DHS seeks terror forecasting

Broad Agency Announcement on the Center of Excellence in Behavioral and Social Aspects of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism

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The Homeland Security Department is accepting proposals from academic institutions to study behavioral and social aspects of terrorism and use technology to predict and anticipate terrorist attacks.

According to the Science and Technology Directorate's broad agency announcement, research would focus on improving the prediction, detection and prevention of terrorism.

"This includes [but is not limited to] statistical and computational modeling that incorporates geospatial, cultural, linguistic and political data to detect, prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist activity at the earliest possible point in time, as well as scenario-driven behavioral models describing potential nodes of intervention with individuals and groups" domestic and international, according to the department's notice.

The notice states that researchers should consider users, privacy issues, new technologies, new operational procedures and changing organizational structures.

DHS officials expect to provide $12 million during the next three years. Colleges and universities should submit letters of intent by July 30 and full proposals by Sept. 30.

The academic institution selected for the grant would become the fourth Center of Excellence established under a DHS program to enhance multidisciplinary academic research to enhance prevention of, response to and recovery from terrorism.

Last December, the University of Southern California established the first such center to study economic risks from terrorist threats. In April, DHS and the Agriculture Department announced that the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University would establish centers focusing on agricultural security.

Today, Secretary Tom Ridge announced that the University of Minnesota will receive $15 million in DHS research funds during the next three years for its research on food security supplies, while Texas A&M will receive $18 million for the same period on animal diseases and countermeasures.

During his announcement in Minneapolis, he said federal funds would be used to expand research on ongoing projects.

"We saw demonstrations of two computer systems that allow experts to map out what-if situations, incorporating real-time information gathered from labs and monitors around the country, and to test possible interventions for effectiveness," he said in prepared remarks. "And a portable detection device that government labs and first responders could one day use at the site of an emergency to better -- and more quickly -- detect harmful substances that might be used in an intentional attack."

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