COE Recent Activities

Ribbon Cutting Showcase (BTI)
The Borders, Trade, and Immigration (BTI) Institute, led by the University of Houston (UH), held a Ribbon Cutting Showcase event on Monday, March 27 on the UH campus. During the event, 12 exhibits were open to the public featuring BTI activities focused on Transnational Flows of People (Policy and Technology), Transnational Flows of Goods, and HSE Education and Workforce Development. BTI conducts research and provides education materials to enhance the nation’s ability to secure our borders, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.

New Online Course: Community-led Action in Response to Violent Extremism (START)
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) launched a new web-based course "Community-led Action in Response to Violent Extremism (CARVE)." Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Preparedness Directorate, National Training and Education Division, the training course was created to provide community-focused, rigorously researched, and academically-informed instruction on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). DHS funded the course development to allow it to be offered at no cost to law enforcement, community leaders, school resource officers, NGOs and other representatives from educational, government and business organizations. Information about the course is available here: http://www.start.umd.edu/community-led-action-response-violent-extremism.

Patent for new method of detecting hidden explosives (ALERT)
ALERT Researchers Dr. Carey Rappaport and Dr. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for “Signal Processing Methods and Systems for Explosives Detection and Identification Using Electromagnetic Radiation” (U.S. Patent 9,575,045) February 21. This patent is for an algorithm designed to rule out non-explosive concealed foreign objects affixed to the skin (i.e., hidden under clothing). Current security screening systems, such as AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners used at airports to scan passengers, are able to identify items with distinct shapes that are hidden on the body, such as guns and knives. However, explosives are considerably more difficult to identify in this manner, due to the fact that the size and shape of explosives can vary greatly, leading to time-consuming and potentially dangerous security pat-downs to determine whether a suspicious object is a security threat or a wallet that a passenger forgot to place in the bin. Rappaport and Martinez-Lorenzo expect their algorithm, when plugged into existing screening systems, will greatly reduce the number of false alarms, and thus, the number of pat-downs needed, leading to greater accuracy in threat detection and more rapid movement through security lines. The improved reliability would benefit passengers, airlines and TSA and possibly lead to the expansion of AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners into everyday use at other locations (e.g., railway stations, sporting venues). For more information, see http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/news-article/alerts-methods-to-improve-the-detection-of-hidden-explosives-wins-patent/.

Patent for foodborne and biothreat pathogen detection (FPDI)
Tuskegee University’s College of Veterinary Medicine researchers have been awarded a patent for a faster and more efficient way to detect live bacteria that could contaminate the nation’s food supply. Their work was funded by DHS Science & Technology’s Office of University Programs through the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) Center of Excellence.  U.S. Patent No. 9434976 was issued for the rapid and more reliable detection of viable foodborne and biothreat pathogens and other infectious microbes using modified polymerase chain reaction sample preparation. In 2014, the same Tuskegee University research group obtained a patent for a time-saving method of determining multiple foodborne and biothreat pathogens in food items such as meat, milk and vegetables. For more information, visit: http://www.alabamanewscenter.com/2017/02/15/tuskegee-researchers-discovery-could-protect-food-supply/.

Lt. Governor of Illinois visit (CIRI)
The Lt. Governor of the State of Illinois, Evelyn Sanguinetti, and three of her staff visited the Critical Infrastructure and Resilience Institute (CIRI) COE February 21. CIRI Director Dr. David Nicol briefed them on CIRI with an emphasis on cyber-security in critical infrastructures. Sanguinetti and her staff were particularly interested in workforce development, training and coordination with state National Guard and Emergency Services.

Symposium on ethical, evidence-based interviewing techniques (BTI Institute)
The Borders, Trade and Immigration (BTI) Institute COE held a homeland security symposium, “The Science of Interviewing and Interrogation,” at the University of Texas at El Paso March 1. This symposium was part of a series focused on addressing supplemental educational/training needs within the homeland security enterprise. For the first time in more than 50 years, the U.S. and U.K. governments have initiated research programs aimed at developing ethical, evidence-based methods of interview and interrogation that improve the amount of accurate information elicited by investigators. A review of this research was offered to highlight key findings that can lead to evidence-based practices. The first half of the symposium focused on techniques that have been developed for custodial interviews and interrogations, including scientifically validated approaches for developing rapport and trust, eliciting information, and assessing credibility. The second half of the symposium focused on effective strategies for conducting brief field interviews and screening assessments. Across both segments, a team of researchers and practitioners offered an integrative perspective on the theory, validation and application of these science-based methods.

Director presentation at biodefense blue ribbon study panel (FPDI)
Dr. Amy Kircher, director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI), presented at the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on BioDefense in Manhattan, KS January 26. The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense was co-chaired by Governor Tom Ridge and Senator Joe Lieberman. This particular session focused on Agrodefense and was led by former Senator Tom Daschle. The panel provides congressional recommendations for biodefense and released a National Blueprint for Biodefense in 2015. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle referred to Kansas State University as the “Silicon Valley for biodefense.” It was a tremendous opportunity for FPDI to present their work protecting the nation's food system.  Specifically, Kircher was asked to present on prevention and deterrence offering challenges and opportunities for improvement.

OUP and CREATE recognition for informing disaster deductible allocation to states (CREATE)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) proposed a new disaster deductible allocation strategy January 12 in the Federal Register that incorporates COE findings along with those from an emergency consulting firm. The Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking recognized the Office of University Programs’ assistance in providing contractual support through the National Center for Risk & Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) to “develop a reliable methodology for calculating a deductible…reflective of the individual capabilities and risks unique to each State” and to model “the likely amounts of public assistance that every state will require” during a severe flooding event.  FEMA officials praised the COE’s “hard work and valuable contributions to this project.” 

Screening at speed tech featured in WIRED (ALERT)
WIRED featured COE-developed tech that supports DHS S&T’s Visionary Goal of Screening at Speed. “The very smart folks at Northeastern University’s Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Center have a plan for your next security check, and it involves…walking. Their millimeter wave scanner concept uses the same tech that scans your bod now, but at speeds of up to 300 people an hour, instead of 100 (see https://www.wired.com/2016/05/forget-extra-staffers-fix-tsa-technologies/). Ideally, you’ll never have to break your stride, much less dig that errant makeup kit from the bottom of your bag. While we’re waiting for this fancy system, though, expect to see more automated security points like the kind the Transportation Security Administration installed in select airports this fall, which push and organize bins themselves.” Read the full article here.

Database on individual radicalization released (START)
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) publicly launched their Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) database in January.  START developed the database to advance the empirical basis for understanding domestic radicalization by following a life course paradigm of approximately 120 individuals who exhibit divergent pathways of violence and non-violence.  The PIRUS database will be accessed via the Keshif Platform, a web-based tool that converts tabular data into an interactive visual interface.

Countering Terrorism book released (START)
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) announced the release of Countering Terrorism, a book co-authored by START Director Gary LaFree and START Research Affiliate Martha Crenshaw and published by Brookings Institution Press.  This book provides critical analysis on how the United States has dealt with terror threats over the past fifteen years, and the difficulties that arise in creating policy to effectively counter terrorism, including definitional and methodological considerations.

Postdoctoral research position for Career Development Program Fellow (ZADD Co-lead at Texas A&M)
Dr. Jolene Carlson, a 2011 fellow of OUP’s Career Development Program (CDP) from the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a co-lead for the National Center for Zoonotic and Animal Disease Defense (ZADD), has recently accepted a postdoctoral research position within the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute’s diagnostic virology section in Germany. Through her new position, Carlson has the opportunity to be involved in infectious disease research, contributing to projects researching African Swine Fever virus, classical swine fever virus and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, in addition to mentoring Ph.D. students at the laboratory. OUP’s CDP is a graduate-level fellowship program intended to support the academic achievement and career development of students pursuing studies in DHS research priority areas. Carlson said she credits the program with confirming her research interests – particularly through the required 10-week internship in a homeland security field. In 2015, Jolene interned at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Greenport, New York. There, she had the opportunity to work on a project that assessed and compared mutant and virulent strains of CSFV. Visit IIAD’s website for more information.

 

Working with U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard to support maritime mass rescue operations in the Arctic (ADAC)
The Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC) led the inaugural Arctic-related Incident of National Significance (Arctic IONS) workshop June 21-22 at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. This workshop addressed specific challenges faced by U.S. and Canadian first responders should they need to respond to a major arctic event. Specifically, it covered rescue and recovery of a cruise ship experiencing a catastrophic emergency in Arctic waters. The workshop included panels on: (1) achieving total accountability of personnel; (2) improving medical preparedness and response with rescue and recovery in an Arctic region major response operation; (3) identifying and mitigating related/relevant hazards to Arctic major response operations; and (4) advancing Arctic region rescue response coordination, awareness and communications. The symposium was hosted in partnership with the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and served as a forum to collaborate and generate areas of study and future research projects for COE researchers, students and new partners. ADAC will host a series of IONS workshops to assist the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in identifying knowledge gaps and capabilities relevant to incidents of national significance.

Brown bag series at DHS S&T on threat assessment in food defense (FPDI)
This spring, the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) presented a brown bag series, “Threat Assessment in Food Defense” at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. This series addressed high impact challenges and the theory and methods deployed by the Institute in building tools and models for assessing potential threats to our nation’s food supply. These tools can often be adapted and applied to other supply chains. Sessions included:

  • Big Data: Making Sense and Deriving Insight – April 19
    An overview of research and methodologies developed at FPDI to identify, curate, analyze, and display unstructured and disparate data that may enable actionable insights for food defense and other fields. Presented by: FPDI Director Dr. Amy Kircher.
  • Data Layers in Threat Assessment of the Food Supply Chain - May 5
    An overview of research and methods developed by FPDI to perform criticality assessments of food supply chains and how these approaches may be applied to non-food supply chains. Presented by: FPDI Researchers Dr. Tim Boyer and Mr. John Hoffman.
  • Adaptive Decision Support Using Intelligent Adversary Modeling - June 15
    Presentation of an adaptive intelligent adversary game theory model that enables an advanced risk analysis approach that balances risk with achieving other objectives, such as decision-making in scenarios with currently available but not necessarily accurate data. Presented by: FPDI Director of Research Dr. John Larkin and Investigator Dr. Chip White.

For more information, contact FPDI at: fpdi@umn.edu.

Collaborating with TSA to address risks to transportation security (CREATE)
The National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) co-hosted a two-day event at Georgetown University June 13-14 to discuss threats, challenges, and consequences of terrorist activity as they relate to the TSA mission.  The agenda featured panel experts in fields including measurement and modeling, detection and mitigation, deterrence theory, economic risk, and cyber security.  The event was held to align research efforts of both entities as they tackle anticipated transportation security challenges in the future.  At the symposium, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis General Francis X. Taylor provided keynote addresses to more than 100 participants from across DHS, the federal government, and the academic community.

TSA Administrator Speaking

Connecting researchers, government and industry for math and computer science collaboration (CVADA at Rutgers)
The Center for Visualization and Data Analytics (CVADA) at Rutgers University held their annual Reconnect Workshop June 12-18 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. This year's Reconnect Workshop focused on Mathematical and Computational Tools for Cybersecurity including encryption analysis, the intersection of game theory and cybersecurity, and policy and regulations in the cyber domain. Reconnect Workshops are collaborations between academia, government and industry to introduce faculty to the role of the mathematical and computer sciences in homeland security and provide opportunities for government and industry participants to learn about new research. Participants may also develop materials for publication in CVADA-Rutgers research reports, classroom use or sharing with colleagues.

Helping to enhance port safety and security (MSC)
The Maritime Security Center (MSC), through its partnership with Louisiana State University (LSU), held an Active Shooter Exercise to enhance port safety and security operations June 8 at the Port of New Orleans. The exercise involved passengers preparing to embark and/or disembark from a cruise ship with an active shooter incident taking place. In addition to the exercise, nationally renowned facilitators and subject matter experts in active shooter operations, economic impact and port emergency operations led a discussion forum in the areas of: intelligence and information sharing, operational coordination, and economic recovery. Participants in the exercise and discussion forum included: U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations New Orleans Division, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, START, Carnival and Princess Cruise Lines, Port of New Orleans, Harbor Police, and other local first responders. MSC and LSU will also provide support and guidance to a Port of NY/NJ Cybersecurity Workshop and Table Top Exercise in August.

State Department releases Country Reports on Terrorism based on START data (START)
The State Department released the 2015 Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT), for which the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) provides the statistical annex using its Global Terrorism Database. The official video and transcript of the release is located here.

Collaborating with FEMA on Role of States in Disaster Recovery Training Video (CRC)
The Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to produce an instructional video and accompanying guide, “The Role of States in Disaster Recovery.” The project was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and FEMA and includes interviews with former Governors James B. Hunt Jr. and Haley Barbour along with other state-level officials who played an active role during the initial recovery periods following hurricanes Floyd and Katrina. The film focuses on the unique role of states in preparing administrative and other infrastructure in advance of and after disasters.

FEMA Administrator Speaks at Coastal Resilience COE (CRC)
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate spoke at a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) event February 17 at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Feb. 17 on Open Emergency Management in the 21st Century during a session of the UNC Natural Hazards Resilience Speakers Series Seminar. The seminar is part of the UNC Graduate Certificate in Natural Hazards Resilience, sponsored by CRC and several UNC academic departments. CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith developed and teaches the certificate program along with other experts from across the nation.  

Joint COE Intelligent Adversary Model Review (CREATEFPDISTART)
Three COEs—the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE)National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), and the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI)—participated in a joint COE Intelligent Adversary Model Review Feb. 10-11. The event reviewed a model developed by FPDI researchers for applications in food supply chain risk and vulnerability assessment. START led a peer review panel representing methodologies such as game theory, expert elicitation, and probabilistic risk assessment with both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Results of the workshop will be leveraged to enhance the Criticality Spatial Analysis (CRISTAL) tool, a major investment by OUP at FPDI in the process of transition and commercialization. CRISTAL documents supply chains and scores a variety of risks during food production and distribution. The intelligent adversary model will be included to leverage expert models to assess risk of adulteration.

Understanding Terrorism and ISIS Resources and Training (START)
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) offers a range of resources to understand terrorism and specifically the Islamic state (i.e., ISIS or ISIL).  In January, START launched the third iteration of its newly updated Massive Online Open Content (MOOC). “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat” runs through March and explores the basics of terrorism studies through lectures, readings and interactive discussions. START also offers resources to better understand ISIS, global terrorism, and foreign fighters. It has also developed a self-paced online training series, “Core Capabilities and Potential Durability of ISIL”, which includes 35 minutes of video and suggested reading materials.  This training is intended for decision-makers, analysts and operators seeking to understand, anticipate, and respond to ISIL. START can also deliver tailored professional development series (in-person or online) on the topics agencies are most interested in, as they are currently conducting for the Transportation Security Administration.

Adapting Food and Agriculture Software for Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors (FPDI)
The Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) received an award from the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program to adapt two current tools for use in medical supply chain resilience.  FPDI is partnering with the World Food Program (WFP) on the project, “Building Resilience in Disaster Response Systems,” which will improve medical supply chain visibility, both upstream (manufacturers / suppliers) and downstream (distribution) to improve the response to international incidents such as Ebola.  It can also help the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local response organizations better coordinate food distribution in an emergency with a mobile app. This project will be enhancing two FPDI-developed tools to improve medical supply chain resilience:

  1. Criticality Spatial Analysis (CRISTAL) can enable private sector food firms to assess hazards and identify critical facilities and transportation links in their supply chains. This can facilitate targeted vulnerability assessments and allocation of mitigation resources. See video demonstration.
  2. Focused Integration of Data for Early Signals (FIDES) can identify emerging disease outbreaks and supply chain vulnerabilities.

These tools are just a few examples of FPDI projects that are developed for the food and agriculture sector but can later be expanded to apply to other critical infrastructure sectors and supply chains.

Developing and Implementing Transboundary Animal Disease Training Across the Nation (ZADD at Texas A&M)
The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the National Center for Zoonotic and Animal Disease Defense (ZADD) at Texas A&M have been awarded $1.2 million by DHS S&T’s Chemical and Biological Defense Division (CBD) to develop and implement a nationwide scientific business development and management educational program. Texas A&M’s project will develop a novel training curriculum to equip next generation scientific professionals with the skill sets required to transition research discoveries (for example, vaccines or diagnostics) to the marketplace. CBD invited the submission of proposals with innovative approaches to develop training programs for preparing next-generation transboundary animal disease (TAD) scientists to respond to these diseases in preparation for the new National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF)’s state-of-the-art biocontainment facility, which will provide the opportunity to study emerging TAD that threaten U.S. animal agriculture and public health.

Coast Guard Commandant Speaks at Maritime Risk Symposium (MSC)
The Maritime Security Center (MSC), in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard USCG, hosted the 

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