Homeland Security Enlists Academia To Fight Terrorism - InformationWeek

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Homeland Security Enlists Academia To Fight Terrorism

The University of Maryland is the latest Homeland Security center of excellence, receiving a three-year, $12-million grant.

Recognizing that information is a powerful tool that can be used to combat terrorism, the Homeland Security Department has for the past year established research centers throughout academia in an effort to better prepare for, and possibly prevent, future attacks. Homeland Security last week introduced the University of Maryland as its latest center of excellence with a three-year, $12-million grant.

Maryland's Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism will focus on ways to disrupt the formation of terror networks and minimize the impact of future attacks. Part of the Maryland center's job will be to get timely advice to homeland and national security professionals in government. The researchers will draw on a variety of tools including major global databases of ethnic struggles over the past 60 years.

"This may be the social science equivalent of the Manhattan Project," Gary LaFree, the University of Maryland criminologist who will direct the new center, said in a statement. "Too often, policy makers have had to counter terrorists on the basis of assumptions and guesstimates. Our job will be to give them more solid information to work with."

Homeland Security has also established centers for studying the impact of terrorism on food safety at the University of Minnesota, animal-borne disease at Texas A&M, and the economy at the University of Southern California.

Homeland Security launched USC's center as its first a year ago via the department's Science and Technology Directorate."We evaluate threats, their economic implications, the costs of countermeasures, and the benefits in terms of reducing the likelihood and consequences of terrorism," says Randolph Hall, co-director of USC's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events.

The center's mission is to improve national security through the development and application of tools for assessing the risks and consequences of terrorism. Says Hall, "For us, technology is important in terms of having software tools to analyze data sets and visualize events as well as track information and extract meaningful data."

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