Generative AI, Edge Computing & Modernization: Homeland Security Leaders Share Top Priorities

The United States’ homeland security efforts are harnessing the power of technologies like artificial intelligence, satellite communications and edge computing as the threat landscape continues to evolve.

Rear Admiral Christopher Bartz, the US Coast Guard’s CIO and assistant commandant for C4 and IT, said the service branch wants to increase its use of Starshield satellites. Over the past 9 months, the Coast Guard has equipped all of its cutters with Starshield capabilities, and Bartz said it has drastically improved operations.

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“That has really been a game changer for us,” he said during a panel discussion at the Potomac Officers Club‘s 2023 Homeland Security Summit on Wednesday. “We’re operating in mostly disconnected environments — even our domestic mission, we have many units that are really not anywhere near metro areas. “It’s really important for us to get those communication networks out there.”

Bartz said that going forward, he would like to see Starshield communications capabilities implemented on all USCG assets.

RADM Christopher Bartz speaks on a panel at the 2023 Homeland Security Summit hosted by the Potomac Officers Club. Photo by Andrew Noh.

For the US Customs and Border Protection, edge computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are at the top of the priority list. Sunil MadhugiriCBP’s chief technology officer, noted that while AI/ML has been around — and deployed by CBP — for years, generative AI is unlocking a whole new trove of use cases, and the agency needs industry input to identify which use cases could be the most valuable and effective for homeland security missions.

Document summary, video analysis and image analysis are two use cases Madhugiri is seeing initially for generative AI, and he predicts that these two areas will save significant amounts of time for CBP officers and agents. Similarly, the Coast Guard is focused on using AI for maritime object detection — something Bartz called “our holy grail for AI.”

Recently, the White House issued a landmark executive order establishing new standards and guidelines for the safe and responsible use of AI. Keith McCloskeychief technology officer for the Homeland Security and Justice business at ECS, highlighted the importance of the EO and said it will be foundational to all AI efforts in the US

Kristin Ruiz, Keith McCloskey, Sunil Madhugiri and Christopher Bartz participate in a panel discussion led by LMI’s Chris Hagner. Photo by Andrew Noh.

“Federal government is going to be the standard-bearer for how we do protective, trusted and responsible AI in this nation. The nation has been challenged, but the federal government is going to demonstrate how to actually do it so that we protect the rights and the safety of our nation,” McCloskey said.

Other homeland security-focused agencies, like the Transportation Security Administration, are focusing more on their data foundation before jumping headfirst into the AI ​​conversation. Kristin Ruizdeputy assistant administrator and deputy CIO at TSA, noted that the agency is still relatively young in its history and is focusing on modernization.

“We are at a pivotal point in our history where we are still young enough where we’re not as mature as we’d like to be in some areas, and we have legacy systems in the others that are ready for modernization,” Ruiz explained.

“Our biggest focus now is building that foundation to be able to harness our data, build our open architecture, and allow us to be able to leverage the technology both on the OT and IT side to be able to meet the needs that we have, ”she added.

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