BLACKSBURG, Va., April 2, 2008 - The Comprehensive National Incident Management System (CNIMS) being developed by the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) was presented at a technology forum on 12 March 2008, held by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). 

The CNIMS provides those involved in disaster management in the United States military with essential detailed operational information about the populations being affected by a possible crisis. The forum, which took place at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, was organized by the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and was chaired by Senator Reed (D, Rhode Island).

NDSSL at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech conducts basic research and exploratory development including the support of various Department of Defense (DoD) organizational elements and missions. Lt. Col. Phillip Reiman, Deputy, Technical and Support Division (TSD) of DTRA, and Nancy Nurthen, MPH, member of the Support Division's Reachback staff, presented the NDSSL CNIMS technology to the Senate Armed Services Committee. DTRA has partnered with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in developing the next generation of computational support.

Dr. Christopher Barrett, Director, NDSSL at VBI and professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, leads the CNIMS project.  He commented: "The understanding of the phenomenology underlying pandemics and other catastrophic events, natural and man-made, will be fundamentally improved by the use of high-performance computing-based decision and policy informatics. For the first time, we intend to make this advanced capability directly available to subject matter experts and decision makers. Maintaining situational awareness and course-of-action analysis will be transformed by this technology."

Bruno Sobral, Executive and Scientific Director of VBI, remarked: "The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute is applying its strengths in transdisciplinary science to deliver high-performance computing tools directly to decision- and policy-makers. Technologies such as the Comprehensive National Incident Management System are a key part of our on-going commitment to develop the best possible tools needed for crisis management at the national level."

The prototype application provides previously unavailable detail and performance in scalable agent-based epidemiological models that will be used by DoD planners and policy makers for analysis of optimal responses to a crisis situation. Barrett stated: "The advanced High Performance Computing (HPC) grid environment is capable of representing interactions among every individual in the United States."

In his prepared statement, Dr. James Tegnelia, Director, DTRA, stated that the technology program is conducted in "partnership with other USG [United States Government] organizations, academia, industry, other non-governmental organizations, and allies and friends across the globe....".  In his remarks about DTRA's Campaign for Situational Awareness, Dr. Tegnelia identified ties with the "Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention], Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Department of State to monitor indications and warnings of biological attacks and pandemic diseases."  In keeping with the strong focus on partnership in DTRA programs, related NDSSL research with these and other organizations also informs and leverages the CNIMS project. In his comments on a DTRA mission called, "Protect the Homeland from Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD), Dr. Tegnelia identified DTRA priorities that are intended to "provide crisis and consequence management support to the DoD [Department of Defense] and civil authorities to prevent WMD attacks and/or mitigate their consequences on the homeland and also focus on sharing these capabilities with international partners." Additionally, Dr. Tegnelia stated that "DTRA believes that it must transform the way we support CWMD [Counter WMD programs] by developing a deeper understanding of the phenomenology and effects underlying the WMD threat using advanced High Performance Computing [HPC]-based M&S [modeling and simulation] tools, and providing decision support and course of action options for our customers." CNIMS capabilities under development by the NDSSL are specifically intended to provide such support.

The NDSSL program represents one of the first applications of analyst service access to HPC capability in direct support of operational policy-making and decision support for problems in very large complex socio-technical environments such as those posed by DoD-related public health.

About the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory

The Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory pursues an advanced research and development program for interaction-based modeling, simulation, and associated analysis, experimental design, and decision support tools for understanding large biological, information, social, and technological systems. Extremely detailed, multi-scale computer simulations allow theoretical and experimental investigation of these systems.

About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions in plants, humans and other animals. By successfully channeling innovation into transdisciplinary approaches that combine information technology and biology, researchers at VBI are addressing some of today's key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and plant sciences.

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Published by Barry Whyte, April 01, 2008
Tags: Simulation Science and Analytics