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What technologies or advancements can be used to predict, prepare for and respond to terrorism instances in the United States and abroad?

Discussion Leader: 
Posted Date: 10/19/2015

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to conduct complex military maneuvers spanning a multi-nation area in the Middle East, despite the air campaign led by the United States. Researchers from Arizona State University developed an algorithm to predict ISIL's movements, to anticipate and prevent further violence. 

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pops a flare while departing after refueling with a USAF KC-10 Extender aircraft over Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 30, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)


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Establishing more effective network studies and algorithm development is one avenue to develop in order to become more proactive and less reactive when addressing terrorism. Education or re-education within refugee camps is another proactive approach. The development of technologies to assist in preventative approaches combined with intelligence gathering, in the old fashion sense, could be a useful multimethod approach.


There are numerous new technologies in biometrics and other fields that allow for fast identification of individuals, and these can certainly help in discovering and tracking ISIL or other terroist groups. However, as quickly as some of the technologies are implemented, terrorists can find ways to circumvent them. To successfully combat terrorism. the US needs to start thinking outside the box to stay one step ahead at all times. Cross-field collaboration and innovation will be key to winning the war on terror, making the mission of HDIAC more important than ever.

Due to the large number of avenues that individuals can use to inflict harm/panic on the United States, I think one large advancement that can predict and prevent terroristic activity is awareness. Teaching individuals about how vulnerable our nation is to an attack can be a huge asset when alerting the general public to look for suspicious individuals. Additionally, local, state and federal entities need to collaborate more with sharing information. As hard as this recommendation is to overcome, information sharing can allow all agencies to be on the same page with the preparation and response to threats. 

It appears terrorist groups are moving from well-coordinated, large scale attacks to lone wolf terrorist attacks, likely because with fewer people involved details are less likely to leak out. Because of this, it will become more difficult to predict attacks using conventional methods. 

I agree with previous posters that education and awareness will be important in recognizing potential attackers and breaking the terror cycle in parts of the world. I also agree that biometric identification will be increasingly necessary to identify individuals. 

In addition, sensor technology in subway and train stations to seek out explosive devices or chemical or biological agents will be necessary. 

Predicting terrorism is a very difficult task. Predicting human behavior is rarely a simple task, and is made especially challenging by the often erratic behavior of those who would commit terrorist acts. Our best bet for prediction lies in the gathering of data about these types of events as they occur. This is what is being done by the University of Maryland in College Park, and the resulting database is known as the Global Terrorism Database. Data, when looked at from a broad view, can often illuminate correlations between terrorist events and can provide insights into how those correlations can be used for prediction.

Preparing for these attacks is also difficult because each one is different. Our best method for preparation is to analyze previous events, identify lessons learned, and then act on those lessons. Better planning is our best defense, because it directly affects our ability to respond to crises.