The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence calls for better data resources. Researchers reviewed DHS needs, existing resources, and alignment between those needs and resources. They document their findings and recommendations here: Available resources might meet current needs, but new resources will be required as needs evolve.
A Review of Public Data About Terrorism and Targeted Violence to Meet U.S. Department of Homeland Security Mission Needs
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- What are DHS needs for data on terrorism and targeted violence?
- What databases exist that might fulfill those needs?
- What gaps are there between the data needs and available data sources?
In September 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence, which calls for better data resources to support DHS efforts to understand and prevent terrorism and targeted violence. This report provides an independent review of DHS needs, existing prominent databases, the alignment of existing databases with DHS data needs, and the quality of prominent databases on terrorism and targeted violence. Results indicate that DHS data needs are broad and complex and that many can be addressed by available unclassified databases. However, several gaps remain. Results also show that the current databases are of sufficient quality for DHS analytic needs but that a gap exists in quality assurance practices in that they are applied inconsistently across the field. Finally, the study shows that many of the available databases were developed to respond to the threat and policy environments in which they were created and that evolving strategic needs and emerging issues could require new definitions, significant updates, and, potentially, new construction of databases to meet DHS needs.
- DHS has a strong need for data to support policy and create actionable operational intelligence. These data needs span the gamut of incident types, actors, motivations, and tactics, techniques, and procedures.
- Many sources are available to support DHS needs. However, some areas, such as cyberthreats and emerging technologies, require new database construction.
- Although the overall quality of the prominent databases is generally high, the quality assurance and study documentation standards are inconsistently applied, suggesting a need for clearly promulgated requirements.
- DHS can continue to fund database updates and new builds for emerging threats, such as cyberattacks.
- DHS can lead the data collection field with clear expectations about standards for quality control procedures, transparency, and documentation.
- DHS can improve data timeliness and relevance to emerging issues and program evaluations through a combination of investments in new data collection methods and an expedited process for identifying and funding new data needs.
- DHS can improve the alignment of the data collection field with its data needs through additional assessments and research. This could result in solutions to improve the overall quality and accuracy of data use for the analysis of terrorism and targeted violence.
Table of Contents
A Review of Department of Homeland Security Data Needs
The Current State of Databases on Terrorism and Targeted Violence
Conclusions and Recommendations
Scoring Fields for Self-Reported Quality-Control Measures
Research conducted by
- Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center
HSOAC is a federally funded research and development center operated by the RAND Corporation under contract with DHS.