14th IDGA Homeland Security Week

Published: November 26, 2019


The 14th Homeland Security Week presented by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) kicked off on November 20, 2019.  The event started with the Focus Day on Wednesday with a lineup of presenters from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Energy, Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.  Presentations ranged from an overall take on Immigration to specific successes and challenges of the current world of cybersecurity and protection of the homeland. 

Presenters included:

  • Senator Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) – Senate Committee Chair on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Alysa Erichs – Acting Executive Associate Director, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  • Track A: (Deltek attended this track)
    • Rose Marie Davis – Director, Innovative Program Acquisitions, Office of Field Operations (CBP)
    • Ronald Keen – Senior Energy Advisor, National Risk Management Center, CISA

After Sen. Johnson kicked it off, the presentations got into more of the meat and potatoes of the material with Alysa Erichs of HSI.  She gave a brief history of Homeland Security Investigations and then outlined several challenges and then eventual successes in the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.  In her examples, she outlined the time savings and reliability of using computing to go through immense amounts of information, object identification in photographs, and optical character recognition to transcribe handwritten data into a text format.  In all of her examples, it showed an immense time savings over pure human analysis but made it very clear that all actions were still presided over by human investigators to ensure accuracy.  It was clear that HSI is a success story in how even simple applications of AI and Machine Learning can really benefit end users in completing the mission.

To start off Track A, Rose Marie Davis from Customs and Border Protection gave a few success stories in their simple innovations in Biometrics and passenger matching.  The issue they were trying to solve was the amount of time it took to process international travelers and matching the person to the identification with facial recognition.  A simple idea of limiting the data set (same day passenger manifest) hastened the process and allowed for real time matching for the vast majority of travelers.  This same idea provided the same kind of success with the land border ports of entry as well.  An analysis of visitor data showed that most pedestrians crossing through the southern border were frequent travelers.  They used this lesson to limit the data set to a 3 month window and improved wait times and matching yet again.  The main point here was that simple solutions can allow technology to improve the daily mission success while keeping the end users, travelers, in the forefront.  This was confirmed with improved passenger satisfaction on British Airways as well as an increase in passenger identification matching.  Finally, she quickly broke down the purchasing avenues for CBP with the following strategies:

  • Open Source (beta.sam.gov, formerly FBO.gov)
  • GSA Schedules
  • DHS Strategic Sourcing Vehicles
  • Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) Pilot Program
  • Border Security Technology Consortium

This focus day outlined the use cases of technology in Homeland Security coupled with the assistance of first responders, agents, investigators, etc.  The main takeaway showed the success in logical implementation of technology and how it can improve the effectiveness of human talent.  The remainder of the day finished up with a few speakers from small offices inside of DHS and FAA to outline their mission and benefit to the American people.  This event moved into the Main Conference days on Thursday and Friday with more presentations and panel discussions from various agencies who deal with security/investigations.  Deltek was unable to attend the final two days of the conference.