USSTRATCOM Commander Hears UNO Intern Ideas on Cyber Security, Global Stability
by John Prescott
Global Innovation & Strategy Center, United States Strategic Command
It's rare when a four-star combatant commander invites college students to his office for a private meeting on global security issues. At United States Strategic Command however, it's becoming business as usual. USSTRATCOM Commander General Kevin P. Chilton held the office call after hearing interns from three universities brief his senior staff on May 6.
The Command's Global Innovation & Strategy Center (GISC) operates the intern program at the Ak-Sar-Ben development near the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). From the total of 50 interns who have participated during the past two years, 22 are from UNO.
The intern program is designed to bring fresh thinking by college students to problems old and new using unclassified information and networks. Projects are completed in a single academic semester. Results and recommendations, while views of the students and not those of USSTRATCOM, often point the way to more comprehensive work along new lines of thinking, or old lines that may have been overlooked or disregarded.
Spring semester teams from UNO, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Creighton University shed new light in two important areas: cyber security and global stability.
At the request of the National Security Agency and the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations, the first intern team focused on methods and tools to measure the health of the Global Information Grid (GIG) and its networks, especially in regard to sustainability, reliability and survivability.
Interns designed a basic framework for metrics to estimate the probability of network service degradation from malicious actions and regular use. The four UNO students working on the GIG team were Natasha Fields, junior, Psychology and International Relations; Brandon Iske, senior, Computer Science; Daniel Reynoso, junior, Psychology; and Ann Sawatzki, senior, Political Science.
The second team was tasked by United States Central Command and United States Pacific Command to explore a plan to support global stability by identifying contents for a kit capable of bringing modern resources to areas of the world with no access to basic services. The interns developed a catalog of existing devices, which could be contained in a portable, deliverable kit to provide access to potable water, electricity and telecommunications for rural, underserved populations. Exact contents would be tailored to the specific needs of an area. Such kits could aid economic development and self-sufficiency for some communities and build grassroots alliances with citizens of partner countries.
The three UNO students on the village kit team were Nick Arreola, senior, Psychology; Carrie Lacy, graduate student, Sociology/Anthropology; and Charline Ticknor, graduate student, Biotechnology.
University leaders also attended the briefing, including University of Nebraska Peter Kiewit Institute Interim Director Dave Hinton, Creighton University President Fr. John Schlegel and Bellevue University Provost Mary Hawkins.
General Chilton called the GIG briefing "excellent work" and said the village kit effort is a "model that seems like it will apply to disaster relief as well as stabilization efforts."
The spring interns also held two briefings for USSTRATCOM staff, contractors and academic partners, as well as friends and family members at the GISC May 8. Intern project work is closely monitored by the GISC staff and teams present regular updates during three internal progress reviews. The research from the spring teams will be released as written reports later this year.
Since its inception in 2007, the GISC internship program has brought fresh thinking to a number of important issues such as dealing with space debris and detecting tunnels along the U.S. border. The program also introduces bright students to the rewards of working in government service. Nearly half of all participating interns are actively pursuing or have already secured government positions.
Former interns are now employed by Sandia National Labs, Lockheed Martin, Senator Mike Johanns' office, Representative Jeff Fortenbury's office, the State of Nebraska, the U.S. State Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and USSTRATCOM's Student Career Experience Program.
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