DHS creates data visualization center

The Homeland Security Department created a National Visual Analytics Center that will research and develop new tools and methods that the department will use to manage, visually represent, and analyze enormous amounts of information, department officials announced today.

The new center will be led by the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. The lab employs 3,800 people and has a $600 million annual budget. It has been managed by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute since its creation in 1965.

Funding for the center is $2.5 million this year and is expected to continue in subsequent years, according to the department.

"The Department of Homeland Security has created the National Visual Analytics Center in order to increase our capabilities to discover and predict terrorist activities," said Charles McQueary, under secretary for science and technology. "Being able to collect, combine and analyze vast amounts of information plays an ever-increasing role in preventing terrorist attacks in the United States, and visual analysis of this information is a crucial tool."

Technologies developed by the center will support information sharing in a secure environment while protecting the privacy of individuals, department officials said. The center will not gather data; instead, it will develop tools to evaluate in new ways the information used by counter-terrorism analysts. It will also work to implement effective new technologies at intelligence agencies, according to the department.

Jim Thomas, chief scientist for information technologies at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will be director of the new center.

"Visual analytics ? helps to detect the expected, and discover the unexpected," Thomas said. "With our success in developing and delivering new technologies, we are paving the way for fundamentally new tools to deal with the huge digital libraries of the future, whether for terrorist threat detection or new interactions with potentially life-saving drugs."

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