Crime / Law

Could Big Data Have Prevented the Fort Hood Shooting?

The federal government stopped funding a medical data screening program last year that researchers say might have prevented the Fort Hood shooting.

Had Army Spec. Ivan Lopez been enrolled in the Durkheim Program, which uses an algorithm that mines social media posts for indicators of suicidal behavior, it might have picked up clues that a clinician could have missed in time for an intervention.

“Given the highly agitated state of the shooter, we may have been able to get him help before acted, had he been in our system,” said Chris Poulin, one of the founders of the Durkheim Project, which received $1.8 million from the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, in 2011 until funding was halted in 2013.

DARPA’s funding for projects like Durkheim and other cutting-edge research and innovation is finite in scope and is meant to push state-of-the-art projects forward. Projects typically last for 3 to 5 years, but the scope of money available for researchers can change depending on agency objectives, available funds and other factors. “It is a telling illustration that we don’t have any DOD funding at the present time despite being a ‘successful’ DARPA project,” Poulin said, especially given the growing problem of suicide among veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 22 veterans kill themselves every day.

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