Everyone Into The Research Pool: Joint Expertise Wins Race

May 28, 2010
By Henry Kenyon

To stay several lengths ahead in the assessment and analysis arena, information sharing between the military, government, academia and industry is a must. The simple but smart solution: the stand up of a joint center where these organizations can gather to share their data and capability resources.

Maryann Lawlor explains how the Global Innovation and Strategy Center (GISC)'s task is to find solutions when the "Center Looks for Trouble"-the title of her article focusing on STRATCOM joint initiatives in this month's SIGNAL Magazine.

The GISC opened for business in September 2006, but its mission is ongoing. It focuses on STRATCOM projects in the areas of deterrence, space and cyberspace. These efforts cover all combatant commands (COCOMs) and include security in nuclear stability analysis, space situational awareness or cyberspace.

To support STRATCOM's space mission, for example, the GISC collates data from numerous sources to find fixes for new and ongoing challenges. The center draws some information from other centers in support of joint operations. The center pours all data into a virtual funnel to isolate a problem and work on a solution, according to GISC acting director, Col. Tom Gilbert, USAF:

The end game is to integrate these analyses and assessments into a common operational picture for the commanding officer, and to be inside his decision-making cycle.

One scenario involved mining data to predict possible locations for an influenza outbreak. The GISC worked with Nebraska officials to analyze whether available yet scattered data could be jelled to find a potential outbreak location-information traditionally handled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is effective in identifying known outbreaks but doesn't calculate where an illness might pop up next in a specific area. With facts and figures gleaned from numerous national databases, the GISC was able to narrow the location down enough to predict when sections of the population may call in sick, thus averting a crisis such as a mass transit shutdown.

Another center priority is determining which military, industry and academic subject matter experts are working on solutions to the same problems. The GISC contacts the national laboratories, COCOMs and companies to find commonalities among projects and to encourage collaboration.

The center has a lean, agile staff, with 42 U.S. Defense Department billets, 25 percent of which are filled by service members. Col. Gilbert says the number of experts who collaborate on specifics projects can vary, because specialized expertise can be brought in from other organizations:

Diversity is our strength. We want to leverage what others are doing. We don't want to reinvent the wheel or work on an area in parallel with someone else, and we've done that.

According to Col. Gilbert, the center aims to move forward with its tasks of conducting assessments and analyses, and improving its relationship with other agencies and organizations.

Collaboration is always a win-win situation when the end results benefit the nation. STRATCOM has been at the forefront of this ideology with the GISC. Can we compare the achievements of similar military/government or academic and industry entities to those of GISC? What other groups have successfully followed the same path, and can they complement the efforts of STRATCOM? Share your opinions and suggestions here.

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