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NVAC: Visualizing a safer homeland



September 11, 2001 forever changed how Americans view national security. The responsibility for protecting citizens from future attacks has fallen on government shoulders in an increasingly discontented world.

One way the Department of Homeland Security has responded is with new visual analytic technologies that transform volumes of documents, emails, images, videos and voice recordings into interactive visuals. To carry out this visual, science-based approach to risk assessment, DHS established the National Visualization and Analytics Center (NVACTM) at PNNL. NVAC has risen to become one of the Lab's internationally-recognized knowledge centers.

To aid analysts in quickly understanding the mountains of incoming intelligence, NVAC has taken visual technologies to new heights. New technology graphically depicts collected data, grouping common themes and patterns. As more occurrences of a theme are collected, the software automatically adjusts the visual to give it higher visual context to the analyst. Themes and patterns are then observed more quickly, enabling analysts in uncovering hidden threats and making calculated predictions-a critical capability when security is at stake.

NVAC also is leading several other endeavors, including the creation of the national R&D agenda. The agenda outlines new technology approaches and investments to address growing homeland security threats; this effort has resulted in the book, Illuminating the Path. Organizing consortiums for advancing visual analytics software also is high priority for the knowledge center. That also involves recruiting and educating future scientists who will continue this important work.

With technology and talented researchers, NVAC will see the homeland safely into the future.

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