By John Keller
ARLINGTON, Va. - Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry for ideas on how to develop an advanced computer system called the Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) that is able to predict global wars and other political instability.
The goal is to develop a system to monitor, assess, and forecast crises throughout the world to support decisions on how to allocate resources to mitigate them, DARPA officials say. The ICEWS will provide military commanders with a powerful capability to anticipate and respond to worldwide political crises and track their success in near-real time.
Officials of the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) released a broad agency announcement for the ICEWS program in January (BAA07-10). Companies interested in participating have until January 2008 to respond.
Companies who respond to the solicitation should propose end-to-end solutions for the development of state-of-the-art computational modeling capabilities that can monitor, assess, and forecast-in near-real time-a variety of phenomena associated with country instability, such as riots and rebellions, regime changes, major economic collapses, violent anti-state insurgencies, major acts of government repression, civil wars, and conflicts between two or more countries
The 2005 National Security Strategy outlined two priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), DARPA officials explain. First, military leaders should have early warning of international crises so they can mitigate them before they become more threatening. Second, the military needs a way to assess the risks of responding to international crises. The ICEWS program is DARPA’s response.
This new system should yield technology that enables military commanders to identify the countries that are likely to become more or less unstable in the near-, mid-, and long-term; the factors driving instability; and the strategies, tactics, and resources likely to have the greatest influence.
DARPA leaders will pursue the ICEWS program in three phases, and now only are working on the first phase, which is to build and test computational social science models for forecasting various forms of country instability with an ability to forecast several kinds of events that can produce political instability.
The second phase will develop the decision support analytical and technical foundation for ICEWS, with a key goal of developing the capability to generate strategies and tactics for any set of circumstances that are driving the instability.
In the second phase, DARPA and its contractors will explore ways to map diplomatic, informational, military, and economic actions to various political stability challenges, and update model parameters resulting from worldwide changes. The third phase will involve a live, in-theater test of the system.
The ICEWS should use the latest information-processing technologies that can capture and process vast quantities of data from digitized news media, Websites, blogs, and other sources of information that reflect the dynamic and rapidly changing character and intensity of interactions between people and governments.
The system is to receive database information that will flow through the integrated model, and produce results users can visualize through a user interface. Once data goes to the system, the ICEWS should process it, run the models, generate the output, and alert the user that forecasts are ready.
Through the user interface, the user should be able to review forecasts at national and regional levels. The ICEWS also should automatically generate explanations for each forecast as step-by-step descriptions of the computations performed to generate the forecast.
Finally, ICEWS should provide a simple “what-if” capability that enables the user to change the values of original input data and rerun the models to determine whether the forecast will change based on altering input data.
To ask questions, or for more information, contact the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office by post at DARPA/ITO BAA Coordinator, Attn: BAA07-10, 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Va. 22203-1714.
More information about the ICEWS program is online at www2.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/BAA07%2D10/listing.html.