Academy urges IT research to counter terror

Academy urges IT research to counter terror

The National Academy of Sciences today released a report outlining IT research needed to counteract terrorism.

In its report, a committee of the academy's National Research Council recommended creating a Homeland Security Institute to provide scientific and technological guidance to the government. The council's Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism Committee said systems research should concentrate on three areas:

  • Information and network security

  • Command, control and communications for emergency response

  • Information fusion.


  • 'Computer programs that make it much easier to 'connect the dots' among apparently unrelated fragments of information can improve intelligence gathering,' said Richard D. Klausner, co-chairman of the committee. Klausner, executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle, along with other panel members unveiled the report at a Washington press conference.

    The report'Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism'covers all phases of counterterrorism, from intelligence and prevention to response and recovery. It details a technology research agenda for many fields, including agriculture, nuclear and radiological threats, toxic chemicals and explosives, energy systems, and transportation.

    Committee member John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford University, said new counterterrorism efforts call for refocusing federal IT research. 'Much of the recent development in IT has focused on scaling up the Internet,' he said. 'It hasn't focused on delivering systems that are protected against a determined adversary.'

    Hennessy called the nation's computers particularly vulnerable to attack, especially systems for first responders.

    The panel said the president's proposed Homeland Security Department would need an undersecretary for technology to coordinate scientific programs and oversee federal research efforts at the Energy and Defense departments and elsewhere in government.

    The current Office of Homeland Security should be given authority to create the Homeland Security Institute now, rather than waiting for the new department to be formed, said committee co-chairman Lewis M. Branscomb, formerly a staff member of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

    'The institute would be a dedicated, nonprofit, contractor-operated organization,' Branscomb said. It would provide analysis, simulation and modeling to identify vulnerabilities and assess countermeasures.

    The report is posted online at www.nap.edu/books/0309084814/html.

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