Associate Director of Nonproliferation,
Arms Control, and
International Security and Acting Director of the Homeland Security
Computing Science: One Arrow in the Quiver for
WHEN the legislation establishing the Department of Homeland Security
was being drafted, eyebrows were raised across the country over the
explicit inclusion of Lawrence Livermore’s Advanced Scientific
Computing Research Program. The program was transferred from the
Department of Energy’s Office of Science to the new department’s
Science and Technology directorate.
With so much attention being directed
at top-level issues such as transportation security and biodefense, the role
of scientific computing in homeland security is often overlooked. All of the
major homeland security issues have critical elements that require advanced computing.
Advanced scientific computing is more than the world’s fastest or largest
computers, the aspect of computing for which Livermore is typically known.
In many cases, the homeland security computing
challenges involve new modeling techniques, new algorithms for handling data,
or even new ways of thinking about a problem. Once these techniques are in hand,
they can often be implemented on ordinary desktop computers or palm-sized instruments,
making it possible to deliver state-of-the-art computing capabilities into the
field and and even to first responders.
The advanced computing challenge most
in the news is the intelligence problem of finding and connecting the critical
pieces of information amidst mountains of data. Advanced scientific computing
is key to developing the scalable information analysis techniques and large-scale
data integration tools that are needed to solve this problem. In addition to
developing new algorithms, we are also exploring novel computing architectures
that could dramatically speed the discovery of relationships in large data sets.
The detailed simulations and scenarios
required to improve emergency response planning and crisis management operations
depend on advanced computing capabilities. Lawrence Livermore has long been a
leader in computational fluid dynamics and other simulation technologies. This
work forms the foundation of the National Atmospheric Research Advisory Center
(NARAC) and is being applied to extend NARAC’s capabilities to model the
fate and transport of chemical and biological agents in the atmosphere. For example,
we are applying expertise in adaptive mesh refinement and complex geometry modeling
to simulations of aerosol dispersion in urban settings.
Advanced computing is also required for
the comprehensive and dynamic risk-vulnerability-mitigation assessments and consequence
analyses that are needed to develop strategies for protecting critical U.S. infrastructures.
For instance, by combining the Laboratory’s simulation strengths in shock
physics and structural mechanics, we can understand the impact of explosions
on buildings and other structures and then design appropriate countermeasures.
Advanced computing contributes to the
development of better radiation detectors and biosensors. If we are to design
detectors that exploit signatures that terrorists think are undetectable, we
must first be able to model the physical and biological phenomena involved. In
some cases, this requires first-principles simulations on supercomputers. Advanced
computations also guide the micro- and nanoscale engineering required to miniaturize
As the article On
the Front Lines of Biodefense describes, advanced computing techniques are
also being used to speed the development
and protein signatures that lie at the heart of biodefense. For example, biologists,
computing scientists, and mathematicians collaborated to invent the first-ever
algorithm for aligning draft genomes with finished genomes, making it possible
to identify candidate signatures from incomplete data and thereby enable rapid
responses to unexpected disease outbreaks. This kind of multidisciplinary teaming
is a hallmark of the way Lawrence Livermore
tackles tough problems. Other computing science advances have significantly reduced
the time of a key step in the signature
development process, and the algorithms involved are being scaled to permit work
on organisms with larger genomes. Taken together, these computing advances will
result in faster, less expensive, and more reliable biodetection capabilities
for homeland security.
Lawrence Livermore is a leader in providing science and technology for homeland
security. An important element of our success is our ability to integrate multiple
scientific and technical disciplines to produce systems-level solutions to national
security challenges. Advanced scientific computing is one of the keys to “being
smart” about how we tackle homeland defense, enabling us to provide technologies
and capabilities that significantly improve security.
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April 6, 2004