Former Remarks by Ambassador Dan Shapiro at Tel Aviv University, Porter School of Environmental Studies (As Prepared)

Thank you, Peter, for your kind introduction, and for inviting me to join you today as part of the first ever Combating Terrorism Technology Startup Challenge.  Thanks to all our finalists, your teams, and others who participated in this Challenge for your dedication and ingenuity.  Thanks to all of you in the audience for joining us today. Lastly, thanks to our representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Technical Support Working Group for being here and for sponsoring this program.

The Startup Challenge is a creative endeavor, which seeks to harness the energies of small groups and companies to help stay ahead of the ever-evolving threats we face from terrorists and criminals.  Terrorist groups such as ISIS have shown themselves to be “learning” organizations, to which our response must be, to simply learn faster than the terrorists, something you all are helping us do.

And there is no better place to launch the inaugural challenge than here in Israel – known as the “start-up nation” for your embrace of technology and prowess in its development.

Unfortunately, you also know all too well the consequences of terrorist attacks killing family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues.  This morning’s attack in Tel Aviv is just another example of the threats you face while going about your daily lives. We condemn it in the strongest terms, and I wish those wounded a speedy recovery.  Just last week, I attended the funerals in Jerusalem of four Jewish victims of the heinous attacks in France, which served as a reminder that terrorists know no boundaries.

As President Obama reiterated last night in his State of the Union address, the fight against terrorism remains at the top of our agenda.

The President said: “First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris,” said President Obama, adding that “we will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally,” as the U.S. has done on numerous occasions, whether it was the operation to get Bin Laden, or countless other operations against imminent threats to us and to our allies. We are also building coalitions and working in concert with our allies and partners to defeat common terrorist threats.

The fight against terrorism must be a global one, involving the sharing of information and intelligence to counter the threat of extremists, and to deter youth from radicalization.  Toward this end, President Obama will host the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism next month in Washington to educate American leaders and their counterparts abroad on ways of integrating law enforcement, mental health and religious leaders to curb violent activity.

The goal of the Summit is to “highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.”

We also need cross-border cooperation in researching and developing the tools necessary to identify, locate, and track terrorists and render their efforts harmless.

The United States and Israel have a long history of working together on such efforts.  Our research and development program linking the Counter-terrorism Technical Support Office and Technical Support Working Group with their Israeli counterparts in MAFAT at the Ministry of Defense goes back over 20 years now!

Together, we have developed technologies to detect rocket attacks, locate concealed weapons, remotely locate improvised explosive devices, and identify harmful explosives.

We continue our work together in vital R&D programs to address current threats, such as tunnel detection and destruction and development of improved armor for our troops, and recently our Department of Defense and Israel’s Ministry of Defense renewed a 10-year Memorandum of Agreement to invest an additional $500 million each in their efforts.

We have also increased our intelligence sharing, hold frequent meetings among our counterterrorism experts to discuss trends and methods to cut off finance and supply networks to terrorist organizations, and develop and enforce sanctions for those who violate such efforts.

What makes today’s event unique is its focus on leveraging the power of entrepreneurship to advance security efforts.  In this field, not only are companies pursuing what makes sense for their business, but also what makes the world a safer place where democratic principles can thrive.

We’ve just heard a bit about the finalists and their projects.  I’ve got to say – it is pretty incredible how you have managed to build on recent technological advancements to create security-related applications!

Flagging images in the blink of an eye; filtering out unwanted noise; explosive detection with a spark; safety networking; 3D intelligence mapping; security crowdsourcing; early detection of nearby threats; and water safety sensors – just a few years ago, no one could have imagined these things might someday exist!

Once further developed, your work will help law enforcement and public safety officials around the world better serve and protect innocent lives. Keep up the good work!

To all of the finalists, and all of those who participated, I extend heartfelt congratulations. Your enthusiasm is admirable and I encourage you to continue with this very important work.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… The Envelope Please! I’m very happy to announce that the first-ever Combatting Terrorism Technology Startup Challenge Award winner, going home with $100,000 is: InSoundz! Congratulations!