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The right information, at the right time, to make the right call. That’s the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Intelligence Analysis (I&A)—to equip the Homeland Security Enterprise with the intelligence and information it needs to keep the homeland safe, secure, and resilient. This includes providing information technology (IT) capabilities—driven by the DHS’ Chief Information Officer (CIO)—needed to get the job done.
When Booz Allen began its support for DHS CIO it was quickly realized that the traditional IT development model, which worked for longer term development efforts, was not suited for the time-critical world of I&A where immediate solutions are needed to identify critical threats and leads.
Enter the Analytic Innovation Cell (AIC). Booz Allen created an elite team of data scientists, intelligence analysts, and IT developers who work together in a collaborative lab at DHS I&A. These pros combine expertise to discover the most precise intelligence information about possible threats to our country. They are hungry problem solvers, armed with a mission from the DHS CIO to be “disruptive agents for innovation” that can lead to stronger national security.
The AIC developed methods, tools, and processes to solve specific, pressing analytic problems. This approach is different from traditional IT development because the AIC’s mission is not to build a system, but to solve the analytic question of the hour. The AIC leveraged existing tools, introduced open source tools, and built custom tools, when needed. Over time, this approach enabled the AIC to develop a library of simple, yet highly effective, modular tools that combined with the right methodologies and analytic insights could be used by a wide array of analysts.
As Senior Associate Jeremy Filko says, “the success of a team like this is often measured by ‘outputs’—pieces of intelligence produced, IT projects, and programs executed. But ‘outputs’ don’t keep the homeland more secure, outcomes do.”
And the AIC delivers. Since its inception in May 2014, the AIC has:
The Online Document Information Network (ODIN) is an example of the AIC’s ability to pull existing data into a custom tool to solve a pressing challenge. DHS’ Customs & Border Protection (CBP) needed a way to more deeply analyze the validity of passports and identify fraudulent documents that might otherwise slip through a standard review that looked at just the date of birth, passport number, issue date, and expiration date. The AIC brain created ODIN, a tool that utilized “check sum digits”—to meet this need.
ODIN would soon prove its usefulness. In September 2015, Air Canada security referred a possibly altered Greek passport to the CBP Immigration Advisory Program—Madrid for verification. CBP was able to query the Greek passport in ODIN, which returned a “Fail” result, meaning the passport’s issue and expiration dates did not fall within the valid acceptable range.
“A multidisciplinary group of Booz Allen data scientists and intelligence analysts, the Analytic Innovation Cell team is transforming DHS.”
The Analytic Innovation Cell team poses during the 2016 Booz Allen Excellence Awards
This information was relayed to international authorities and the fake passport holder was detained and prevented from coming to the United States. Questioning later revealed he was actually an Albanian national.
ODIN’s impact is undeniable: Developed in just 5 days, it includes six country data sets and has identified over 150 fraudulent passports in just 6 months. “For this team, devising a new way to use an existing data set—that’s a huge win,” Jeremy says.
The AIC earned the Secretary’s Award for Meritorious Service—the second highest award given by the DHS Secretary – and is now the model for future DHS I&A efforts.
Download the full PDF of the 2016 Impact Report.