George Mason University

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Mason lauded for its leadership role in homeland security

August 5, 2019   /   by John Hollis

Matthew Coats, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs, said, "You can see why we chose one of our Centers of Excellence to be at George Mason. It’s a fantastic infrastructure here, really geared to solving real-world problems.” Photo by Jessica Yurinko.

George Mason University is playing a key part in the defense of the American homeland with its leading role in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s network of Centers of Excellence.

Matthew Coats, the keynote speaker at the second annual Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence Summit, who serves as the director of DHS's Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs, cited Mason’s pivotal scientific and technological leadership within the network of nine Centers of Excellence (COE).

Mason’s Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA) has emerged as a leader—in just two years—within this group of renowned universities conducting groundbreaking research to address homeland security challenges by developing multidisciplinary, customer-driven homeland security science and technology solutions and helping train the next generation of homeland security experts.

“You can see why we chose one of our Centers of Excellence to be at George Mason,” Coats said. “It’s a fantastic infrastructure here, really geared to solving real-world problems.”

The two-day conference on Mason’s Arlington Campus brought together more than 400 subject matter experts from 350 different academic, industry and government organizations and more than 40 students, all focusing on threats and challenges facing DHS, as well as current and emerging solutions. Other speakers included William N. Bryan, the senior official performing the duties of the DHS under secretary for science and technology; Andre Hentz, the DHS deputy under secretary (acting) for Science and Technology; Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association; and Rear Adm. Meredith Austin, the U.S. Coast Guard’s deputy for operations, policy and capabilities.

“We wanted to create an environment that allows the Centers of Excellence to connect and collaborate, to find solutions with industry and to support the homeland security enterprise, and for the homeland security community to become even more aware of the work done within this innovation ecosystem, including the amazing work performed by the CINA COE in particular,” said Tony Stefanidis, the director of Mason’s CINA Center.

Mason’s role figures to increase with the addition of the School of Computing, said Deborah Crawford, Mason’s vice president for research, innovation, and economic impact, during a panel discussion. As part of the university’s plans to expand its Arlington presence in the wake of Amazon’s decision to come to Northern Virginia, the School of Computing and its accompanying new 400,000-square-foot building will significantly add to the region’s tech talent pipeline while housing Mason graduate and undergraduate students in the same space as corporate partners.

“Innovation partners create an innovation ecosystem,” Crawford said.

Centers of Excellence generate basic and applied research that can be rapidly developed into innovative technologies for the homeland security community. The multidisciplinary nature of Mason’s CINA center makes it more responsive to those challenges.  

Coats emphasized the need for the DHS centers to address the so-called “gray area” where cyber and critical infrastructure meet to present “an opportunity to exploit infrastructure, opportunities to do nefarious things.”

Hentz lauded the centers as “another tool in closing the gaps that exist within the homeland security space.”