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DHS T&E Critical Areas

Deploying new technologies to counter emerging threats to homeland defense requires the use of innovative approaches to T&E. To provide structure to this endeavor, the DHS T&E Office organized the development of T&E related initiatives under nine critical areas. Each critical area represents the types of T&E work that might occur under any new DHS technology development program. Critical area summaries follow:

  1. Information Technology: Seventy percent (70%) of DHS major acquisition programs are Information Technology (IT) programs, and virtually all major programs feature network-enabling capabilities. This creates a challenge in interoperability assessments, quality assurance for deployment decisions, and the integration of novel, complex IT with legacy systems. To prepare the T&E community for this challenge, the DHS TED requires access to the latest T&E techniques, training, methods, and procedures for IT-centric systems.
  2. Cybersecurity and Resilience: Threat activity in cyberspace is persistent with increasingly severe effects against major federal agencies, industry, and state agencies, including election systems. The DHS TED requires the techniques, processes, training, and reach back to address adequately, potential effects of a cyber-contested environment threat during T&E. This requirement extends to advising programs on T&E best practices, planning, execution, and assessment of cybersecurity and resilience across all organizations.
  3. Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems: Multiple components across DHS are beginning to invest in systems that employ artificial intelligence and machine learning. To the government test teams, these systems may be black boxes due to contractual limitations. In addition, resource constraints can limit the number of trials both for training and for testing. The development of T&E strategies, evaluation frameworks, test designs, instrumentation techniques, and assessments require definition and research. To prepare the T&E community for this challenge, the DHS TED requires T&E techniques, training, methods, procedures, and reach back to improve acquisition outcomes.
  4. Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems: As DHS acquires new complex Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS), the department must assess the effectiveness, suitability, and resilience of the C-UAS technology’s operational performance. As gaps in operational performance result in requirements, the DHS T&E CoBP team partners with the DHS TED to advise on T&E best practices, planning, execution, and assessments. TED is currently engaged in a S&T C-UAS working group with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) on component requirements.
  5. Cloud Technologies: With an increase of government data moving to the Cloud, what does the government really know regarding the performance and reliability? This creates a unique challenge when assessing the “whole” system when a portion of the system will depend on a commercial entity cloud network. DHS requires the techniques, processes, training, and expertise to maintain pace with understanding of the threat/risk to T&E’s ability to plan, execute, and assess systems utilizing the Cloud.
  6. Sub-terrain Detection: The DHS TED is currently evaluating technologies to detect, predict, map, and remediate cross-border tunnels. The large number of variables and conditions, variety of detection technologies, sparsity of geologic data, and lack of test tunnels or standardized test procedures creates a complex challenge for the T&E community to predict the efficacy of one of these systems before acquisition and deployment. The S&T Directorate is supporting ongoing research and development activities associated with tunnel detection in collaboration with Customs & Border Protection, Department of Defense, and international partners. A current gap in DHS is the T&E impacts of numerous variables. Also, to assist in subterranean detection, the DHS T&E community needs modeling and simulation tools along with a reach back source to provide acoustic, seismic, and geologic expertise.
  7. Reliable Systems: The DHS TED must develop and acquire reliable hardware and software systems to maximize operational effectiveness. This need requires assessing and inserting reliability into the natural life cycle of T&E planning, execution, and assessments. Considering reliability early creates a measurable return on investment, ensuring systems work when needed with lower sustainment costs. The challenge is to conduct useful reliability testing when evaluating vendor-provided systems during a limited test duration (e.g., acceptance testing or operational testing only). The DHS TED requires access to T&E reliability planning, tools, methods, procedures, and subject matter experts to improve the reliability of its acquisitions.
  8. Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Detection and Interdiction: A DHS TED challenge is conducting independent operational evaluations of cutting-edge Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE+) threat and hazard detection and interdiction technologies and programs, which are critical to mission support for deterring and preventing terrorism and securing the nation’s borders. The hazardous nature of CBRNE+ agents preclude rigorous performance testing using active threat surrogates within the intended operational environment. The span of assessment effort typically addresses prohibited, hazardous, illicit, and contraband material and items (e.g., weaponry, synthetic opioids, counterfeit goods, and currency). The solutions to CBRNE+ threats often cross component and departmental boundaries. The DHS TED requires the development of innovative, tailored, and defensible T&E strategies; and the integration of multiple data sources, test methodologies, and capabilities to support efficient and effective T&E for CBRNE+ major acquisition programs and other initiatives. The DHS T&E CoBP independent subject matter expert reach back capability for planning, execution, analysis, and reporting of T&E efforts is critical in supporting informed programmatic decisions by senior leadership.
  9. Scientific Test and Analysis Techniques (STAT): STAT are mathematical and statistical tools and processes used to enable the development of efficient and rigorous test strategies to yield defensible results.

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