Business Matters

Homeland security summit brings government, academia together at Mason

George Mason University alumnus Christopher C. Krebs said he keeps two basic questions in mind when preparing to deal with critical homeland security issues.

“So what, and what are we going to do about it? These are the two questions I ask myself every morning, particularly as we go into hurricane season,” said Krebs, a Mason law school graduate who oversees the cyber and physical infrastructure security mission for the Department of Homeland Security and is the presidential nominee for Undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD).

Krebs was the keynote speaker for the Centers of Excellence Summit attended by more than 500 university researchers and government and industry leaders on May 30 and 31 at Mason’s Arlington Campus.

The conference, hosted by Mason’s Criminal Investigations Network Analysis (CINA) Center, served as a critical meeting of the minds between government officials charged with protecting the nation and the academic community that could potentially provide multidisciplinary solutions to help address the disruption of criminal activities across the physical and cyber spaces.

CINA is part of a network of nine Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence that uses science in the pursuit of the development of cutting-edge solutions and innovative educational and training activities. The center at Mason builds on a foundation of multidisciplinary research that includes the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Science, the Schar School of Policy and Government, the School of Business, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and the Volgenau School of Engineering.

Schar School University Professor Louise Shelley, the director of Mason’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC), was among the speakers featured on the panel “Cross Border Movement of People, Goods, Data and Capital.”

Rapid technological advances in recent years mean that there will be new challenges ahead, as well as opportunities, which CINA and its network of centers look to meet.

“The solutions to the very, very complex issues we are facing are going to require a lot of innovation and are going to require the collective minds of our top experts from across different disciplines,” said Mason president Ángel Cabrera.

In his address, Krebs, who is awaiting Senate confirmation before permanently assuming the job within the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to how DHS continues to address the growing threats America faces, both in virtual and physical spaces.

“Given that we live in a world that changes so rapidly, we need to accelerate the pace of innovation, and this is what we are helping the government do,” said Anthony Stefanidis, the director of CINA and the former chair of Mason’s Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science.

In addition to showcasing academic excellence, the summit also featured a broad array of subject-matter experts who collectively discussed current and future issues relating to homeland security. New technologies were also on display as the summit’s organizers sought to increase better collaboration not only between the government and academia, but also among the various Centers for Excellence  in the hopes of accelerating the transition from research and development to field use.

“DHS needs to adapt,” Stefanidis said, “and academia is a perfect partner for that.”