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DEA considers expanding DARPA's big data program

February 24, 2016 (Photo Credit: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Drug Enforcement Agency and DARPA have been working together to create a big data processing system that boosts law enforcement capabilities while maintaining the security of classified information. DEA has been trying to get the final program off the ground since early 2014 and is in need of a third-party integrator to help move things forward and eliminate the project backlog.

The DEA-DARPA collaboration on big data has been ongoing since the early ‘90s when the two started working on a system to crunch large data sets and improve law enforcement efforts.

The project helped DARPA develop a system for anonymizing large sets of sensitive and classified data that DEA agents could then work with and visualize. However, “While DARPA’s work on the anonymized data was quite useful, the composition of the anonymized dataset created limitations in how the data could be manipulated and then analyzed,” according to a request for information DEA posted on FedBizOps.

RFI: Big data support

DARPA researchers switched gears and are now looking at ways to help DEA officials work with structured and unstructured data, as well as information gathered by the agency’s Office of Special Intelligence in ways that are more useful.

Researchers moved to a special development center called the ”sandbox” at a DEA facility in Merrifield, Virginia in May 2014 and immediately realized this was going to be a “multi-year effort.”

A vendor was brought in to facilitate the work but, “Once the incumbent contractor team became integrated into the DEA environment, the demand from DEA for more of DARPA-facilitated technologies increased, creating a backlog of projects.”

To help, DEA is considering adding another contractor team consisting of an experienced project manager and four qualified data scientists.

For now, the agency has merely released a RFI to get feedback for a potential solicitation.

Specifically, DEA wants to know whether contractors can provide four services:

  • Benchmarking IT infrastructure;
  • Investigative assessment;
  • Macro analytics; and
  • Social media exploitation tools.

The scope of work attached to the RFI notice includes detailed breakdowns of each area.

Interested vendors should respond to the RFI by 11 a.m. on March 10.


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