Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security (CDHS) is now working with the U.S. Coast Guard, one of its primary partners, on a project designed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants arriving to U.S. shores by sea.
Dr. Neal Wagner, FSU assistant professor of management information systems, whose speciality is resource optimization, is part of a Coast Guard operation aimed to address an issue called Alien Migration Interdiction.
The project aims to stop illegal immigrants from crossing into U.S. territory by ocean, usually from the Caribbean region.
Wagner is using his expertise in artificial intelligence, specifically predictive analysis, to optimize the resources needed for the Coast Guard to successfully combat illegal immigration.
“The approach we’re working on is called evolutionary algorithms, which is a sub-field of artificial intelligence,” Wagner said. This type of computational intelligence allows the Coast Guard to optimize force allocation based on the predicted migrant flow, as determined by Wagner and CDHS.
Evolutionary algorithms use Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (“survival of the fittest”) as a model for creating programs that can “evolve” solutions to a given problem. Often they are used for difficult real-world problems, where the number of potential solutions is too large for standard techniques.
“Our goal is to optimize the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic area resources in order to stop illegal aliens arriving by sea using various types of resources, such as ships and aircrafts,” Wagner said. “It’s a great project because it is a practical use of intelligence that benefits the country.”
The Coast Guard project is a new and exciting one for CDHS.
“The Center for Defense and Homeland Security is delighted to partner with the United States Coast Guard to realize Commander Papp’s priorities and objectives, such as the research and development of innovative technology, modeling and simulation, developing capabilities to resist and respond to cyber threats, developing deployable capabilities and competencies, growing a diverse future workforce, and supporting our military families,” said Dr. Curtis Charles, CDHS Executive Director. “These priorities are consistent with those of CDHS,” Charles added.
The project is getting attention at the highest levels of Coast Guard command, according to Lieutenant Commandeer Ben Maule, who is working with Fayetteville State on the interdiction project.
“Dr. Wagner and CDHS are getting significant visibility, very quickly, with a very senior level of the Coast Guard,” said Maule. “There is a significant amount of interest in this project.”
Dr. Joseph DiRenzo, Coast Guard Atlantic Area’s chief of operations analysis, said working with academic-based institutions like CDHS is a “great partnership.”
“Academicians like to work problems that have meaning and impact,” DiRenzo said. “When CDHS works with us and our West Coast counterparts, its researchers get an opportunity to look at real problems that are regional or national, or both, and offer the expertise they’ve spent a lifetime developing to help us solve those problems.”
DiRenzo called CDHS’s work with the Coast Guard “exciting stuff” and said everyone wins under such a structure.
“The Coast Guard benefits because we’re a very small organization within the federal government — we do a lot of incredible things, but we’re a small organization,” he said. “The connections we have with our academic partners — like the relationship we enjoy with Dr. Charles and Fayetteville State — serve as force multipliers for us.”
“We can give them a problem, work with them to understand the problem, and then turn them loose to let their expertise help solve the problem,” DiRenzo added. “We’ve found that our relationship with academia is truly a partnership that exceeds all expectations, and we’ve been incredibly happy with the results.”
Over the past two years, the Coast Guard has developed “pretty extraordinary” relationships with five U.S. universities that are part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Centers of Excellence programs, DiRenzo said. Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security is part of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill consortium.
“Frankly, we see the Fayetteville State University connection as being unique,” DiRenzo said. “FSU is located in the Atlantic area with us. And with CDHS being relatively new, Dr. Charles is looking for partners who make an impact. We see definite possibilities of collaboration in the near future — and we’ve just scratched the surface with Fayetteville State University. We’re excited about what the future holds.”
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR DEFENSE AND HOMELAND SECURITY
Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security is designed to prepare the next generation of national security and disaster preparedness workforce, by addressing issues of compelling interest to the security of the United States. Through its diverse partnerships with national laboratories, industry partners, institutions of higher education, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and other federal, state, and local entities, CDHS supports the mitigation and recovery of natural and man-made catastrophic disasters within the United States.
Dr. Curtis Charles, CDHS Executive Director