November 3, 2008 By Corey McKenna
Photo: Jay Cohen, Department of Homeland Security, Under Secretary for Science and Technology. (Credit: DHS)
Just do it. Nike's slogan nicely captures the entrepreneurial approach to technology development that drives the Science and Technology Directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To hear Jay Cohen, undersecretary of the S & T Directorate, talk about technology development for the defense of the homeland, one would be forgiven for mistaking him for a chief executive of a Silicon Valley start-up. He's brimming with energy and optimism about the prospect of public-private partnerships developing technology to secure the homeland.
Cohen oversees an agency with an $830 million dollar budget, nearly half of which is devoted to the directorate's high-priority technology needs. About 10 percent of the budget goes into further innovation in homeland security technology and about 1 percent of the budget goes into a rapid-development fund. Projects in that fund must cost less than $1 million and have a time-to-market of less than a year.
In order to reduce redundancy, the DHS cannot recreate any of the programs of the Centers for Disease Control or others. "We provide technology solutions from around the world," Cohen said.
S and T has around 250 projects under development at any one time for completion in between one to five years, and each of those projects is reviewed against performance metrics every six months. Of these projects, Cohen expects 50 percent of them will fail. That's all a part of the directorate's entrepreneurial culture. "S and T is 1000 miles wide and one millimeter deep, " he explained.
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