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An Exclusive Look Inside CBP’s Vision for Bolstering Homeland Security

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Sonny Bhagowalia is an influential, dual-hatted executive, working as both assistant commissioner of the agency’s Office of Information and Technology, as well as CBP’s chief information officer. In these information technology-centered roles, he oversees a budget of $1.8 billion, which is approximately 10 percent of the overall CBP portfolio.

Sonny Bhagowalia

Bhagowalia was a part of a panel at Potomac Officers Club’s CIO Summit in May, during which he offered illuminating anecdotes and previews about how CBP is using technology to protect national security. He was charismatic and authoritative and shaped much of the discussion in the segment, which is why he is returning to the POC stage to deliver the keynote address at the 2023 Homeland Security SummitRegister today to save a spot at this highly consequential, topical event, which will be hosted at the Hilton McLean in Virginia on Nov. 15.

At the CIO Summit, Bhagowalia laid out a four-tiered goal set for the outcomes the agency is looking to achieve in its digital modernization efforts. The organization’s leadership is looking to complete their “24/7 missions faster, better, more affordably and more securely,” the executive said.

To execute on this, the CBP CIO said that establishing a mindset of “agile risk tolerance” is important.

“You’ve got to give them a safe zone so that when they come up with these ideas…they feel like there is some support and leadership behind them,” Bhagowalia commented.

Bhagowalia went on to highlight artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotic process automation and cloud migration as tools that are going to be instrumental in getting CBP to the level of responsiveness and efficiency it needs to be. Looking even more into the future, he said he wants to emphasize quantum hardening and that the agency is already beginning to use quantum-safe cryptography.

A certain cultural transformation is necessary to take CBP to the next level, Bhagowalia asserted. This will mean the government and contractors “working as one” while accentuating “transparency and accountability.”

In terms of a personal philosophy and a guiding ideology for the CBP, Bhagowalia cited the advice long attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “be the change you want to see in the world.” Embracing this, he said, will result in an even more successful agency that can best serve the country’s immense security and protection needs.

To hear Bhagowalia further expand on and detail Customs and Border Protection’s future plans to secure the U.S. and fortify its borders, register to attend Potomac Officers Club’s Homeland Security Summit, scheduled for Nov. 15 at the Hilton-McLean in Virginia. The event will also feature remarks from Paul Courtney, chief procurement officer of the Department of Homeland Security and David Patrick, chief acquisition officer of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. You will regret not participating in this essential event!

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