Department of Homeland Security Launches National Center Focusing on Data Visualization to Enhance Homeland Security

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For Immediate ReleasePress OfficeContact: Donald Tighe, DHS Public Affairs 202-282-8010Greg Koller, PNNL Media Office 509-372-4864May 13, 2004

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today announced the creation of theNational Visual Analytics Center (NVAC). The new center, to be led by theDepartment of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland,Washington, will provide scientific guidance and coordination for the researchand development of new tools and methods that Homeland Security hasentifiedas required for managing, visually representing, and analyzing enormous amountsof diverse data and information.

"The Department of Homeland Security has created the National VisualAnalytics Center in order to increase our capabilities to discover and predictterrorist activities," said Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr.Charles McQueary. "Being able to collect, combine and analyze vast amountsof information plays an ever-increasing role in preventing terrorist attacks inthe United States, and visual analysis of this information is a crucialtool."

The NVAC will convene an interdisciplinary team of experts to create ascience and technology roadmap for visual analytics, engaging industry,universities, and other national laboratories. The center also will begin workon high priority research projects all related to analysis of enormous,dynamic and complex information streams that consist of structured andunstructured text documents, measurements, images, and video data. Technologiesdeveloped under NVAC will support information sharing in a secure environmentwhile protecting the privacy of individuals.  The center is not a datagathering program, but will instead develop the tools to evaluate in new waysinformation currently used by counter-terrorism analysts.  Funding for NVACis $2.5 million this year and is expected to continue in subsequent years.

"Visual analytics are valuable because the tool helps to detect theexpected, and discover the unexpected," said Jim Thomas, PNNL's chiefscientist for information technologies, who will serve as NVAC director."Visual analytics combines the art of human intuition and the science ofmathematical deduction to perceive patterns and derive knowledge and insightfrom them. With our success in developing and delivering new technologies, weare paving the way for fundamentally new tools to deal with the huge digitallibraries of the future, whether for terrorist threat detection or newinteractions with potentially life-saving drugs."

In addition to representing data graphically, visual analysis techniques areapplied to vast and diverse amounts of information, bringing order to chaos andrevealing themes or patterns. This approach also assists in enabling thediscovery of the absence of information, often a key clue.

The four core responsibilities of the National Visual Analytics Center (NVAC)are research and development; education; technology evaluation andimplementation; and integration and coordination of research program acrossgovernment agencies. Next year, the Department expects the NVAC will establishfour to five regional visual analytics centers.

Based on PNNL's experience designing systems for the intelligence community,NVAC will help other scientists understand the unique needs of securityanalysts. NVAC also will develop a platform to quickly evaluate new technologiesand will work directly with analysts to implement effective new technologies atintelligence agencies. NVAC's mission also includes working with universities tohelp prepare future scientists and engineers to develop future visual analyticstechnology. While technologies developed through NVAC may have their firstapplications in national security, it is possible that they would haveapplication to other scientific areas such as biology, drug discovery and otherfields with a need for data intensive analytics.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of EnergyOffice of Science laboratory that solves complex problems in energy, nationalsecurity, the environment, and life sciences by advancing the understanding ofphysics, chemistry, biology, and computation. PNNL employs 3,800 people, has a$600 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle sincethe lab's inception in 1965.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and TechnologyDirectorate serves as the primary research and development arm of theDepartment, utilizing our nation's scientific and technological resources toprovide federal, state and local officials with the technology and capabilitiesto protect the homeland.