Meeting Homeland Security Needs with Industry Expertise
Homeland security success depends on preparing for the unexpected, preventing the unthinkable and recovering from the unimaginable.
Homeland security success depends on preparing for the unexpected, preventing the unthinkable and recovering from the unimaginable. AFCEA’s Homeland Security Committee brings together the people in charge of ensuring the success of homeland and global security missions.
Ron Vitiello, chair of AFCEA’s Homeland Security Committee and former deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says that the committee is in touch with what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being challenged with, and it is trying to open up that line of communication to people who are trying to solve departmental level or mission-related problems. “We keep on the pulse of that to see what direction they’re going and then try to inform ourselves using the network that AFCEA has to get the right kinds of ideas, companies and solutions in front of the leadership,” he says.
The committee accomplishes that in a number of ways, including forums, events and speaking engagements at industry days for different government agencies and departments. The goal is always the same: to open up a line of communication so that the private sector can anticipate the needs of DHS. “The committee comes up with support for the known events, designs new events, tries to get the speakers in line with what’s happening topically or tactically in the department,” says Vitiello. “What are the near-term problems they have, and how can we help them?”
One of largest AFCEA sponsored events the committee assists with is taking place in a virtual and one-day, in-person format this August. The Federal Identity Forum has been the U.S. federal government’s primary outreach and collaboration-building event in the worldwide identity community since 1995. It features an immersive environment for government, private and academia sector identity professionals to examine strategies, needs analysis and collaboration. Identity is an important topic for DHS since the department is responsible for border, transportation and election security, among many other tasks.
Looking ahead, Vitiello thinks there needs to be dedication to the tools for cybersecurity. “That’s also a big mission of the department. So I think that more knowledge and understanding of what requirements the government has and the whole standards piece, the authorizations to operate on the government network or host government data, that’s an emerging topic area,” Vitiello explains.
Space is another topic that he believes DHS needs to focus on for the future. “Leadership is considering what we do with the idea of space, and the military now has this new branch. What does that mean for AFCEA? How are we going to configure ourselves? Is that a new committee? Is that something we have to do out of homeland?” he asks.
The future success of the committee depends on its membership. Current members are all familiar with the mission, and they’re involved in companies that already support DHS or have some crossover with the needs of DHS. “There’s been a real focus on diversity of new members, certainly on gender and race, but also ideas, companies, big and small, and so a new member would bring some element of knowledge, expertise or understanding that we don’t already have,” Vitiello says.
As chairman of the AFCEA Homeland Security Committee, Vitiello is upholding the goals of the committee. He plans to continue to bring together the right people and give them the right kind of information to help DHS perform better and work more efficiently.