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2008.08.18 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Sen. Nelson Secures Military Funding for UNO Program

Omaha - Researchers at the Institute for Collaboration Science (ICS) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) have been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Air Force for the first phase of the BattleSpace project.

The project seeks to create a new class of software that could reduce military decision cycles by 50 percent or more at the operational level.

Funded through an earmark secured by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, the project was proposed by researchers from three UNO colleges: the College of Business Administration, the College of Information Science and Technology, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The project will allow UNO researchers to facilitate quick and effective decision-making for mission-critical collaborative tasks such as situational awareness, course of action development and operational planning.

“The military that can decide and act the fastest can prevail, even in the face of physically superior opposition, by forcing the adversary to react to conditions that no longer exist,” said Robert O. Briggs, a faculty member with UNO’s College of Business Administration and principal investigator for the project. “Early proof of concept research funded by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) showed that, for some tasks, we can cut decision cycles by even more - as much as 90 percent. We plan to continue working closely with USSTRATCOM as the project unfolds.”

Nelson said he pushed for the earmark in order to further the potential of high profile projects such as BattleSpace in Nebraska.

“My dream is to create the ‘Silicon Prairie’ in Nebraska by having our state develop high tech projects like BattleSpace,” Nelson said. “This is an excellent opportunity for the University of Nebraska at Omaha to continue groundbreaking research while contributing to our national defense by developing software for war fighters and STRATCOM. There is no reason for projects like this to go to Silicon Valley or other large urban areas when they can be done right here in Nebraska; but it takes appropriations like this to make it happen.”

“When the project is finished, BattleSpace technology will also be useful for a wide range of business, non-profit and academic applications,” said Roni Reiter-Palmon, co-investigator from UNO’s College of Arts and Sciences. “One of our first tasks is taking the project into classrooms where we can use collaborative learning activities to re-engage students at risk of dropping out.”

Collaboration was key to developing the project.

“We recently determined how to organize all of our scientific knowledge about collaboration into a seven-layer model,” said G.J. de Vreede, director of ICS and the project’s co-investigator from the College of Information Science and Technology. “Then we noticed that collaboration technologies only supported the bottom layer.”

On May 1, 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), of which Nelson is a member, authorized the amount necessary to complete BattleSpace - $1.6 million - in the FY09 National Defense Authorization bill. The full Senate voted on a measure to limit debate on the bill in order to consider it prior to adjournment however that voted failed due to issues unrelated to the underlying legislation, namely, energy policy.

It now appears the bill will be considered when the Senate reconvenes in September. Also likely to be considered in September is the Defense Appropriations bill, the legislative vehicle that will contain the actual appropriations for projects authorized in by the SASC this spring.

* *

UNO will celebrate its 100th anniversary beginning October 8, 2008. This celebration will recognize the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to http://www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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