DARPA boosts info awareness

Information Exploitation Office

The events of Sept. 11, combined with the constantly evolving world of information technology, inspired the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to open a new office focused on providing informational awareness for national security.

The new Information Awareness Office was formally established in mid-January. Its mission is to develop and demonstrate information technologies designed to counter "asymmetric threats," such as terrorist attacks.

The IAO will attempt to achieve that goal by providing "total information awareness" that can be used for national security warning and decision-making, as well as preempting nefarious acts, according to the office's evolving Web site (www.darpa.mil/iao).

John Poindexter, national security adviser to former President Reagan, is the director of the new agency, said Jan Walker, DARPA spokeswoman, confirming reports by the New York Times. Before joining DARPA to lead the IAO, Poindexter served as senior vice president of information systems at Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington, Va.-based technical services firm.

Walker said the new office is exploring how myriad technologies can help it achieve its mission including:

* Biometrics, speech recognition and machine translation.

* Collaboration technologies that would help decision makers share the same data to make quick decisions.

* Knowledge discovery.

* DARPA's ongoing asymmetric threats program, which includes things such as last year's terrorists attacks.

"DARPA changes office structure every two to three years, based on technologies," Walker said. "As technology becomes more up and coming or more mature, we put together an office focused on that technology."

DARPA had been developing and using the IAO technologies under different offices before Sept. 11 and recognized the challenges that they, along with other things such as biological warfare, pose to the defense community.

The terrorist attacks "validated those as challenges and refocused our energy and attention on them," Walker said.

The Bush administration's fiscal 2003 budget proposal for the Defense Department calls for significant research and development funding increases, but specific numbers for the new office are not yet available, Walker said.

Another new DARPA office created in the aftermath of Sept. 11 is the Information Exploitation Office (IXO), Walker said. The office's mission is to develop sensors and systems with "application to battle space awareness, targeting, command and control, and the supporting infrastructure required to address land-based threats in a dynamic, closed-loop process."

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