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Request for Proposals for Borders, Trade, and Immigration Research RFP-17-02

 Proposals due: Saturday, July 1, 2017, 11:59PM (Central)

Introduction | Proposal Topic Areas | Key Information | Proposal Requirements | Submission Instructions | Review/Selection Process | Award Process | DHS Project Champion | BTI Project Management

A. INTRODUCTION

The Borders, Trade, and Immigration (BTI) Institute requests proposals for projects to address research questions related to its mission. Proposals are due to BTI on Saturday, July 1, 2017, 11:59PM (Central). Total funding under this RFP is to be determined. Funding for each award will be up to $350,000 with a performance period of up to 24 months. Multiple awards are anticipated, but the number of awards is dependent upon total available funding. Clear objectives and outcomes must be identified as funding is contingent on results.

Proposals will be reviewed by representatives from the academic/research community and DHS for scientific quality and mission relevance. Proposals will be scored, ranked, and forwarded to the DHS Office of University Programs (OUP). OUP will invite selected proposals to submit a detailed work plan and budget for final approval. Final awards are made using a cooperative agreement mechanism, which denotes discussion with the funder and revisions prior to arriving at a final work plan. Proposals that have strong potential for transition to the end user are strongly encouraged.

The BTI Institute, led by the University of Houston, conducts research, develops innovative solutions, and provides educational materials to enhance the nation’s ability to secure our borders, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.

Through a multi-disciplinary team of internationally-renowned experts, the BTI Institute delivers:

  • Transformational technology-driven solutions;
  • Data-informed policies;
  • Workforce development opportunities for today’s Homeland Security Enterprise; and
  • Trans-disciplinary education for the next generation of homeland security experts

More information on the BTI Institute may be found at www.uh.edu/bti

 

B.   PROPOSAL TOPIC AREAS

BTI seeks to address a number of research questions related to its mission that are of interest to the public and relevant federal, state, and local agencies, as described in its founding solicitation (DHS-14-ST-061-COE-002B). Each proposed project should be structured to address one of the questions of interest to this RFP, listed below.

Borders include transit points where people and goods are processed through interactions with immigration and customs authorities. Borders are also defined by the movements or flows of people and goods throughout the global community, both legally and illegally. The rapidly-changing, transnational nature of border security, trade, and immigration requires continuous innovations in both technology and policy. New technologies and policies must be analyzed for impact on travel and trade to avoid adversely impact legitimate flows of people and trade. The vast majority of the flows of people and goods across the border is comprised of lawful and compliant trade and travel. Continuing and increasing our ability to move legitimate travelers and cargo efficiently and expeditiously through our ports of entry, is essential.

GOAL 1. Enhance the U.S. Border Management Operations

Objective 1.1: Promote International Partnerships for Prevention, Deterrence and Facilitation

  1. What challenges and opportunities do sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, and transnational actors present in securing international cooperation for interdiction and enforcement?
  2. In enhancing border security, what future challenges and opportunities are presented by sharing land borders with Canada and Mexico? What challenges and opportunities are presented by sharing air and sea borders with nearby Caribbean islands?
  3. Which is more effective for providing U.S. security: an immigration policy calibrated to threats originating in specific nations or one that treats all nations similarly?
  4. Are there ways of effectively pushing borders out to reduce risks associated with the movement of people and cargo reaching U.S. borders, and what are the effects of these processes on international trade and relations with border cities?
  5. What can be learned from comparative studies of immigration systems and policies in comparable nations (such as Canada and the UK) and how do these policies affect national security and the effective administration of immigration?
  6. How can the U.S. help improve conditions—and which conditions—in the countries of origin to deter the unauthorized movement of large masses of people to the U.S.?
  7. How are re-integration efforts for people sent back working or not working? What data sources are available on re-integration programs, and what can be learned about them? What approaches can be developed to discourage individuals from attempting to return to the U.S. multiple times? 

Objective 1.2: Improve the ability to prevent, deter, and counter the illegal activities of Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs)

  1. How would a transnational criminal organization exploit a trusted traveler/trusted trade program?
  2. How would a transnational criminal organization defeat CBP non-intrusive inspection technology?
  3. How might terrorist organizations targeting the U.S. exploit transnational criminal organizations?
  4. What useful historical information and trends can be derived from terrorism and illegal activities to enhance border security activities?
  5. What can be learned from previous attempts to combat drug trafficking? How can the effectiveness of these efforts be measured?
  6. What innovative methodologies may be used to best identify travel patterns and behavioral characteristics of individual terrorists, illegitimate actors, and transnational criminal organizations?
  7. How might social networking evolve and be used to identify impending threats or shifts in criminal activity?
  8. How can social networking be leveraged for interior and border enforcement purposes?
  9. To what degree do gangs “rule” or “govern” in local, regional, and even country-wide communities? That is, has the control gangs exert become akin to a violent political dictatorship, and if so, what happens to people who oppose such a system? To what extent are conditions in some of these countries—with ongoing hostilities between government forces and organized crime—similar to those of a civil war?  

Objective 1.3: Improve the safety, efficiency and operational effectiveness of U.S. Border Operations

A. Personnel Safety and Wellbeing

  1. What technological and human factors research will enable improved safety for operators while securing borders more effectively?
  2. What kinds of screening activities and programs are effective for maintaining the highest standards of integrity in the workforce?
  3. What human factors issues are critical to USBP agent retention and attrition? How might the current pre-employment process be expedited by the use of alternative methods regarding psychosocial assessment, while retaining standards?
  4. Study the effect to a CBP officer (CBPO) faced with an endless line of passengers to process, particularly at high volume land ports of entry locations (i.e., Southwest border) regardless of pace and efficiency. In the air ports of entry environments, passengers are typically processed in waves, so the CBPO knows that after a certain number of flights, they will clear the queue before the next wave arrives. To what degree does the officer experience effects in job performance or level of stress?

B. Communications

  1. What are the best ways of providing communications to border security personnel in remote, sparsely populated desert and forested regions, as well as in urban areas?
  2. How can we effectively and efficiently improve the communication of information and analysis generated by surveillance and screening systems?
  3. What innovative methods can ensure that communications and command and control (C3) systems are fully interoperable and secure?

Objective 1.4:  HSE Training and Professional Development

  1. What human factors issues are critical to increasing the operator’s ability to recognize rare events and unusual threats?
  2. The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act reforms federal program management policy to enhance accountability and best practices in project and program management. How might DHS best train existing and new employees in project management and strategic thinking?

Objective 1.5:  HSE Education

 

GOAL 2. Enhance the Ability to Secure and Facilitate Transnational Flows of People

Objective 2.1: Promote Prevention and Deterrence of Unauthorized Transnational Flows of People

A. Policies

  1. What effect have changes in U.S. immigration law and policy had on numbers of people applying for asylum, refugee status, visas, and citizenship?
  2. How do legal changes in the admissibility of immigrants impact future flows of migrants?
  3. How do numerical immigration limits and ceilings affect illegal migration and legal immigrant applications?
  4. How effective are apprehension activities, such as the Consequence Delivery System (CDS), in deterring illegal migration?
  5. What is the impact of detention and removal policies on illegal migrants and illegal migration flows? How effective are the current policies? What is the appropriate mix of detention and release to maximize deterrence of illegal immigration?
  6. What are the effects of various U.S. immigration law, policies, and practices, particularly those pertaining to repatriation and due process, on enforcement operations and effectiveness?
  7. What strategies are being used to discourage Central Americans from initiating an illegal trip to the United States, and what is the return on investment of those strategies—that is, which strategies are working, and which need to be revisited? Which new strategies need to be implement? How can “on the ground efforts” be best monitored (e.g., media messaging campaigns or new programs that aim to deter people from leaving for the U.S. in an unauthorized fashion) to assess their impact and effect? Who are the deterrence partners in each country (e.g., at the government level, civil society, non-governmental organizations, universities, schools) and how can those partnerships be effectively leveraged?
  8. What motivates individuals to commit immigration benefit fraud and how can adjudicators identify these motivations and induce applicants to admit to fraud?
  9. What does a comprehensive operating concept for border security between U.S. ports of entry for the southwest, northern, and coastal borders look like in 2030?

B. Flow Forecasting: Develop an understanding of the push and pull factors affecting transnational flows of people.

  1. What are the root causes “pushing” people out of their countries of origin and/or “pulling” them to the U.S.? Are we dealing with the same push and pull factors or new ones? Is there a change in trends? What factors are involved in making the decision to leave the country of origin for the U.S.?
  2. What factors lead to past and current migration crises? Have these factors changed over time (for example, do environmental factors play a larger role compared to the past)? What populations would be most likely to migrate over the next 5 years?  Of those, which populations are most likely to have significant numbers attempt legal and illegal entry into the Americas and the U.S.? What are the potential characteristics and risks of those migration populations that might attempt entry into the Americas?
  3. It is easy to have a generally accepted understanding of the factors which could have foretold of the impending Unaccompanied Children (UAC) migration crisis but having a generalized model which is comprehensive enough and assessed frequently enough to indicate the impending crisis prior to reaching the crisis level is a challenge. Prior to the event the focus of prediction and enforcement efforts had been on Mexican migration, which actually continued its pattern of decline. This reflects the continuing challenge of trying to capture intangible items such as passed or pending policy changes and potential calculus of the risk/reward balance of people contemplating participating in illegal migration. In addition, forecasting which items which may not have been a factor in the past but could significantly impact those determinations in the future are hard to predict. Lastly, being able to scale in and out of populations (e.g., Mexican migration vs. Honduran Migration) and areas (i.e., “squeezing the balloon” effect) need to be factored in as part of a holistic approach to the challenge. What methods can be used to holistically model migration levels given a multitude of contributing factors, some of which have not previously been tied to migration and others which are difficult to quantify?
  4. How can we accurately predict the future magnitude of immigration flows to the U.S.? How do the following factors influence and/or accurate predict flows? 
  5. Which economic, political or social variables allow us to most accurately predict immigration?
  6. What drives the demand curve for immigration visas (by visa type)? How do supply factors (e.g., numerical limits/caps) impact visa selection or preference by applicants?
  7. How can we better predict future demand within both the family and employment visa categories?

C. Human trafficking/Smuggling Prevention: Prevent the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation.

  1. What can be learned from trafficking victims’ oral histories to help identify major factors for how victims are drawn into labor trafficking, the sex trade and domestic servitude? Can this inform the way DHS focuses its operational and awareness activities to reach potential victims and build stronger cases?
  2. How can DHS identify the factors that enable criminal traffickers to draw people into trafficking situations? Specifically, how can DHS begin to identify and outreach to ‘systemically vulnerable’ populations that are underrepresented in current discussions and ways that would-be-traffickers exploit these populations?
  3. What are new sources of information and innovative methods and metrics to estimate the number and characteristics of human trafficking victims? Of criminal traffickers?
  4. What useful historical information and trends can be derived from unauthorized immigration to enhance border security activities? For example, what can be learned from previous attempts to combat smuggling and illegal immigration? How can the effectiveness of these efforts be measured?

D. People Screening: Screen incoming and outgoing travelers to identify, prohibit and detain suspected terrorists and known criminals.

  1. What screening modalities can be developed that would be feasible, effective, and minimally disruptive at ports of entry?
  2. How might inspection processes be strengthened to increase the likelihood of detecting suspicious people?
  3. What technologies can improve data collection on migrants that will allow officials to identify, track, and individuals while placing minimal data collection burdens on migrants themselves?
  4. What innovative interview techniques might complement border personnel's ability to assess the intent of border crossers?
  5. Are there ways to gather biographical data and immigration histories of individuals post encounter and prior to processing?

E. Surveillance: Develop new or innovative uses of technologies to improve situational awareness at and near the border, while maintaining sensitivity to privacy, effectiveness, and affordability during operations.

  1. What is the optimal allocation of multiple layers of security, surveillance, interdiction, and enforcement?
  2. How can CBP employ “rapid response” capabilities and infrastructure in cost effective ways and in what geographic locations would they be most effective?
  3. What new technologies and/or sensor systems can be developed and applied to improve the detection and tracking of vehicles, vessels, and persons along borders?
  4. What innovative sensor systems and approaches are best suited to the special conditions presented in either a northern or southern border environment?
  5. How might satellite technology be utilized to conduct surveillance along the border?
  6. As it pertains to surveillance in difficult terrain and/or hand-held surveillance technologies, what analysis could be conducted to identify and understand new technologies and techniques that perform non-linear junction detection (NLJD) and locating services (geolocation) at standoff ranges (10 feet → 1Km), which are line of site or non-line of site in uncluttered [electronic] environments?
  7. What new or emerging technology advances in change detection and anomaly recognition can provide authorities the ability to anticipate or recognize threats in real time?
  8. What existing or new approaches can CBP leverage to conduct surveillance over multiple domains such as land, air, and marine?
  9. DHS is interested in evolving technology capable of autonomous observation of rivers, lakes, ocean and approaches to them?  How might these technologies evolve and what are the cost, reliability, robustness, autonomy, deployment and maintenance considerations for these technologies?
  10. What surveillance challenges and threats exist in the future and what should be the strategy to address them?
  11. What platforms can be used to assist US Border Patrol in sign cutting recognition (illegal cross border traffic/trails, etc.)?

F. Power for Surveillance: Address power constraints of surveillance systems.

  1. What innovative power sources and systems might extend the life or increase the practicality of remote sensor systems?
  2. What assessment of fuel cell technology can be conducted as a source for both back-up and primary power?
  3. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others are interested in fuel cells for backup and primary power for surveillance systems at remote sites not on the grid. Some of the surveillance systems are mobile and would use the fuel cell as an alternative to a generator, while other systems are based on solar power and need backup for cloudy weather periods. What assessment can be conducted that includes a survey of industry to understand developmental fuel cell systems? A study should describe available features, maintenance and an approximate costs of a system and fuel replenishment, for both backup and primary systems. 
  4. What analysis could be conducted to better understand power scavenging to eliminate and reduce the need to replace or recharge batteries?
  5. What analysis could be performed to understand future technologies powering remotely located sensors eliminating the need for batteries? A study should include survey methods of power scavenging. Some examples of sources include geothermal ∆T, earth seismic movement, motion from human movement (i.e., watch that powers via a person’s movements) and air movement. There is a need in powering sensors without the need to revisit them to replace or recharge batteries.   

Objective 2.2: Facilitate Legitimate Travel

A. Policies and Concepts of Operations

  1. What policy or process opportunities could help streamline the flow of legitimate travel?
  2. If the government were to regulate the airlines or airports by determining the departure terminals or gates that could be used, what impact would that have on the airline industry? Currently, there is no restriction on the terminals or gates that airlines can use to board departing flights to international locations. Please keep in mind that some models of aircraft can only depart from certain gates, and the airline would not have as much freedom to choose the gate that best suits their needs.

B. Technologies: Streamline the processing of legitimate transnational flows

  1. Part of the success of deployed technologies relies on the traveling public using these automated solutions in the manner in which they were intended, and using them expeditiously. What are the best methods to motivate and educate people to utilize deployed technology? What methods works and what does not work for providing people instructions on how to use a machine? In what form should these instructions take:  Signage (If signage, should the written word be utilized writing or graphics); advertising in local media outlets; and/or various light displays?
  2. What innovative approaches can be taken to most effectively process trusted traveler applicants? Could automated kiosks be efficiently used to minimize the amount of time spent by CBP Officers in personal interviews with low-risk individuals?
  3. Can technology substitute for or mitigate limitations induced by infrastructure (e.g., roads, port-of-entry lanes) or inadequate numbers of personnel?
  4. What are the costs and benefits of registered traveler programs to ease the screening process?
  5. What technologies will facilitate the movement of legitimate low-risk individuals across borders while making entrance difficult for terrorists and criminals?
  6. Do biometrics and mobile technologies offer opportunities to streamline processing of legitimate travel?
  7. What future forms of biometric information have the most potential for accurate identification while being the least susceptible to defects, fraud, concealment, or manipulation?

C. Port of Entry (POE) wait times determination: Increase and improve the quality of the information DHS receives on incoming traffic to improve its validity.

  1. How do border security operations affect crossing times? How can we best measure and report wait times to most effectively communicate the impact of border security operations upon trade and travel?

Objective 2.3: Performance Metrics

  1. How can we measure, assess, and predict the impact of technology on the facilitation of legitimate travel?
  2. Defining a “missed detection” is difficult. One challenge is to separate tracking of individuals for illegal activity that is not observed (i.e., drug or alien smuggling). Moreover, it is also difficult to determine which activity was missed since it was not observed. Along those lines, the metric to track “missed detections” (i.e., number of incidents, amount of drugs, or number of undocumented migrants) varies and does not lend itself to the need to develop a true understanding of illegal flows (i.e., best smuggling routes are reserved for drugs and other high value illegal flows while undocumented migrant smuggling is done using less successful routes). What constitutes “missed” is sometimes ambiguous as in discovering footprints leading away from the border may be considered a successful detection of an incursion. What methods can be used to account for missed detections in a way which can inform decisions regarding vulnerabilities from illegal flows while also enabling accurate measures of illegal flow volumes of drugs and undocumented migrants?

 

GOAL 3. Enhance the Ability to Secure and Facilitate Transnational Flows of Goods

Objective 3.1: Promote Deterrence of Unauthorized Transnational Flows of Goods

A. Underground Tunnels: Detect and deter underground tunnels.

  1. What innovative technologies can be modified or developed to detect and deter clandestine means of crossing borders, such as tunnels?

B. Aerial vehicles: Detect and deter ultra-light aircraft and UAS.

  1. What innovative technologies can be modified or developed to detect and deter clandestine means of crossing borders, such as ultra-light aircraft, etc.?

C. Screening of cargo: Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the inspection process

  1. How can CBP improve security by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology for detecting Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) threats when scanning cargo?
  2. How might future improvements in optical character recognition (OCR) systems impact their use in the Intermodal Cargo Container (IMCC) transport environment?
  3. What models can be developed to understand the performance of non-invasive sensor systems for detecting and classifying organic and inorganic materials in containers?
  4. How might inspection processes be strengthened to increase the likelihood of detecting suspicious goods?

D. Agriculture inspection: Enhance and/or develop processes, procedures, technology to prevent the transfer of insects and viruses across our international borders that could adversely impact the U.S. agriculture industry.

  1. What new methods can be developed to stimulate movement and activity (i.e., eating, fighting, and procreating) of bugs in various commodities to improve sensor performance?
  2. What new methods can be developed for use with acoustic and microwave radar bug signature data collected from infested commodity packaging to improve classification of bug type?

E. Counterfeit Detection: Develop technology to increase the effectiveness and reliability of detection technology used to prohibit the shipment of counterfeit products to the United States.

  1. What new methods of detection and recognition of counterfeit articles can be developed for items made of inorganic materials in containers?

F. Connecting Goods to People/Organizations

  1. Bound within the maritime supply chain, how might a study be conducted to understand information flows between all players involved (including owners, buyers, sellers, governments and logistic parties) who aim to increase the visibility of goods by providing information into the supply chain?  Such a study should presume that all participants share some of this data depending on their role in order to increase trade compliance as well increasing efficiency, compliance and security. Is there a way to incorporate biometrics into the supply chain management process in order to ensure a secure chain-of-custody?  If so, how would it be accomplished?
  2. How might a study be conducted to understand how information is used and how its flows would be useful to determine methods of improving and facilitating trade while improving security?
  3. If biometrics can be incorporated into the supply chain, how can the return-on-investment be determined and what would improve the economic viability of biometrics?
  4. Do biometrics and mobile technologies offer opportunities to streamline processing of legitimate trade?

G. Export Control: Balancing national security and export competitiveness

  1. Can reforming U.S. export controls through consolidating multiple components of the export control regulatory and oversight functions into: (i) a single commodity list, (ii) a single licensing agency, (iii) a single IT system, and (iv) a single primary export enforcement agency achieve increased efficiencies for the international trade community? If so, what would be the best approach to ensure this?
  2. How can the U.S. best consolidate export enforcement agency functions, e.g., consider the elements of the Export Control Reform Phase III merger? Will such approaches actually eliminate duplicative and inefficient programs and improve efficiencies for the trade and enforcement communities? How can such changes be measured empirically, and what baseline information should be collected now to evaluate these changes?
  3. How can DHS and other border and trade oversight agencies adapt operations and reallocate resources to optimize compliance with the new export requirements?
  4. How would proposed export control restrictions hamper or enhance the government’s capabilities to prevent and deter exports of illegally-made controlled goods?
  5. What tools, technologies, analytical approaches or operational enhancements can be developed to improve the government’s ability to accurately detect illegal or potentially illegal exports?
  6. How can DHS and other border enforcement agencies improve international agreements and utilize international organizations to improve enforcement and compliance capabilities?

Objective 3.2 Facilitate Legitimate Trade

A. Policies

  1. What policy or process opportunities could help streamline the flow of legitimate trade?

B. Port of the Future: Establish the framework to operate the maritime ports of the future

  1. What new features, capabilities and associated concepts of operation (CONOPS) can be developed that enhance efficiency, expedite trade and/or security at a maritime port of the future?
  2. What overall analysis, including the development of a business case and roadmap, can be developed for a maritime port of the future?
  3. How would a study be conducted on a maritime port of the future that collects, reviews, and analyzes the impact of direct access by post-Panamax ships via the opening of the third set of locks through the Panama Canal?
  4. What analysis of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operational impacts can be conducted that includes the impact of large ships and the need to shorten time-to-market – personnel impacts; logistical and facility impacts; Non-Intrusive Inspection or X ray scanning of containers impacts, etc.?
  5. What new methods can be developed to evaluate the regulatory, commercial, physical and environmental impacts of increasing container volume and efficiency impacts from expanded capabilities; terminal automation; and increased throughputs?

Objective 3.3 Performance Metrics

  1. What are suitable performance measures and metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of border security at the ports of entry that enable the appropriateness and statistical validity of each metric identified?
  2. How can we measure, assess, and predict the impact of technology on the facilitation of legitimate trade?
  3. How can CBP measure the deterrence value of scanning technology to prevent the smuggling of illegal goods or instruments of terror?
  4. How can CBP measure the security impact and economic impact of Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) cargo inspections in comparison to physical inspections and assess the trade-offs involved, at the national, regional, and local level?

 

GOAL 4: Enhance the Ability to Promote the Integrity of The Immigration System Within the U.S. Border

Objective 4.1: Improve the understanding of the characteristics of the immigrant population in the U.S

  1. How do class of admission, national origin, and immigration status correlate with eventual integration and incorporation into American society? What are the health, education, and labor market consequences of being foreign-born?
  2. How do key socio-economic variables, such as English language proficiency and Internet access and usage, compare among immigrants in the U.S.?
  3. How do integration practices and feelings of belongingness differ across immigrant communities?
  4. How can we accurately predict the future magnitude of immigration flows to the U.S.? How do the following factors influence and/or accurate predict flows?
    1. What factors influence or potentially predict decisions by legal permanent residents (LPRs) to stay permanently in the U.S.?
    2. How do demographic and psycho-social characteristics affect the likelihood to naturalize?
    3. How do levels of political, civic, social, and economic integration among LPRs affect their naturalization decisions?
    4. How do immigrants feel that they are perceived by the native-born community? How does the context of reception impact decisions to pursue citizenship?
  5. How can we exploit existing datasets (e.g. the New Immigrant Survey and Census data) to better understand the long-term consequences of being foreign-born and the long-term effects of migration on immigrants and receiving societies?
  6. What are the demographics of the major immigrant groups in the United States by class of admission and how are they changing over time?
  7. What are the evolving characteristics and demographics of the unauthorized population in the U.S. (e.g., age, gender, country of origin, income, education, profession, family ties, internet access, English language proficiency, etc.) and how are these characteristics changing over time?
  8. How do current policies affect the behavior of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.?
  9. How do migrants settling in non-traditional areas of the country compare with those in traditional gateway communities? What unique challenges, or advantages, do migrants in non-traditional areas of the country have regarding civic participation compared with those in traditional gateway communities?

Objective 4.2: Improve the understanding of economic and societal impact of the immigrant population in the U.S

  1. What resource demands do immigrants place on public services?
  2. How can we assess the impact of illegal immigrants working in the U.S. on the labor market?
  3. What is the impact of Central American immigration on local governments and communities, including with respect to healthcare, education, and safety and security? What are the short- and long-term costs and benefits to U.S. communities of Central American immigration?
  4. How are U.S. cities changing as a result of authorized and unauthorized migration? Where has there been unexpected growth in immigrant populations and what are the factors that encouraged their geographic concentration and what is their demographic profile?

Objective 4.3: Promote best practices in the administration of immigration

  1. What changes in law, policy, and/or procedures in granting admittance to the Visa Waver Program or approving non-immigrant visas are recommended in order to reduce the incidence of visa overstays and other immigration status violations?
  2. What is the deterrence value of posting advisories at all ports of entry explaining, in explicit detail, the consequences of violating the terms of a U.S. visa?
  3. How might DHS better educate non-immigrants on the current administrative consequences and negative impact on future U.S. immigration benefit applications they may face for overstaying their period of admission?
  4. Would an increase in resources (e.g. material, systems, manpower), help to better achieve effective and timely immigration law enforcement against visa overstays and other immigration status violations in the new environment?
  5. How effective is ICE immigration enforcement against visa overstays and other immigration status violations and what improvements should be made?

Objective 4.4. Promote Immigrant Integration

  1. How strong is the infrastructure for providing services to the population in U.S.? Which agencies are providing services, and what are the gaps in services?
  2. Are immigrants or refugees being released into U.S. communities adapting and becoming integrated into their local communities, or are they struggling? What are the health, mental health, educational, behavioral, employment, etc., outcomes of immigrants or refugees being released into communities in the U.S.?
  3. What are the most feasible and appropriate measures of immigrant integration into U.S. society?
  4. What types of policies can be devised to promote citizenship and naturalization?
  5. What would be innovative ways to restructure the intake of immigration benefit applications and adjudication processes to enhance efficiency and maximize production?

Objective 4.5. Performance Metrics

  1. What are the most effective metrics to assess the numbers of illegal immigrants in the U.S.?
  2. Estimates on the number of illegal migrants within the U.S. are usually based on Residual Method Models using population surveys and then adjustments are made to account for coverage and undercounting.  Is there a better model to estimate illegal migration?
  3. How is DHS handling the increase in arrivals, especially women and children? How is Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) new Family Case Management Program performing? What are the outcomes of families with histories of trauma enrolled in the program? 

Applicants should take into consideration the following documents as they prepare to respond:

 

C.   KEY INFORMATION

C.1 Eligibility

Applications can be from an accredited U.S. college, U.S. university, for-profit organizations, or an organization that meets the definition of non-profit in OMB Circular A-122, relocated to 2 CFR Part 230. Exceptions:

  • Non-profit organizations described in Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that engage in lobbying activities as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 are not eligible to apply.
  • Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) or laboratories funded by federal agencies are not eligible to apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation, regulations, and policies, are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role, and may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through awards made by this program.
  • Institution partnerships with foreign institutions are permitted, but may require special justification and approval from BTI.
  • For-Profit organizations intending to apply may not include profit margins in their cost.

Note that there is no limit to how many proposals may be submitted by an applicant (Principal Investigator or Institution), as long as the proposals are substantially different.

C.2 Follow-on Award Information

Type of Award:

Cooperative Agreement Supplemental

Funding Range:

Up to $350,000 per award

Anticipated Number of Awards:

Dependent upon total available funding

Project Length:

Up to 24 months

C.3 Due Dates

Application submission period will be closed on Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 11:59 PM (Central Time).

C.4 Point of Contact

To promote fairness and avoid conflicts of interest, please use only the email address bti-rfp@uh.edu to communicate matters relating to this RFP before its due date. Please do not contact members of the BTI leadership directly with ideas and/or requests to partner.

 

D.   PROPOSAL REQUIREMENTS

All research conducted through BTI is intended to have publicly releasable results.  Accordingly, no research under this Award should involve, use, or generate sensitive information, which includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and/or classified information. Moreover, written assurances from third parties, including the government, for data necessary to complete the project will need to be provided prior to award of the project (Discussed in Appendix C, Compliance Assurances).

Applicants should submit their proposals using the document package available via http://www.uh.edu/bti/_files/BTI-RFP-17-02-Applicant-Package.zip

Proposals must include the components outlined below. Use 11 point Arial font or larger, single spaced, 1” margins throughout (except for biosketches). Each of the three components D.1-3 must be a separate PDF file.

D.1 Institutional Cover Letter

  • A cover letter that is signed by the Authorized Organizational Representative of the submitting organization.
  • Submit as a PDF file.

D.2 Proposal Summary

  • A completed proposal summary form is provided as part of the applicant document package.
  • The form has two parts – the second is to be used for listing collaborators and other affiliations information.
  • Fill out both parts and submit as a single PDF file.

D.3 Proposal Narrative and Cost

  • Submit as a single PDF file the Project Narrative, its appendices, and the biosketches (Sections D.3.1-D.3.3 below)

D.3.1 Project Narrative

  • Not to exceed 10 pages, including figures
  • 10 page limit does not apply to Appendices (Literature Review, References, Compliance Assurances, and Cost Information)
  • Proposals exceeding this limit will NOT be reviewed
  • Proposals must be specific, directly stating what will occur: showing tasks involved, who is responsible for each task and when they will be completed.
  • Proposals should take into consideration that a detailed work plan will be required before final DHS approval. A presentation on what elements constitute a good work plan can be found at this URL: http://www.uh.edu/bti/_files/BTI-Proposals.PDF

Required sections to include in Project Narrative:

  1. Title
  2. Topic Area
  3. Abstract
  4. Introduction and Rationale
  5. Project Goal and Objectives
  6. Methodology
  7. Project Management
    1. Tasks
    2. Gantt Chart
    3. Deliverables
    4. Milestones
    5. Performance Metrics List
    6. Decision Points
  8. Notional Transition Plan
  9. Programmatic Risks and Mitigation Plans
  10. Personnel Qualifications Synopsis
  11. Available Resources, Facilities, and Leveraged Funding (optional)

See Project Narrative Instructions document for detailed guidance on sections above.

D.3.2 Appendices to Project Narrative (including cost)

Appendix A. Literature Review (not to exceed 2 pages)

  • Does not count against 10 page limit of Project Narrative

Appendix B. References

  • Does not count against 10 page limit of Project Narrative

Appendix C. Compliance Assurances

  1. Data

If the applicant is not the owner of the data to be used/generated by this project, please outline the purpose and characteristics of the data the project will acquire from third parties, their purpose and use, source and acquisition method (e.g., public domain, existing license, license available for purchase), and safety/retention plans. 

Data collection, whether inside or outside the US, can only take place in a manner that affords the necessary protections, both for the personnel involved and any human subjects (if applicable). Researcher safety and security is a paramount priority, and researchers who propose to collect data in environments that involve inherent risks must document the development and implementation of appropriate safety plans for the personnel involved. 

The University of Houston and DHS will not claim ownership of data that is produced under (or incorporated in) this Award. However, the performer must agree to grant the U.S. Government a royalty free, nonexclusive, and irrevocable license.

For data collection involving human subjects (e.g., surveying individuals and collecting data) the organization conducting the human subjects research should have the training, permits, reputation, and personnel to secure IRB approval.

Foreign travel (for data collection outside the US) must be approved by DHS in advance and in writing.

  1. Human Subjects Research and ITAR/Export Controls– if applicable. Projects that involve human subjects research will need to provide IRB approval (or notification of exemption) to the DHS Compliance Assurance Program Office (CAPO) before work can begin. Any projects involving biometrics or social media will also need a privacy review conducted (separate from the IRB process).

See Compliance Assurances Form for detailed guidance on Appendix C.

Appendix D. Cost Information (no page limit)

  1. Detailed Budget showing itemized direct costs as well as indirect costs. Costs should be commensurate with effort/tasks in project narrative.
  2. Budget Narrative/Justification

See Cost Information Instructions document for detailed guidance on Appendix D.

D.3.3 Biographical Sketch(es) for the PI and co-PI(s)

Attach bio-sketch(es) for the PI and each co-PI (if any) using NIH template (maximum 4-page per biosketch).  See “Biosketch Format Pages, Instructions and Samples” at: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch.htm

 

E.    SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS

Applications that do not adhere to instructions, are incomplete (missing information), or exceed page limits, will be returned without review.

Letters of support are not required and will not be considered.

Proposals must be submitted using an automated submission system.

  • Please go to this URL to sign up for a system account: uh-bti.fluidreview.com
  • Once you fill out your contact information, the system will send you a link via email to activate your account.
  • When you sign in to your account for the first time, please click on the blue “View awards” button to access RFP-17-02.
  • Click on “Apply Now” and follow the instructions to upload the three separate PDF files:
    • Cover letter from your Authorized Organizational Representative
    • Completed Proposal Summary Form
    • Completed Proposal
  • All three documents are required for a submission.
  • Please preview all three uploaded PDF documents that comprise your application package to make sure that they are complete and adhere to all instructions before submitting. The system allows for previewing and re-uploading documents (if needed) prior to the deadline for submissions, but no changes are allowed after the proposal is submitted.
  • Submit your proposal.

BTI reserves the right to amend the method of submission before the closing date. This RFP and all subsequent amendments (if any) are posted at the following URL:

http://www.uh.edu/bti/partnerships/rfp-17-02/

and/or can be requested by email to bti-rfp@uh.edu

 

F.    REVIEW/SELECTION PROCESS

Reviewers from the academic/research community and DHS will evaluate the proposals.  Proposals will be scored, ranked, and forwarded to the DHS Office of University Programs (OUP).

OUP will invite selected applicants to submit a detailed work plan and budget for final approval. BTI will review and may request further modifications to the project workplan before granting final approval to the project.

A merit-based evaluation criteria will be used to determine the award(s), with a particular focus on scientific quality and relevance to DHS mission. 

Scientific Quality Review.  Reviewers will be asked to rate how the proposal addresses the following criteria, posed as questions.  Reviewers will rate applications using numerical ratings of 1 to 5 (poor to excellent) and apply the percentage-weighting factor as indicated for an overall rating. 

  1. Originality and/or Innovativeness (25%)
  • Is it original, e.g., does the proposed effort challenge and seek to shift current research or paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, inter-disciplinary approaches or methodologies?
  • Is it innovative, e.g., is the proposal a novel refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, inter-disciplinary approaches or methodologies proposed?
  • Does this research have the potential to generate influential publications in the scientific community or lead to new discoveries or areas of investigation?

 

  1. Proposed Approach/Methodology (25%)
  • Are the research goals clear and based on sound theory?
  • Are the methods proposed clearly stated and appropriate for testing the hypotheses?
  • Are the data generation or collection approaches appropriate for the research methods?
  • Is the approach or methodology technically sound, incorporating inter-disciplinary expertise when appropriate, including a demonstrated understanding of the critical technology or engineering challenges required for achieving the project goals?

 

  1. Influence and Cooperative Linkages (25%)
  • Does the application show partnerships or cooperative initiatives with other institutions or organizations?
  • Does the application demonstrate a viable plan for developing substantial and continuing linkages with the Homeland Security Enterprise?

 

  1. Qualifications of Personnel and Suitability of Facilities (15%)
  • Does the investigative team have the breadth of qualifications - credentials and experience - to conduct and complete the proposed research?
  • Does the investigative team have prior experience in similar efforts and do they clearly demonstrate an ability to deliver products that meet the proposed technical performance within their proposed budget and schedule?
  • Are the facilities suitable for the proposed research?

 

  1. Costs (10%).
  • Are the proposed research (and/or education) costs appropriate and reasonable?

Relevancy Review. Reviewers will be asked to rate how the proposal addresses the following criteria, posed as questions. Reviewers will rate applications using numerical ratings of 1 to 5 (poor to excellent) and apply the percentage-weighting factor as indicated for an overall rating. 

  1. Mission Relevance (75%)
  • Does the proposed project address one or more of the research questions?
  • Does the proposed project complement - and not duplicate – existing research and development programs sponsored by DHS or others?
  • Are the potential research deliverables and users of the research well described?

 

  1. Communicating/Transitioning Results (25%)

Does the applicant have a track record of effectively communicating or successfully transitioning research results to appropriate stakeholders, specifically:

  • Will the research team be able to deploy a technology and/or solution(s) that can be transitioned effectively to the user community either through commercialization of the technology, open source distribution, or through other means?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate the implementation of an appropriate knowledge transfer process (e.g., models from case studies to other areas, patents) from academic to government end-users and other DHS customers?

 

G.   AWARD PROCESS 

The anticipated project start date is February 1, 2018. This RFP will resource awards through terms and conditions associated with a cooperative agreement in place with the Department of Homeland Security.

 

H.   DHS PROJECT CHAMPION 

Every awarded project is assigned a designated DHS Champion by the DHS S&T Office of University Programs (OUP). Some projects may be assigned more than one Champion, depending upon interest and impact across multiple programs, in which case they carry the further distinction of Primary and Secondary. OUP will provide this information to BTI to relay to the Project PI.

The role of the Champion is to engage in regular communications with the Project PI to:

  • Understand the scope, project objectives and outcomes;
  • Provide domain expertise, and align research to benefit mission or programmatic objectives; and provide feedback;
  • Assist the Project PI with finding appropriate DHS office(s) that can assist in transition of the project outcomes to end user(s) / customer(s) within DHS; and,
  • Facilitate engagement between the Project PI and the DHS office(s) involved in transition to end user(s) / customers.

If the Project PI fails to maintain contact and remain engaged with the DHS Champion, the project will be at risk of termination. All projects must have an engaged and appropriate DHS Champion.

 

I.   BTI PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Each project team will present the project’s progress to the BTI Research Committee twice a year (in person during the annual PI meeting in October). Project PIs will also submit quarterly progress reports to the BTI Research Committee.