University of Washington Group Decision-making Model is Used by USSTRATCOM to Analyze the Taliban’s Strategic Decision-making and Iranian Nuclear Policy


Professor Gabbay’s 2D Factional Issue Map overlaying the network of Afghan government influencers with their positions on insurgent power and state centralization.

Problem: Intelligence analysts need the ability to understand decision-making by terrorist organizations both for prediction of possible outcomes and evaluation of alternatives for thwarting possible attacks. Moreover, retrospective analysis of past events with reference to decision-making models can assist with identifying changes in power structure or priorities of the group. DTRA’s Basic and Applied Sciences Department has funded research to model the interaction of network structure, nonlinearity, communications sequence, and cohesion in group decision-making and to validate the model experimentally.

Results: Professor Michael Gabbay of the University of Washington has studied the dynamics of opinion formation in small social networks and developed the ability to represent government, insurgent, sectarian and resistance actors mathematically as entities in conflict coming to resolution on issues of various characteristics. His work has resulted in a novel framework for evaluating counterterrorist interventions with respect to their potential direct and indirect effects on terrorist groups, which occur due to small group processes.

Potential: The analytical framework developed in this program can be used to analyze political events to determine shifts in power, influence, priority, and objectives. The understanding derived can be used to predict the probability of future scenarios, construct intervention strategies to prevent catastrophic outcomes, and implement political policies based on the dynamics of opinion formation.


Professor Gabbay has used his methodology to analyze the assassination of former Afghan President Rabbani concluding that the motivation was destabilization of a central government in Afghanistan.

Transition/Impact: The analytical framework has transitioned to JWAC USSTRATCOM for use on particular retrospective case studies, including the September 2011 assassination of Afghan High Peace Council chairman, Burnahuddin Rabbani, and the coordinated bombings of Afghan Shi`a processions on Ashura in December 2011, as examples of the introduction of Iraq-style mass sectarian attacks into Afghanistan. The analysis of this case was published in The CTC Sentinel in March 2012, Vol. 5, Issue 3, p. 10.



SOCIAL/INFORMATION SCIENCE (TA-2)
HDTRA1-10-1-0075: THEORETICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL INVESTIGATION OF OPINION DYNAMICS IN SMALL SOCIAL NETWORKS
MICHAEL GABBAY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON