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In September 2001, I was director of a research and development group in the Office of Science and Technology at the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice. Our primary mission was to pursue technology-based solutions to make the jobs of state and local public safety employees — law enforcement, fire, rescue, corrections and emergency managers — safer and more effective.
Emphasis was placed on preventing and detecting crime, effective and coordinated response to incidents, and maintaining safe environments in schools, communities and prisons. While the focus in 2001 was on crime prevention, we also addressed terrorism as a subset of crime prevention.
In 2003, I joined the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to continue many of the technology solutions I was involved with at Justice. With the establishment of DHS, the focus in federal technology development changed from preventing and detecting crime to addressing terrorism detection and prevention.
The basic DHS objective is similar to DOJ’s objective: Make public safety jobs safer and more effective, but with a counterterrorism focus. The biggest change has been in the intensity to provide more technology solutions to counter the evolving terrorism threats the nation faces.
DePersia is a technology engineering adviser in the Infrastructure Protection and Disaster Management Division, Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, Washington.