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Concern over future funding of top terrorism database

Security forces are seen at the scene of a blast in Nairobi, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. An upscale hotel complex in Kenya's capital came under attack on Tuesday, with a blast and heavy gunfire. Witnesses and police at the scene called it a terror attack. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

WASHINGTON - It’s billed as one of this countries top priorities: fighting terrorism. But the key place government agencies once went to track all things terror-related, The Global Terrorism Database, is a research collection service that was recently de-funded.

Those behind the program say that cheaper bid could lead to a higher price for the way this country fights terrorism.

Whether it’s tracking an attack at a military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan carried out by the Taliban, a mass killing at a college in Nigeria by Boko Haram or the truck attack in New York City that killed eight people riding their bikes carried out by an Islamic State supporter, this information for more than a decade has been collected and stored in one place - the Global Terrorism Database - used by government agencies like The State Department, The National Counterterrorism Center and Non-Governmental Organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

“If you are driving down the roads of Afghanistan you might want to select roads that are less frequently targeted by IED’s by extremists,” said William Braniff in an interview this week.

Braniff is the Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which runs the database now de-funded by the State Department.

Over the years, he’s testified before congress and other agencies, breaking down the data he says helps drive policy about how and where the United States fights terrorism.

“Without the data I’m afraid that in an era where we want to be more cost-effective with our counter terrorism efforts - not only with taxpayer dollars but the troops that are put in harm’s way - we’ll lack the ability to do that,” Braniff added.

The contract to continue the data collection – was awarded to a group called Development Services Group whose bid was less than $20,000 (0.2%) lower. START said it has nothing against the company, and in fact believes the more data available, the better, but is concerned a lack of experience and consistent data collection will lead to unreliable information.

“The idea that in less than 12 months an organization that hasn’t done this before is going to be able to produce something for the DOD, National Counterterrorism Center it’s just not likely to happen,” he said.

The State Department was contacted for more information on this decision but was unable to provide it, instead emailing this statement:

"Due to the lapse in appropriations, the Press Office will be operating on a reduced status. Communications with the media will be limited to events and issues involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, or those determined to be essential to national security. We will endeavor to be responsive to your query under those guidelines.


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