U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Press Release May 13, 2004
DHS launches National
Visual Analytics Center
VISUALIZATION TO ENHANCE HOMELAND SECURITY
(Washington, DC) May 13, 2004 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
today announced the creation of the National Visual Analytics Center (NVAC).
The new center, to be led by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, will provide scientific
guidance and coordination for the research and development of new tools and
methods that Homeland Security has identified as required for managing, visually
representing, and analyzing enormous amounts of diverse data and information.
“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 Under Secretary
for Science and Technology Dr. Charles McQueary. “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
The NVAC will
convene an interdisciplinary team of experts to create a science
technology roadmap for visual analytics, engaging
industry, universities, and other national laboratories. The center
also will begin work on high priority research projects – all
related to analysis of enormous, dynamic and complex information
streams that consist of structured and unstructured text documents,
measurements, images, and video data. Technologies developed under
NVAC will support information sharing in a secure environment while
protecting the privacy of individuals. The center is not a data
gathering program, but will instead develop the tools to evaluate
in new ways information currently used by counter-terrorism analysts.
Funding for NVAC is $2.5 million this year and is expected to continue
in subsequent years.
“Visual analytics are valuable because the tool helps to
detect the expected, and discover the unexpected,” said Jim
Thomas, PNNL’s chief scientist for information technologies,
who will serve as NVAC director. “Visual analytics combines
the art of human intuition and the science of mathematical deduction
to perceive patterns and derive knowledge and insight from them.
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
In addition to representing data graphically, visual analysis
techniques are applied to vast and diverse amounts of information,
bringing order to chaos and revealing themes or patterns. This
approach also assists in enabling the discovery 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 and implementation; and integration and coordination
of research program across government agencies. Next year, the
Department expects the NVAC will establish four 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 security analysts. NVAC also will develop a platform to
quickly evaluate new technologies and will work directly with analysts
to implement effective new technologies at intelligence agencies.
NVAC’s mission also includes working with universities to
help prepare future scientists and engineers to develop future
visual analytics technology. While technologies developed through
NVAC may have their first applications in national security, it
is possible that they would have application to other scientific
areas such as biology, drug discovery and other fields with a need
for data intensive analytics.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of
Energy Office of Science laboratory that solves complex problems
in energy, national security, the environment, and life sciences
by advancing the understanding of physics, chemistry, biology,
and computation. PNNL employs 3,800 people, has a $600 million
annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since
the lab's inception in 1965.
The U.S. Department
of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology
Directorate serves as the primary research and development arm
of the Department, utilizing our nation’s scientific and
technological resources to provide federal, state and local officials
with the technology and capabilities to protect the homeland.