The IT research areas of highest national priority for counterterrorism are information and network security, emergency response, and information fusion. Within each of these areas, a reasonably broad agenda is appropriate, as none of them can be characterized by the presence of a single impediment whose removal would allow everything else to fall into place. Advances in these areas may prevent some attacks on the IT infrastructure from succeeding. In the event an attack does occur, whether against the IT infrastructure alone or against some physical part of the nation, IT may help to rapidly and accurately identify its nature, reduce its effectiveness, aid in responding to it, and enable a quicker and fuller recovery. Indeed, even if the IT infrastructure is not deliberately attacked, significant damage to it may be a consequence of an attack directed elsewhere, and in any event any significant attack will result in extraordinary demands for emergency communications being placed on it. A stronger IT infrastructure would be beneficial in any case.

A point that deserves emphasis is the broad utility of the research agenda described above. Progress in these areas has applications not only for counterterrorism efforts but also for a wide range of other important national endeavors such as responding to natural disasters and decreasing cybercrime.

Most of these research areas are not new. Efforts have long been under way in information and network security and information fusion, though additional research is needed because the resulting technologies are not sufficiently robust or effective, they degrade performance or functionality too severely, or they are too hard to use or too expensive to deploy. Information technologies for emergency response have not received a great deal of attention, though efforts in other contexts (e.g., military operations) are intimately related to progress in this area.69

The time scale on which the fruits of efforts in these areas will become available ranges from short to long. That is, each of these areas has technologies that can be beneficially deployed on a relatively short time scale (e.g., in a few years). Each area also has other prospects for research and deployment on a much longer time scale (e.g., a decade or more) that will require the development of entirely new technologies and capabilities.

What drives the designation of these research areas as high priority?

  • Information and network security is critical because of the potentially


Military communications and civilian emergency-response communications have similarities and differences. Military forces and civilian agencies share the need to deploy emergency capacity rapidly, to interoperate, and to operate in a chaotic environment. While military communications must typically work in a jamming environment or one in which there is a low probability of intercept, these conditions do not obtain for civilian emergency-response communications. Also, military forces often must communicate in territory without a preexisting friendly infrastructure, while civilian agencies can potentially take advantage of such an infrastructure.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement