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Information Technology for Counterterrorism: Immediate Actions and Future Possibilities
topics within these areas that the committee believes would be fruitful to research. It is useful to note that progress in these areas would have commercial applications as well in many cases. The fruits of information and network security research would benefit all users of information technology, though their particular relevance to providers of critical infrastructure is obvious. Emergency responders will be the primary beneficiaries of research that focuses on their particular needs. Progress in information fusion has relevance across the spectrum of counterterrorism efforts, from prevention to detection to response, and indeed to information mining for other public and private purposes. (A point of particular interest is the fact that information-fusion efforts for countering bioterrorism have significant applicability to public health, especially with respect to the early identification of “natural” disease outbreaks.) Advances in developing tools to incorporate knowledge about human and organizational factors in systems integration would be relevant to the deployment of most large IT-based systems.
The fact that research in these areas may have commercial relevance raises for some questions about the necessity of government involvement. As noted in Chapter 4, the commercial market has largely failed in promoting information and network security. In other cases, the research program required (e.g., research addressing the needs of emergency responders) is of an applied nature—and focused on counterterror applications. As for information fusion, it is highly likely that its applications will have commercial applications once new technologies are developed, but whether those new technologies would develop in the absence of government-supported research and become broadly available is another question entirely.
Most of these technology 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. Moreover, given the failure of the market to adequately address security challenges, adequate government support for R&D in information systems and network security is especially important. 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.2
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. But while military communications must typically work in a jamming environment or one in