Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency

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The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA)(also known as the Innovation/Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the technological research wing of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), tasked with pursuing advanced projects to address issues of homeland security. HSARPA is one of three portfolios (or silos) of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology division.[1]

HSARPA is DHS' analogue to the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). However, where DARPA's technological research is directed towards threats outside America's borders, HSARPA directs its research towards perceived threats from within the country. HSARPA's mission is to develop technology that can be used on Americans.

According to the DHS, HSARPA's mission is to "support basic and applied homeland security research to promote revolutionary changes in technologies; advance the development, testing and evaluation, and deployment of critical homeland security technologies; and accelerate the prototyping of technologies that would address homeland security vulnerabilities." [2]

HSARPA is overseen by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology.[3]


HSARPA pursues the development of advanced "homeland security technology" in part by awarding procurement contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, or other transactions for research or prototypes to public or private entities, businesses, federally funded research and development centers and universities." [4] Current project solicitations and those entities who have been awarded solicitations are listed on the DHS Science and Technology Directorate Solicitations Portal.

According to the DHS website, "HSARPA also manages the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for the Department. The SBIR program is designed to stimulate technological innovation, strengthen the role of small business in meeting Department research/research and development needs (R/R&D), foster and encourage participation of socially and economically disadvantaged persons and women-owned small business concerns in technological innovation, and increase the commercial application of Department supported R/R&D. SBIR engages small business innovation to create new products and services for the Homeland Security Enterprise." [1]


The majority of the research coming out of HSARPA and the DHS is for detecting and dealing with radioactive threats, but the agency is increasingly focusing on developing technology for monitoring and controlling the United States' borders.[5]

Intelligent Video Surveillance

HSARPA also is developing projects aimed at "intelligent video surveillance" that will "provide machine understanding" of action in a particular location, known as the "Automated Scene Understanding" program. One of these projects, awarded to BAE Systems), integrates radar track data, video image streams, positioning information from an Automatic Identification System (AIS), and other data inputs, to "provide machine understanding" of events at ports. It uses advanced learning methods based on human cognitive processing models to enable continuous, on-the-fly learning of "anomalous activities." [5]

Another "intelligent video surveillance" project is aimed at further developing automated surveillance systems to require less use of manpower by freeing the human operator from monitoring and readjusting the automated system. ObjectVideo (based in Reston, VA) was awarded two contracts worth $3.2 Million to develop a Automated Scene Understanding project that uses intelligent video-analysis algorithms, based on artificial intelligence called “computer vision,” to run all objects in a camera’s view against pre-programmed "rules." According to Military & Aerospace Electronics, when an object violates a "rule" (for example, a small boat loiters next to a ship, a bag is left unattended in an airport terminal, or a shopper displays characteristics of shoplifting) the software alerts security personnel by phone, pager, e-mail, or an alert console.[5]

Border Security

Since 2007, U.S. Border Patrol has been finding tunnels underneath the southern border "by accident or human intelligence." HSARPA has invested in tunnel detection technology to try and detect these tunnels through more sophisticated means. [6] [7]

Infrastructure Geophysical Division

DHS has highlighted this division's efforts to develop better levee protection technology for New Orleans.[8]

Solicitations and Grant Proposals

ConspiracyResearch.Org has an older list of projects solicited for and funded by HSARPA. (As of August 26, 2010, the ConspiracyResearch wiki had last been updated in April 2009)

Current project solicitations and solicitation awards can be accessed at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate Solicitations Portal.

While some solicitations describe specific projects HSARPA wants developed-- for example, shoe scanner detection technology, or "Social Network Analysis for Building Resilient Communities"-- others are more broad. For example, see the "Long Range Broad Agency Announcement," BAA 10-01 (Part One and Part Two).

Current solicitations as of October 8, 2010

(links to project solicitation; visit the DHS Science and Technology Directorate Solicitations Portal for subsequent amendments, questions and responses, and other information)

BAA10-11, Complex Event Modeling Simulation & Analysis (CEMSA): Real-Time Analysis Communication Environment (RACE)
BAA10-020, Chemical Attribution Signature Studies for Chemical Threat Agents
BAA10-16, Effective Risk Communications Against the IED Threat Phases II-IV
BAA10-15, Social Network Analysis for Building Resilient Communities
BAA10-18, First Responder Coping Mechanisms for PTSD BAA
BAA10-19, Screening of Palletized Air Cargo
BAA10-17, Shoe Scanner Detection Technology
HSHQDC-10-R-00053, Test and Evaluation Support for Non-Intrusive and Threat Detection Technologies
RFI 10-02, Detect, Market Survey on Decontamination of Low Volatility Organophosphates (LVOPs) on surfaces and in the air
RFI 10-01, Detect, Market Survey on Decontamination of Low Volatility Organophosphates (LVOPs) on surfaces and in the air
BAA 10-10, Automatic Target Recognition Algorithms Development For Advanced Imaging Technology
BAA10-01, Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA) (part 1) (part 2)
BAA 10-09, Adaptive Adversary Modeling for Terrorism Risk Analysis
BAA09-15 Low Cost Biological Detector

Recent Legislation

On July 20, 2010 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4842, the “Homeland Security Science and Technology Authorization Act of 2010”. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology. The legislation "reauthorizes the activities of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and puts these two DHS components on a path to greater effectiveness and efficiency by requiring strategic plans, benchmarking, and accountability systems." It also requires the Science and Technology Directorate to give special attention to border security, and "authorizes an Office of Public-Private Partnerships to increase outreach and to ensure technological innovations get quick review at the Department as well as a new Rapid Review Division to assess unsolicited proposals"[9]

University-Based Centers for Homeland Security

When President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security and HSARPA in 2003, it included provisions for university-based centers for homeland security. According to the bill, “the purpose of this center or centers shall be to establish a coordinated university-based system to enhance the Nation’s homeland security.”

At the time, there was criticism that the criteria for selecting beneficiary universities unfairly favored Texas A&M University-- both President Bush and Congressman Tom Delay, who wrote those provisions in the bill, are from Texas. [10]


  • Roger D. McGinnis is the Department of Homeland Security Director of Innovation/HSARPA.
  • Dr. David Bolka was the first HSARPA Director, appointed in September of 2003.
  • Dr. Jane Alexander was the first HSARPA Deputy Director, appointed in May of 2003.

External Links

HSARPA Cyber Security R&D, Feb. 12, 2008 Powerpoint Presentation by Douglas Maughan, Ph.D.

DHS Science and Technology Directorate Solicitations Portal, listing current project solicitations and solicitation awards

Related Sourcewatch Articles

House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology division

SECURE (System Efficacy through Commercialization, Utilization, Relevance and Evaluation) Program

Human Factors Behavioral Sciences Projects

Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute



  1. 1.0 1.1 DHS Science and Technology Directorate, Department Structure, DHS Website, accessed August 20, 2010
  2. Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) DHS Website, accessed August 20, 2010
  3. Committees and Their Jurisdiction, OpenCongress.Org, accessed September 5, 2010.
  4. Homeland Security Weekly, May 2, 2005, Vol. 4 Issue 19
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 DHS Turns To High Tech to Control Borders, John McHale, Military & Aerospace Electronics, 2004 accessed August 22, 2010
  6. DHS Technologists Continue Search for Tunnel Detection Technology, December 2007, Stew Magnuson National Defense Magazine, accessed August 22, 2010.
  7. Border Patrol Agents to Spot Tunnels With Advanced Ground-Penetrating Radar, July 1, 2009 USNews & World Report, accessed August 22, 2010.
  8. S&T Snapshots, "Mean Old Levee: Homeland Security's Levee PLUGS Pass a Second Test", DHS website, posted November 17, 2009, accessed September 13, 2010.
  9. "House Passes Bipartisan Homeland Security Technology Bill", July 20, 2010 press release from the House Committee on Homeland Security, accessed September 5, 2010.
  10. Critics say Homeland Security Bill unfairly favors Texas A&M, Cristina Daglas, The Badger Herald, November 25, 2002, accessed September 13, 2010.