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News Briefs

U.S. Army Announces Federal Virtual Challenge Winners

April 25, 2013

U.S. Army Research Laboratory officials have announced the winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge at the Defense Users’ GameTech Conference in Orlando, Florida. 


The challenge featured two distinct focus areas for entries. The first required training critical thinking and adaptability skills in an immersive environment and measuring learners’ progress. The second focused on improving user interfaces in virtual environments, specifically for individual and group navigation.


The winner of the first focus area and $10,000 was Virtual World Activities—“Compound” from Alice Hayden of H2IT Solutions Incorporated, and Dr. Filomeno Arenas of the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer College. Compound is a virtual team-building game developed for the college’s Virtual World Activities. Students learn how to lead a team, best delegate and communicate tasks, work together to analyze and adapt to the situation, and make decisions to accomplish a mission. Trainees must be able to communicate effectively with one another and to their navigator—the only person with access to the map showing the location of mines. 


The winner of the navigation focus area and $10,000 was VIPE Holodeck—Navigation Interface by Ryan Frost of the Virtual Immersive Training Team at Northrop Grumman Technical Services. VIPE Holodeck explores the use of the low-cost, commercial off-the-shelf motion capture system, resulting in a method for the user to move easily through a virtual environment that feels natural and is easy to adapt to and learn. This entry provided navigation strategies that support a first-person shooter environment. The user can duck, jump, dodge, run and stop with impressive response time.

U.S. and Australia Share Space Information

April 24, 2013

The U.S. Defense Department has signed a space situational awareness (SSA) memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Australia’s Department of Defence. The MOU permits the the two countries to exchange SSA data, which facilitates transparency and improve flight safety.

Advanced data exchanges support launches, maneuver planning, on-orbit anomaly resolution, electromagnetic interference reporting and investigation. In addition, sharing this information assists in identifying launch anomalies and decommissioning activities as well as supports on-orbit conjunction assessments.

Soldiers Prepare for Deployment with WIN-T

April 18, 2013

The U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, is training with Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 capabilities for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. The nodes will provide the division’s on-the-move network, delivering situational awareness information and enabling mission command. In addition to connecting ground soldiers, the network allows company commanders in vehicles to receive orders in real time from higher headquarters. By incorporating the Army’s handheld, manpack, small form fit AN/PRC-154 Rifleman and two-channel AN/PRC-154 manpack radios, WIN-T creates secure on-the-go networks that connect soldiers at the squad level. The Army ordered 136 additional WIN-T Increment 2 network nodes in December, which brings the total number of network nodes to 532 and extends the reach of the soldier network to the company level.

NASA, Air Force Seek Space Processor for Future Missions

April 12, 2013

NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory are asking industry for solutions to meet future high-performance space computing needs in the coming decades.

The Air Force Next Generation Space Processor Analysis Program is seeking two to four companies to perform a year-long evaluation of advanced space-based applications that would use spaceflight processors for the 2020 to 2030 time frame. The call for research and development proposals came in a broad agency announcement, which will involve a competitive selection process with plans to award a cost-reimbursement contract with approximately $2 million to be shared by the selected companies over one year.

Awardees will begin with three months of studies to determine and define the required computing performance for these advanced applications and to compare their findings with the government's preliminary requirements. During the following nine months, the selected companies will develop spaceflight processing architecture solutions to a set of NASA and Air Force requirements.

A chosen team may develop the spaceflight processor following the initial phase of research. Depending on the availability of funds, that contract award could be roughly $20 million over a four year period.

Scientists Take One Step Closer to Medical Tricorder

April 2, 2013

The National Institutes of Health is funding the development of a medical instrument that will quickly detect biothreat agents, including anthrax, ricin and botulinum as well as infectious diseases. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are creating the first of its kind point-of-care device that could be used in emergency rooms during a bioterrorism incident. To design the device, which will be able to detect a broader range of toxins and bacterial agents than is currently possible, the $4 million project will include comprehensive testing with animal samples. According to Anup Singh, senior manager, Sandia biological science and technology group, this differentiates the work on this device, because toxins may behave differently in live animals and humans than in blood samples.

Sandia scientists will be collaborating with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center, which will provide insights into toxins and diseases at animal laboratory facilities. Bio-Rad, which manufactures and distributes devices and laboratory technologies, is consulting on the project to evaluate product development, assist with manufacturers’ criteria and provide feedback when a prototype is built.

“We want dual-use devices that combat both man-made and nature-made problems,” Singh says. “We’re not just going to wait for the next anthrax letter incident to happen for our devices to be used and tested; we want them to be useful for other things as well, like infectious diseases.”

 

Sandia Starts Multiple High-Tech Projects with Caterpillar

March 27, 2013

Sandia National Laboratories has signed an umbrella Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Caterpillar Incorporated that covers multiple projects over the next three years. Though Caterpillar is best known for large construction and mining equipment, the CRADA authorizes work in computer and computational science, information and data analysis, mathematics, engineering science and high-performance computing. Technical categories covered by the agreement include simulation design exploration, advanced analytics, multiphysics engineering modeling and simulation, and high-performance computing. Caterpillar is seeking help from Sandia to develop advanced modeling and simulation technologies for virtual product development. Sandia has several technology partnership options that industry, nonprofits, government and academia can use to access the laboratories’ resources.

Cyber Investigators Analyze South Korea Malware

March 25, 2013

The malware that infiltrated computer systems across South Korea’s banking and television broadcast industries on March 20 shares similarities with the Shamoon program used last year to wipe clean the hard drives of 30,000 Saudi Aramco workstations, according to experts at General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions. Investigators at the company’s newly-opened cyber forensics laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, say the malware is not a Shamoon variant, but that the two programs share some characteristics.

Company officials acknowledge the speculation that North Korea launched the attacks but did not comment on the program’s origin. It is not unusual, they say, for a criminal group or nation to use malware that deliberately mimics attacks used by others. Doing so, of course, casts suspicion elsewhere, helping to mask the malware’s true origins. “A number of commercial firms were hit with a somewhat similar attack. It was not Shamoon. But the techniques were somewhat similar,” says Jim Jaeger, the company’s vice president of cybersecurity services.

Cyber lab personnel identified the South Korea malware as “239ed75323.exe,” a malicious file capable of wiping data in disk drives. One of the areas it targets is the disk’s master boot record, without which a computer cannot load its operating system. The program writes a pattern to the disk that repeats the word “HASTATI.” Hastati is an apparent reference to a class of infantry in the armies of the early Roman Republic that originally fought as spearmen and later as swordsmen. The malware did not overwrite the entire disk, so some data can be recovered. The cyber lab experts posted their initial findings in a blog the day after the attacks.

 

Increasing Machines’ Learning Curve

March 21, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is searching for companies to participate in its recently launched Probabilistic Programming for Advanced Machine Learning (PPAML) program. Probabilistic programming is an innovative approach to manage the uncertain information that computers use to understand data, manage results and infer insights. The PPAML seeks to increase the number of people who can successfully build machine learning applications as well as boost the effectiveness of current machine learning experts. In addition, the project will focus on creating more economical, robust and powerful applications that require less data to produce more accurate results. “Our goal is that future machine learning projects won’t require people to know everything about both the domain of interest and machine learning to build useful machine learning applications,” Kathleen Fisher, DARPA program manager, says. The three-phase program is scheduled to run for 46 months beginning this year and continuing to 2017. The agency is hosting a Proposers’ Day at the Executive Conference Center, Arlington, Virginia, on April 10, 2013, to familiarize potential participants with the PPAML’s technical objectives. Interested organizations must register by 5 p.m. on April 5, 2013. A DARPA special notice document describing the specific capabilities the agency is interested in is available online.

 

Time to Apply for Contractor of the Year Awards

March 13, 2013

Nominations now are being accepted for the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards. Presented by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council, these awards recognize excellence in several size categories, from companies with an annual revenue of less than $25 million to those with more than $300 million in annual revenue.

To apply for the award, a company must be headquartered in the greater Washington, D.C., region and more than half of the firm’s employees must work within the region or employ a least 1,000 or more employees within the region. The Executive of the Year Award is presented to a C-level executive who works for a government contracting company and resides in the greater Washington, D.C., area. The Public Sector Partner of the Year Award honors a federal government procurement professional who has demonstrated unusual leadership and vision in building the spirit of partnership with the private sector or leading change in the procurement community.

The deadline for nominations is June 14, 2013, and an intent to apply form is available online. For more information, contact Jenny Coppedge or call (703) 752-7505.

The awards will be presented on November 7, 2013. This marks the 11th year that the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council have presented these awards.

 

Military Moves on Mobile

March 4, 2013

Despite continued budget crunching, U.S. Defense Department officials are continuing to implement a three-phase plan to equip the department’s 600,000 mobile-device users with secure classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that leverage commercial products. In conjunction with the Defense Information Systems Agency, the department’s chief information officer is establishing a basic multivendor mobility capability with the Defense Department for assessment. This first phase, which continues through April, deploys voice and data services over a commercial wireless network, and a contract will be awarded for the department’s initial enterprise mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application store (MAS). Phase two, which is set to last nine months, will focus on creating a security and service delivery infrastructure to support several competitive acquisition options. During the final phase, set to begin in October 2013, an operational capability will be offered to all Defense Department entities as a subscription-based service. Work is contingent on the availability of fiscal year 2013 and fiscal 2014 funding.
 

 

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