Grants under way for TIA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has approved 26 research grant proposals for its controversial Total Information Awareness data-mining program, according to documents released to a privacy advocate group.

TIA would develop tools to spot terrorist activities by correlating information from myriad sources about individuals' finances, health care, and governmental and other transactions.

DARPA's Information Awareness Office has been secretive about progress of the program. It released research proposal documents this month to the Electronic Privacy Information Center of Washington, under the Freedom of Information Act. The initial release included approval letters for 26 of 180 research proposals.

'EPIC anticipates receiving more documents covering various aspects of DARPA's data-mining activities and the Total Information Awareness program over the next few months,' the privacy group said in a statement.

DARPA issued a request for proposals in March 2002 for development of a repository; collaboration, automation and cognitive aids; and prototype systems. The solicitation remains open until March 20, but DARPA has said most of the awards probably would fall under the first round of proposals, which closed in April. It completed evaluation of first-round proposals in October.

Among the approved projects were:

  • 'Protecting Privacy of Individuals in Terrorist Tracking Applications' from the Palo Alto Research Center of Palo Alto, Calif.

  • 'Automated Detection, Identification and Tracking of Deceptive Terrorist Activity' from 21st Century Technologies Inc. of Denver

  • 'Information Awareness Prototype System Development' from Hicks & Associates Inc. of McLean, Va.

  • The amount of funding for the programs was not specified, but DARPA's solicitation said that 'a total of several million dollars will be available for these efforts. The size of each award and duration of efforts will vary according to the type of effort. Proposers should define partitions so that the annual budget for each is in the $200,000 to $1 million range.'

    Congress authorized an initial $10 million for TIA in fiscal 2003. The Bush administration has asked for another $20 million in its fiscal 2004 budget proposal.

    The program is expected to last five years, with a number of limited demonstrations and preliminary prototypes coming in the first three years. During the final two years, the most promising avenues would be extended to produce a scalable system prototype.

    About the Author

    William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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