recommended reading

Technology could identify soldiers intent on suicide or murder

Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured 43 others in 2009.

Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and injured 43 others in 2009. // AP file photo

The Pentagon’s research wing is seeking technology that can determine whether a soldier is prone to commit suicide or murder.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to fund the development of “mathematical and computational models that predict whether a person is likely to commit suicide,” contract databases reveal. The goal is to extend prototypes to “predict other neurocognitive states of extreme order, including homicidal intent.”

The program, called Predicting Suicide Intent, is being rolled out as officials try to diagnose mental illness more consistently across the military services. The Army, which has come under fire for failing to determine which soldiers are unfit to remain on duty, ordered a review in May of how its doctors diagnose psychiatric disorders.

The 2009 Fort Hood shootings by an Army psychiatrist that killed 13 intensified concerns that the military was allowing disturbed individuals to serve in uniform. The widely-reported suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen last October raised racially-charged questions from Asian American advocacy groups, and was a black eye for the military.

The algorithms developed under the DARPA program would derive data from a person’s brain chemistry and behavior, and deliver a snapshot of the individual’s frame of mind. The technology, if successfully developed, could be used to identify which soldiers need extra psychiatric monitoring. It could plausibly be integrated with lie-detector technology to determine if contractors and soldiers are fit for deployment. The goal is “objective classification of individuals who are at risk of committing suicide, within a reduced screening time and with less reliance on physician expertise,” a contracting notice says.

Briefings on the program will be held in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 19; a request for proposals is expected to be released soon.

Geoffrey Ling, who has worked on the critical care team at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, leads the program. He has also spearheaded efforts at DARPA to study brain injuries from improvised explosive devices and develop predictive technology to determine the best treatments for individuals.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.