We have a long history of interdisciplinary research activities aimed at optimizing the efficiency and effectiveness of security and defense systems.
Much of the work has focused on the development of solutions to optimize the use of sensor networks, including unmanned vehicles using operations research and data fusion methods. The use of data fusion and game theory for improved homeland security is also a major part of this research initiative. Other research activities focus on information visualization research and on understanding and improving human trust and decision making performance when people interact with security and defense technology. Finally, airport security is an emphasis area that has become increasingly important. These activities have been sponsored by a large number of government organizations including the National Science Foundation, US Navy, USAF Research Laboratory, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Office of Naval Research, Army Research Laboratory Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other sponsors include Alion (AFRL-Rome), Sierra Nevada Corporation, Overwatch Systems, Raytheon C3 Systems and General Dynamics – AIS.
Sensors in a data fusion environment over hostile territory are geographically dispersed and change location with time. To collect and process data from these sensors, a flexible network of fusion beds (i.e., clusterheads) is required. The research focuses on modeling and solving problems that arise from multiple sensors working in a particular situation. One project develops MILP models to determine the clusterhead location strategy that maximizes the expected data covered, and a column generation heuristic. Another project focuses on use of discrete optimization to find implementable solutions to the NP-Hard problems that arise from the introduction of UAVs. Most of these problems occur in dynamic environments, where special methodologies are required.
Research projects focus on developing methods of enhancing national security and improving the accuracy of intelligence gathering. Information fusion works by combining evidence and intelligence gathered from a wide variety of sources, which when considered separately often yield conflicting and ambiguous results. The system combines and organizes the information from such sources as remote satellites, sensors, and individual personnel, and then incorporates it in a seamless flow to a central command center, where decisions can be more effectively rendered. A command center can monitor a constant flow of real-time data, using estimation algorithms or artificial intelligence techniques to produce far better estimates than those based on any single type of information.
Hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars have been allocated to homeland security since 9/11/2001. How to optimally allocate these resources remains a challenging issue, especially considering the fact that adversaries are intelligent and adaptive. In this research, operations research and game theory are integrated to study the optimal defensive resource allocation, considering the fact that the players could be irrational (or non-strategic). The tradeoffs between preparedness and relief, between efficiency and equity, and between private and public investment are also studied.
A number of research projects have addressed the visualization of information relevant for command and control operations. In particular, representing uncertain information is an important design challenge because of the need to provide system operators and decision-makers with an accurate understanding of the uncertainty associated with critical system variables. Information may come from physical sensors with inherent uncertainty, different values may be provided by different sensors or sources, or future events or states may be difficult to predict. Visualization and information presentation methods including the use of graphical variables (color components, blurriness, and transparency) and multi-modal methods including sound and vibration have been investigated in terms or their impact on human decision making.
Research in this area includes studies of trust in automated decision aids, particularly under circumstances where information provided by the aids has been degraded or corrupted. A focus of this work has been decision making in aided, adversarial situations, when decision aids include fused or processed information. Other research includes studies of human decision making in the context of security and defense systems, as well as needs analysis and modeling of military command and control systems.
The research has integrated human factors, operations research and game theory to help authorities better prepare for, mitigate, and manage both natural and man-made hazards in systems such airport security systems. The emphasis thus far has been on the impact of humans and the available technologies on security system reliability and efficiency.