December 8, 2004 By the year 2014, innovations in intelligence gathering and decision support, sensors, monitoring, and a greater emphasis on cross-cultural communication will lead to a more effective response to worldwide terrorism, according to a Battelle forecast released recently.
The top 10 innovations were identified by a panel of military and national security experts, academics and technologists brought together at Battelle's Columbus headquarters. The group focused on the global war on terrorism and voted to include one non-science/technology innovation that it agreed would emerge in the coming decade: improved communication between Western and Muslim cultures.
"The tools we use to fight the global war on terrorism will undergo great enhancement and refinement over the next decade," said Dr. Steve Millett, Battelle thought leader and futurist, who convened the group of experts to address the issue. Included in the panel were Battelle technologists, faculty members from The Ohio State University, and retired generals from the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps. Also contributing input were some members of the World Futures Society.
The panel identified and ranked the 10 innovations most likely to emerge in the coming decade that can have the greatest impact on winning the war against terrorism.
1. Forward-Looking Intelligence. The greatest value of intelligence - and the greatest challenge - is to anticipate terrorist actions and to translate that information into an effective response. Leaps in technology development will provide decision-makers with improved computer-based data fusion capabilities, modelling and simulation to better understand possible scenarios and responses. Advanced language translation software will be developed to better track terrorist communication as a source of intelligence.
2. Biological and Chemical Sensors. The future of sensors may lie in the mimicry of Mother Nature, otherwise known as biomimetics. Imagine employing the sniffing capabilities of a beagle or the heat-seeking abilities of a viper to detect concealed bombs or weapons. In addition, the urgent need for more accurate and timely detection of viral and bacterial pathogens will drive advancements in sensors-with the ultimate goal of combining chemical and biological threat detection into a suite of sensors. "Advances in infrared, sonic, optic and other types of imaging will provide innovative ways of long-range sensing and identification of threats in the air, water, or food supply," said Roger Hyatt, a Battelle sensors research leader. Sensors of the future will be deployed by highly mobile, reliable and affordable robotics.
3. Non-Invasive and Non-Destructive Imaging. A new generation of X-rays is emerging to identify what is inside - from shipping containers, crates and trucks to luggage, handbags and sealed packages. Such non-invasive imaging will provide a faster, more reliable level of security at harbours, airports, train and subway stations, and borders - and be commercially viable. A front-running technology under development is terahertz radiation, or T-rays, that offer the potential of seeing the contents of closed containers without opening them or damaging contents. "We've made great strides in using advanced technology for the identification of drugs and explosives," said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey. "But we haven't been able to do it successfully or efficiently on a large scale. It will be a huge, watershed event when we can."
4. Non-Lethal Directed Energy. In the arsenal of non-lethal weapons, the VMADS, or Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System offers much promise over the next decade. Now in advanced development, VMADS uses high-powered directed energy that is capable of stopping people and machinery. It has the potential to interrupt a signal between a terrorist and a detonating device or to set off land mines - all from a remote location. "The high powered microwave also has potential law enforcement use as the directed energy can be adjusted to focus on making a person's skin uncomfortably hot, but causing no dermal damage," said retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles. "The current challenge with this technology is power supply-certainly not an insurmountable obstacle."
5. Comprehensive Space, Air, Land, and Sea Monitoring. Today, we have a network to monitor aircraft in flight. We also have extensive tracking and imaging coverage of the Earth from space satellites. Even though monitoring of the land surface is done selectively today, a more comprehensive surveillance capability already exists. Within the next decade, integration of current and new technology will lead to a global surveillance system that covers sea as well as land and airspace. Such a capability will substantially improve security by monitoring vessels bound for U.S. waters and will improve border and territorial surveillance and security.
6. 21st Century Public Diplomacy. The war against terrorism is, in part, a war with extremists whose culture, worldview, and values conflict with those of the West. There are economic, religious, political, and ideological tensions between the Middle East and the West. As such, any discussion of tools for combating terrorism must include deploying mass communication to break down these barriers. The first step will be gaining a fuller understanding of opposing cultures and values so that the United States and its allies can develop more effective strategies to prevent terrorism. America needs to project a more balanced image of Western culture through strategic, positive communication. This could be achieved by communicating the Western message through targeted use of mass media, developing a next-generation Voice of America approach, perhaps supported with distribution of inexpensive, disposable TVs.
7. Electronic Tracking of Money. How do you strangle something economically? It is well known that terrorism has been funded through complicated electronic transfer of funds. Tag the money electronically, and then track it worldwide to key operatives to effectively shut down a terrorist operation. New software and tagging technology is being developed that will not only strengthen global anti-terrorism investigations, but also law enforcement efforts to bring to justice organized criminal enterprises.
8. Distributed Forces and an Interlocking Network. Call it network-centricity taken to the smallest node. "This will give the 21st century land warrior continual situational understanding, while being a member of a widely distributed, non-contiguous force," said retired Marine Corps. Gen. Charles Wilhelm. We have seen that effective combat operations against terrorists and their allies require widely distributed armed forces. Enabling technologies-such as advanced mini-computers and communication networks-will turn these forces into distributed sensors, as well as combatants, and allow them to provide information back to command headquarters. The forces are operated like a distributed information system with real-time awareness of the battlefield, giving commanders better data for decision making. Such technologies also will identify friend from foe in combat environments.
9. Encouraging Public Awareness and Self-Identification of Terrorists . The next decade will see innovative applications of behavioural science to combat terrorist activity. In some ways, terrorists operate like criminals, trying to behave secretively and inconspicuously and in the process, sometimes calling attention to themselves. To find criminals, law enforcement relies on a watchful public to provide tips. The worldwide information-saturated culture that we live in will expand further, creating new opportunities to engage the public to ferret out terrorists. A global "Amber Alert" system could be used to distribute multi-lingual information on known terrorists. A program like the "America's Most Wanted" could be tailored to help find terrorists hiding in plain sight. In addition, innovative methods will be deployed to coax terrorists into identifying themselves. For example, warning signs might be placed along a controlled access announcing that a security-screening checkpoint is coming up, just before a convenient opt-out or exit point. Anyone avoiding the checkpoint can be watched for further examples of self-incriminating behaviour.
10. Technologies to Neutralize Explosive Chemicals. Many terrorist bombs today are improvised, made in homes and small laboratories using common chemicals, including ingredients in fertilizers. We can deny terrorists the opportunity to gain the attention they want by creating, in essence, "bomb-proof chemicals." A new generation of chemistry could neutralize the explosive compounds contained in these chemicals rendering them unusable as bombs, even as research continues into emerging chemical threats.
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