that they expect to get to this challenge. There will be things that we haven’t heard or seen before, which I think will be very interesting to DHS operators.

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