March 7, 2009 By Corey McKenna
responders can submit a capability gap for consideration as a target of technology development.
"You can go into any mall in America, and looking at the directory and the site map you can find the store that you want. You don't ever to have stepped a foot in there, but by looking at the syntax, you know you have a syntax that is normally Womens, Mens, Childrens, Electronics, Food, Other and Accessories. Looking at the directory you can get there. Firstresponder.gov is a similar thing," Vasquez said. "You have police, fire, bomb disposal, EMS and then there is a tree that will hopefully take you to the information that you are looking for.
"The next step for this is not just collecting the static information that others have available but moving to the communities of practice. That's what we're looking to do in the next year-to grow that so it becomes more dynamic and there is an exchange of information that's happening with the first responder community amongst themselves and with state and local and federal government entities.
"It's not .dhs. It's .gov. We were able to convince the CIO that at the end of the day when you're talking first responders and the federal response available to first responders it involves a lot of different entities. It also involves Health and Human Services, it involves [the Department of Defense]. It involves many others. This effort, although we have started it within DHS and much of what you see there is us trying to get the collective DHS to have one face, Vasquez said. "We are looking to expand that with CDC and DoD and have one face for the first responders so they can go and find the information they need," he said.
IPTs are lead by the heads of the agencies concerned with the technology being developed who work with the appropriate division of the S&T directorate on the technology development and a management organization on the acquisition of the resulting technology. The Border Security IPT, for example, is headed up by the heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Acquisition is divided between DHS S&T and the directorate's management organization, and the borders and maritime division of DHS S&T is the technology provider. In some cases actual practitioners may be invited to the meetings to provide their input.
IPTs meet on a quarterly basis-more frequently in some cases. There are about 250 technologies being worked on right now.
Already the directorate has established 12 such teams to focus on technology needs serving each of the operating components of the Department of Homeland Security. But there were, by some estimates, 25 million first responders who were first to respond to fires, floods and other disasters as well as maintain public safety and health who the department wasn't engaged with as much as it could be.
"When you're talking about limited budgets, you don't want to reinvent the wheel," said Linda Vasta, Director of West Coast Operations, Interagency and First Responders Program Division, DHS S&T. "There are a phenomenal amount of resources available to us that we leverage into. The Undersecretary has the authority to leverage the work that is being done by the Department of Defense laboratories - also the Department of Energy laboratories. Within the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology we also have four laboratories," she said.
"The key here is how do we get the technology out the door, leveraging the research that has already been done," Vasta said. "To do this, what our former undersecretary did was he took the laboratory alignment that was in place and those existing Department of Energy national laboratories and he aligned them and gave them the choice to align with three of the divisions so that the work being generated by the Department of Energy national laboratories is in alignment with our divisions."
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