New Security Industry Association (SIA) member The Homeland Security Consulting Group (HSCG) works to help public safety and security companies do more business protecting critical infrastructure through homeland security consulting and business development. The company is headquartered in Potomac, Maryland.
SIA spoke with David McWhorter, founder of The Homeland Security Consulting Group, about the company, the security industry and working with SIA.
Tell us the story of your company.
DM: On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor conducting analysis on operational testing of various weapons systems. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created via the Homeland Security Act. This act also directed the implementation of a program called the Support Antiterrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act), which bestows liability protections to products and services a DHS analysis deems are effective at countering terrorism in some way. DHS contracted with the company I worked for to provide technical expertise (I have a Ph.D. in chemistry).
I was asked to lead the program, providing technical evaluations of the products and services submitted for evaluation, and after several years I left for the private sector to become a consultant to help the applicants through the SAFETY Act process. In 2014, I founded HSCG to continue the mission and provide business development for my clients.
What solutions/services does your business offer in the security industry? And what makes your offerings/company unique?
DM: Having been intimately involved with DHS and its larger community since the agency was founded has provided me with an extensive network of security professionals around the world. Through this network, I am able to provide unique business development opportunities and advice to my clients. Further, as the only previous technical evaluator from the SAFETY Act program in the private sector, I offer insight and expertise that no one else can. After all, I helped write the application material used by SAFETY Act applicants and helped design the evaluation process that the products and services undergo.
I also love to educate people about the grants and funding opportunities that come from DHS.
What is something we might not know about your company – or something new you are doing in security?
DM: I miss trade shows. Not only do I like to travel, but browsing the endless aisles of inventive and effective security technology is something I really enjoy. I just got my first COVID-19 shot, so maybe my first in-person show isn’t too far away! The virtual trade shows aren’t the same.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities in the security industry right now?
DM: Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing everything; however, like always, there are good solutions, and there are not-so-good ones (and downright deceptive ones). Good AI (e.g., for object detection) requires that training the software is done properly and exhaustively without cutting corners. Honest and standardized testing and evaluation, preferably by third parties, must be done to be able to compare various products against the threat vectors they claim to counter.
Thus, the answer is twofold: there is an opportunity in creating AI solutions and in creating repeatable, reliable ways to evaluate them.
What are the biggest challenges facing your company and/or others in the security industry?
DM: For my SAFETY Act clients (which is 75% of my business), we are experiencing unprecedented challenges in working with DHS and the Science & Technology Directorate in charge of the program. Between funding issues, COVID’s impact and myriad leadership changes over the last four years, DHS’ evaluation process has become unpredictable and is taking longer than ever before. This is a challenge for my clients that need to have liability protection in place before significant deployment of their products and services can take place.
What do you enjoy most about being at your company – and in the security industry?
DM: With rare exception, as a sole-member LLC, I am consistently Employee of the Month. My 8-year-old rescue pup, Roscoe, has taken the award once or twice, though. He is, after all, my most reliable office mate.
Other than that, I love the passion of the people I meet, especially the entrepreneurs and inventors.
What does SIA offer that is most important to you/your company? And what do you most hope to get out of your membership with SIA?
DM: I have found that a vast network can not be overvalued. I have matched many of my connections to each other in a way that makes them both better. I have also found connections of mine with an interest in a new client’s technology, despite having met the connection years prior with not much interaction in the meantime. You never know when that relationship may become valuable. I hope to expand my network with those active with SIA.
How does your organization engage with SIA? What are your plans for involvement in the next year?
DM: I will be presenting a session at SIA GovSummit later this month regarding the SAFETY Act and its increased importance under the Biden administration (this has to do with the definition of an “act of terrorism”). Beyond that, I look forward to seeing everyone at the next trade show!
The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association.