Government, Industry Must Strive for Complementary as well as Collaborative Relationships

Experts at AFCEA Homeland Security Conference agree that both sectors offer different but valuable expertise.

Mar 13, 2015, 15:51 ET from AFCEA International

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Government agencies must unclog the lines of communication with industry, and the commercial sector must be willing to share information if progress toward homeland security is ever to accelerate. This was the consensus of experts speaking at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference this week in Washington, D.C.

The call to increase openness came from all levels and sectors. From keynote speaker Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to corporate attendees, conference participants agreed that capitalizing on each other's strengths would fortify the homeland security frontline. Agencies and industry must be willing to fill each other's gaps, but this can only occur if government includes companies earlier in the planning processes and businesses communicate lessons learned with agencies.

"One thing we [the government] need to do better to really advance unity of effort with industry is … openness and transparency," Mayorkas told conference attendees. An explosive growth in attention to cybersecurity and numerous breaches has brought the issue to the general public's attention. Although unfortunate, breaches helped the nation's understanding of the importance of cybersecurity become clearer and stronger, he said.

The government is in pursuit of technologies to mitigate attacks as much as private partners are, he added. "We want to move from the Flintstones to the Jetsons, move from a prehistoric architecture to the visionary," Mayorkas said. "Our dollars are just as capable of attaining advances as dollars in the private sector."

Government dollars might be as good as commercial dollars, but the government is not dedicating nearly as much to the research and development of new capabilities. Industry outspends the government 2-to-1 in this funding area.

Not only are the investments smaller but gaining access to those government dollars can be a long and arduous process, representatives from industry and agency personnel agreed. The information technology acquisition process is so long that by the time a security solution is fully in place, it is already generations behind.

In addition to technical solutions, some believe that agencies can learn other lessons from industry. Chris Darby, president and chief executive officer, In-Q-Tel, believes more innovation happens when employees are encouraged to be creative and not constrained by a cumbersome bureaucratic process. Government regulations as well as its unwillingness to allow developers to take risks stymies the creativity of its researchers, which can result in safer but not necessarily next-generation solutions. Take the risk; accept failure quickly; then move on, he recommended.

Darby did agree, however, that a symbiotic relationship between government and industry will increase progress in securing the homeland, because each group offers specific expertise that the other does not. While the government can be good at innovation in certain areas, he would not ask the government to build an iPhone. "You might end up with something the size of a Prius and cost $2 million," he quipped. By the same token, Darby might not rely on Apple to build a battleship, he said.

More coverage of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference is available online.

AFCEA International, established in 1946, is a non-profit membership association serving the military, government, industry and academia. Join online.

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SOURCE AFCEA International



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