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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report 4 WORKSHOP THEMES Some key themes were evident in the two workshops. Themes that were present in the individual workshops will be discussed first, and then overarching themes common to the two. WORKSHOP 1: DISRUPTING IED CAMPAIGNS: FINDING THE WEAK LINKS Data and Approaches Available for Analysis The first workshop focused on the human dimension of IED campaigns. One theme that was evident in workshop participants’ discussions was the need for both data and approaches to analyze data. Workshop participants observed that although a large amount of data may be collected in theater, these data are rarely available to researchers. This lack of accessibility hampers the progress of basic research in this area. Researchers need data to test models and hypotheses; the dearth of data appears to be an entrance barrier for researchers. Similarly, a lack of knowledge of the types of data that are available constrains researchers in developing new methods of analysis. Contextual Issues Influencing a Group’s Behavioral Choices A second theme that was evident in the first workshop was the importance of contextual issues and the influence of various factors on behavior. Examples include the role of religion in the decision of the Provisional Irish Republican Army not to use suicide bombings. Cultural, religious, and historical factors are also critical to a community’s response to IED and counter-IED groups. For examples, by understanding the cultural values of the Pashtuns, the Taliban has been able to increase the acceptability of suicide bombings within the community. Research that furthers our understanding of these issues and factors will further the development of effective counter-IED strategies. In addition, studying groups that choose not to use IEDs, both violent and non-violent, should be studied in order to better understand the cultural, ideological, environmental, and operational factors affecting that choice.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report Public Support or Tolerance A third theme was the vital role of public support or tolerance in an insurgency or in terrorist activities. Given that vital role, it is important to support research that leads to better metrics and methods for gauging public opinion and support. Moreover, a better understanding of the factors that shape public opinion can guide decision-makers to counter-IED measures that further the goal of “winning the hearts and minds” of the local population in a culturally appropriate manner. Advances in a broad variety of fields—from political communication to viral marketing13 and marketing science—can contribute to this research. Network and Threat Dynamics The National Research Council’s 2007 report on IEDs noted that the ability of the adversary to learn and adapt has been an important characteristic of IED campaigns (National Research Council 2007). This dynamic nature of IED campaigns—which encompasses the network, threat, and context—was underscored throughout discussion at the workshop. It is a fundamental challenge to current counter-IED efforts. Research that leads to the development of methods and approaches that address dynamic problems will be particularly helpful. Although the 2007 National Research Council report noted the ability of the adversary to learn and adapt, the workshop highlighted the learning and adaptability of not just the adversary but the counter-IED forces. The importance of recognizing that learning occurs on both sides of an IED conflict is reflected in proposed approaches, questions, and issues raised by workshop participants. For example, participants asked such questions as, how can the adaptive environment be categorized? How can statistical analyses of adaptive process be developed to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures? How can counter-IED forces be best supported to influence, negotiate with, and collaborate with the local population? Similarly, one participant suggested that corporate knowledge bases could be a useful model for developing technologies and methods to facilitate experimentation and best practices in counter-IED forces. Actions and Behaviors of the Blue Forces A number of kinds of study can improve the effectiveness of blue forces in their counterinsurgency efforts. For example, it would be helpful if the plans for an IED-based insurgency could be assessed before initiation of counterinsurgency operations. One question is whether there is a way to measure the likelihood of insurgency, and studies of civil wars might provide insight. An area’s stability could be worth monitoring, but first the factors that affect stability, their applicability among cultures, and their sensitivity to military intervention must be identified. 13 Viral marketing uses pre-existing social networks to spread a marketing message by encouraging recipients to pass on the information.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report There are also practical concerns for blue forces. The development of technologies that could facilitate research and sharing of best practices engagement of blue forces in the human terrain could help to smooth the interactions between them and the local community. It could also improve the tactics used by blue forces in their direct counter-IED and counterinsurgency efforts. WORKSHOP 2: DISRUPTING IED CAMPAIGNS: PREDICTING IED ACTIVITIES Several themes were evident in the second workshop. The first was the primacy of data. The broad variety of data types, the validity of data, the completeness of data, and the ubiquity of noise in the data all challenge our ability to predict IED activities. Research that develops methods to address those challenges will be particularly helpful. Data Collection and Analysis Research in data collection, handling, and preprocessing has the potential to lead to substantial improvements in our ability to anticipate IED activities. Research that furthers data analysis, including automated filtering methods and the development of tools for analysis, is also needed. Research in a broad variety of fields—including electrical engineering, computer science, and statistics—can contribute to advances in those tasks. One research subject of particular importance is methods for drawing inferences from data. Research in statistics, risk management, and decision theory could contribute. Another theme that was evident in discussions was the importance of network modeling, especially modeling efforts that are able to capture the dynamic nature of networks in the face of partial and uncertain data. Availability of Data As in the first workshop, discussions in the second brought up the need for publicly available databases so that researchers can readily test models, methods, and hypotheses. Such datasets may be synthetic, from different contexts, or sanitized so that they do not reveal specific vulnerabilities and capabilities. Making such databases available will encourage the participation of a broad variety of researchers. In particular, readily available (unclassified) databases are likely to encourage the participation of researchers who have traditionally not been involved in Department of Defense–related research but may bring a new perspective to research efforts.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report WORKSHOPS 1 AND 2 Need for Public Datasets The need for a public dataset to enable the participation of a broad variety of researchers was emphasized by participants in both workshops. Many academic participants expressed the belief that the lack of available data was a barrier to research. Although participants expressed a clear need for datasets, it was also recognized that there is a tension between research needs and national-security concerns and that these concerns constrain the Office of Naval Research and other Department of Defense (DOD) entities in making data publicly available. Participants stated that DOD could take a number of creative approaches to making datasets available to researchers. Data from other conflicts, such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Algerian War of Independence, or other contexts, such as counternarcotics operations and efforts to detect and counter insider trading, could provide valuable datasets for researchers to use in testing models, methods, and hypotheses. In cases in which specific data characteristics prevent such an approach, it may be possible to create artificial (synthetic) datasets or datasets that have been “sanitized” to ensure that they do not reveal specific capabilities or vulnerabilities. Medical researchers and the U.S. Census Bureau have ample experience in creating databases that have been sanitized to preserve privacy and may provide a useful model. Similarly, through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, law-enforcement agencies have made an anonymous fingerprint database available to researchers. It is used by researchers to test algorithms, and competitions can be held by withholding a portion of it. DOD could use that type of model to make data available and spur interest in research in countering IEDs. The datasets should be interactive and compatible with different needs. Decision Theory A second theme that was evident in both workshops was the importance of decision-making and decision theory. For example, understanding the factors that lead a group to decide to engage in violent actions and use IEDs could improve the ability to predict and prevent IED use, and understanding the factors that affect a group’s decision to use particular tactics, techniques, and procedures could assist in the selection of more effective IED countermeasures. In addition to the adversary’s decision-making, research to understand the decision-making of counter-IED forces will be valuable. For example, research to understand and quantify the processes used by people in making high-risk decisions on the basis of incomplete or inconsistent information can lead to improved decision-making in the IED context, where data are incomplete, inconsistent, and noisy. Lessons may be learned by examining the decision processes used, for example, by stock traders and in weather prediction. Similarly, better understanding of why some people are better able to detect anomalies, such as the ability of former law-enforcement personnel stationed in theater to detect suspicious behavior, can lead to improved training. Research
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report in decision science and neuroscience can also improve how data are presented and visualized and thus enhance analytic capabilities. Understanding Networks Research that enhances our ability to characterize networks is another theme that was common to the two workshops. Such characterization would include modeling, analysis, and the factors that influence a network. For example, how can we characterize the network of operations of an insurgent group, and what are the vulnerabilities and dynamics of replacement of the network? Research that helps to answer such questions will enhance counter-IED capabilities. A challenge that was identified in both workshops was the difficulty of combining “hard” and “soft” data. Analytic methods that allow data to be combined in a single framework will also be valuable. Interdisciplinary Research Given the broad scope of the IED problem, participants in both workshops emphasized that multidisciplinary research that integrates different disciplines should be encouraged. For example, research to develop methods for detecting telephone fraud benefited from interactions between computer scientists, statisticians, and members of the law-enforcement community. Similarly, although research in the nature of insurgencies and other armed conflicts started with a physics and mathematics perspective (Johnson 2006, 2008), cultural anthropologists, operations researchers, and decision theorists can contribute to it. Bringing together such different research perspectives often yields the most innovative research.