Spaf's Government Service & DSSG Experience


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Since starting my academic career in the mid 1980s, I have participated in a number of activities related to government. I have a keen interest in issues of defense, and in policy related to both security and science. Given my areas of specialization, and some of my experiences, this has enabled me to take on some interesting advisory roles over the years.

What follows is first of all a brief list of some of the activities I have been involved with related to government (all U.S. Federal government). That is then followed by a description of my experience in the DSSG — Defense Science Study Group — that had a profound and lasting impact on my background to act as an advisor in various roles.


I have also testified nine times before Congressional committees since 1995. I have served as an informal consultant to personnel at the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of State.

I have been chair of ACM's US Public Policy Council (previously, Committee), USACM, from 1998-2014.

DSSG Experience

Since the mid 1980s, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) has run a program known as the Defense Science Study Group (DSSG). Every two years, a group of promising young scientists from many scientific fields -- usually academic faculty -- are chosen in a highly selective competition from nominees from around the US. Those researchers then participate in a two year program where they are exposed to the systems, missions and operations of the Department of Defense, with a focus on issues of R&D with a healthy dose of policy added.

The goal of the program is to acquaint young researchers with the military, and expose them to interesting research problems, as well as develop a deeper understanding of some related issues such as those of funding, policy and personnel. The result is a group of scientists who are especially prepared to be advisors and to participate on study panels and boards such as the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and the Defense Science Board, as well as to pursue research activities that might address DoD needs.

At the end of the session the members are expected to provide a report and briefing on something they have seen where they believe their own research could make a difference. Some of these briefings have resulted in new projects getting started, some have resulted in technology that saved a lot of money or lives, and many simply spark interest in the audience.

I was selected to participate in the 5th class of the DSSG, in 1996-1997. What follows are some notes I made (then) about the various trips our group took. One of my colleagues in the 5th class, Professor Jim Hendler, has assembled a page of photos and scans from the trip, including a few of me (with non-silver hair!).

The Study Sessions

NB. The following were written during or shortly after each session. Thus, the verb tense doesn't reflect that you are currently reading this years later. I have not bothered to update some of the details about individuals, such as positions they went on to occupy. Neither have I updated information about some of the programs that were in earlier stages then (e.g., the competition for the Joint Strike Fighter).

Some of the descriptions are abbreviated because of classified or sensitive material in the discussions, and in other cases because there was too much material for me to note it down in time!

Session I: Feb 26-28, 1996. Alexandria VA and Washington DC

Feb 26, we met at IDA in Virginia and introduced ourselves. We also met our mentors, advisors and administrators, including

We had 6 retired 4-stars at the table. Pretty amazing.

We also met Nancy Licato, the IDA person who will be our group coordinator for the coming two years. (In actuality, she is more our travel agent/drill sergeant/den mother/tour guide/majordomo, with a hefty does of MacGyver thrown in.)

Briefings were given on the structure of DoD, followed by a briefing by Larry Lynn on the mission of ARPA. After lunch, Anita Jones, OSD Director of Defense Research & Engineering (DDR&E), briefed us on her program at the SecDef's office. Then, Dr. Martha Krebs, the Director of the Office of Energy Research at DoE briefed us on DoE research and needs. This was followed by a presentation on international issues and disarmament by Dr. Ashton Carter, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Then we heard a presentation by Dr. Steven Koonin, VP & Provost at Caltech, on his experiences when he was a DSSG member.

Feb 27 began with an administrative briefing on group activities and on security, followed by overviews of the individual services. First was A. Fenner Milton, the Deputy Asst. Secretary of the Army; then was Rear Admiral Marc Pelaez, the Chief of Naval Research, and then was Dr. Helmut Hellwig, Dep. Asst Secretary of the Air Force. This was followed by a briefing and Q&A session with Dr. Allan Bromley, the Dean of Engineering at Yale, and a former Presidential Science Advisor (first with Cabinet rank).

Feb 28, we had a briefing by an officer at DARPA on research into defenses for biological warfare threats and some of the challenges involved. We then boarded a bus for the Pentagon where we were given a tour and briefing about the National Military Command Center by Lt. Gen. Walter Kross USAF, the director of the Joint Staff. This included a tour of the situation room and the command center where they had the boxes with some of the nuclear force "go" materials. We finished with a 30 minute briefing by -- and meeting with -- General John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Back at the offices we concluded the visit with a briefing on the history and mission of IDA, and some hands-on experience with items in the SIMCenter at IDA. This included "driving a tank" in the simulators.

Session II was June 19-27, and mostly at Air Force-related sites

June 19, we visited Boeing Corporation and heard briefings on their new paperless design process, the design of the 777, on their design for the Joint Strike Tactical Fighter competition, and the Airborne Laser Program. Briefings were conducted by the program managers of these projects, and by V.P. Dick Hardy. We also had a tour of the 777 assembly operation.

June 20 we visited McDonald Douglas in LA, and received briefings from V.P. David Spong and various program managers on the C-17 program. We were given an extensive tour of C-17 production and assembly areas, and toured a C-17. I say "toured" because we went inside planes in production and they were large!

June 20 (afternoon), we visited TRW, where we had briefings from Dr. Simon Ramo (the "R" in TRW), Neville Barter, and several program engineers and managers. This included visits to and briefings on spacecraft technologies, directed energy weapon systems, defense support, microelectronics, and the TRW orbital test station (among other things). We heard a lot about space-based issues.

June 21 we were at Nellis AFB. We were briefed on the Red Flag program by Col Richard Sayers, Jr (VC AWC - Air Warfare Center). We then had a static display and walkthrough with an F-117, F-16, F-15, A-10, and HH-60. This was followed by lunch with Col. Sayers, Col Zink (Director of Staff, AWC), Col Acker (VC of 57th Wing), and Col Oram (Commander, 57th Op group). I was at Col. Oram's table. We discussed a number of issues, including some current problems with network security and HCI.

June 21 afternoon, we received a tour and briefing at the 547th Intelligence Squadron Threat Training Facility, viewing captured and modeled AAA weapons, and the remains of some ground-based vehicles that had been "neutralized" (i.e., by an A-10) or captured. We then were briefed by Col Buis on the Air Warrior program and training center. We departed for Whiteman AFB (Missouri) via a USAF KC-135 tanker. This included being briefed on how to use manual oxygen systems and fire control (gulp!). Flying around in a large fuel tank with wings is an interesting experience.

June 22 we were at Whiteman AFB. where we were briefed on the mission of the 509 Bomb Wing by Brig. General Tom Goslin. This included history of the 509th, and the current status of the 509th vis a vis the B-2 force under his command. We toured the B-2 simulator training facility (and tried our hands as pilots) and visited a B-2 dock and "toured" (externally, and some internally) a B-2 while speaking with its maintenance crew about its characteristics and capabilities.

Also at Whiteman, we visited the 442d Fighter Wing for briefings on the A-10 (the "Warthog") and visited the Army National guard unit there, including a display of one of their Cobra helicopters. During the afternoon, we also toured the Oscar 1 ICBM Launch Control Facility (now decommissioned, and serving as a museum of sorts).

During this visit, I had lunch and dinner with General Goslin, and spoke with him informally about several topics. We discussed computer technology use on base, communications for the ICBM field, and (no surprise) computer security issues.

June 23, we flew via "our" KC-135 to a training area over Louisiana. We observed in-flight refueling of four F-16s and four F-15s. This included being in the tail section looking out the viewport as the planes came up to fuel. We each got to "fly" the boom when there were no planes underneath. I also got to sit in the cockpit during take-off and climb to cruise when we flew to Offutt AFB in Nebraska, home of STRATCOM (Strategic Command).

June 24 we were briefed by Gen. Eugene Habiger, CINCSTRAT, about STRATCOM capabilities, readiness, and facilities. We were given a tour of the Command Center, briefed on SIOP, briefed on strategic nuclear forces, force structure, stockpile stewardship, and other topics. Many interesting research questions were presented to the group as a whole. I had lunch at General Habiger's table where we all discussed some issues of theater support and strategic planning. At the end of the day, we got a tour of the ready version of "Looking Glass", the airborne command and control backup on board a 747. We then departed via "our" KC-135 for Scott AFB (IL), home of USTRANSCOM.

June 25 We were met by Lt General Hugh Smith and Brig. General Steve Kelley, then briefed on USTRANSCOM mission and facilities. This included briefings on strategic mobility, in-transit visibility, global command and control systems, and various other technology issues. We were given a tour and briefing on the Mobility Control Center.

During my lunch with Gen. Smith, I mentioned several issues about computer security. He contacted his SSO and staff, and they came to meet with me during a break. I missed one briefing while talking to them. I discovered they are using my books and some of my tools in their work! After lunch, we departed for Wright-Patterson AFB.

June 26. We received a briefing on the scope and mission of the AFMC (Materiel Command) by General Henry Viccellio, the Commander of AFMC. This was followed by briefings by Maj. Gen Richard Paul and staff on Science & Technology Research, depot privitization, lean logistics, and other issues. In the afternoon, we toured Wright Laboratories, including labs on advanced materials, cockpit control & display technology, high-temperature materials, turbine research, supersonic combustion, and more. They have some interesting equipment to operate at the extremes of temperature, pressure, speed, vibration, and sound (among other things).

During dinner at a local restaurant, I spoke at great length to Gen. Paul about the state of computer security education and research in the US, and about the strategic needs. He requested further material from me on the topic. (Nothing has ever come of this, as usually happens.)

June 27, we visited Armstrong Labs for presentations on synthetic environments, computerized anthropometric R&D, biocommunications, and acoustic research. This concluded the formal visit, and we then toured the Air Force Museum -- an amazing place I will be sure to visit again.

Session III was August 5-13 and was Navy, Marines, Special Forces sites

August 5 we visited the Navy at Norfolk, VA. We started with a briefing at the command center by RADM William Fallon, the DCINC (Deputy Commander-in-Chief) of the Atlanic Fleet (DCINCLANTFLT). Then we went to the pier where we toured the USS Normandy, an AEGIS cruiser (Capt. F. DeMasi). We were also given briefings by the crew of the Normandy about ship capabilities and mission. This included a small demo of some of the command and control mechanisms, and weapons, including the Phalanx gattling gun. Next, we toured the USS Atlanta, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (CDR P. K. Peppe). Here also we received briefings (and demonstrations) of many of the capabilities and systems on-board. We were served a wonderful strawberry shortcake in the sub's mess -- the Navy eats well, at least! We concluded the day with a visit to the Little Creek Naval Base where we received briefings and a tour of a Landing Craft Air Cushion Vehicle (hovercraft; base commander Capt. W. J. Marshall). They fired one up to show us how it worked, but we weren't able to go out on it.

August 6 began again at Norfolk with a briefing by General John Sheehan, USMC, the CINC of Atlantic Command. This included information on the mission, organization, and future challenges for the Atlantic command, including some issues related to NATO. Following that, we traveled to Oceana Naval Air Station where we boarded a C-2 Greyhound transport plane that flew us out into the Atlantic where we made a cable-arrested landing onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (Capt. R. L. Christenson); the landing was...interesting, if not thrilling. We had lunch on the carrier, had a tour, observed a task force battle drill in progress, and then observed flight operations as F-18s, F-14s, and EA-6s were launched from the carrier. We then reboarded "our" C-2 for our own catapult-assisted launch off the deck (0 to 150mph in 2.5 seconds is an exhilarating experience, tempered by the 5 minutes of warnings about what to do if the ship landed in the water or broke apart on launch!), and a return to Norfolk. As a result of the landing/takeoff, all the members of the party were made "honorary tailhookers"; several of the group are still trying to decide if they are willing to admit to that.

August 7 saw us board an AF C-22 at Oceana NAS and fly to Pope AFB in North Carolina. We were met by Brig. General Dan McNeill of the XVIII Airborne, and escorted to Ft. Bragg. We spent the morning visiting the US Army special operations command. This included a briefing by several of the senior officers, a series of individual meetings and briefings with 82nd Airborne and Green Beret personnel, and a static display of special forces gear. Included were demos of special weapons, HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) paratroop gear, communications, medic gear (several of us were both fascinated and fearful of the field dentistry gear), civil support and psyops materials, and water assault gear. This was followed by a tour of the vertical wind tunnel at the Kennedy training center (for training paratroopers), and a tour of the general facilities at Ft. Bragg.

After lunch, we were given a command briefing on the mission and capabilities of the XVIII Airborne Corps. This was followed by a field display and demo by a long-range observation unit, a briefing on battlefield visualization and C3I, a demonstration of research into telemedicine, and a static display and briefing on the variety of helicopters used by the special forces in their work. This included an Apache, a Cobra, a Kiawa, and a Chinook. The day concluded with a formal dinner and entertainment hosted by Lt General John Keane, commander of Ft. Bragg and the XVIII Airborne, and attended by all (?) his senior staff (there were over 150 people present).

August 8 we traveled by C-22 to Cherry Point MCAS. There, we were given demos of the Stinger training simulator, and of the AV-8B (Harrier) and EA-6B (Prowler) training simulators. Following lunch, we were flown by Chinook helicopters to Camp Lejeune where we were met by Lt. General Charles Wilhelm, the commander of MARFORLANT (Marine Forces Atlantic). After we recovered our hearing, we received a briefing on the role and structure of the Marine Corps, we were treated to 3 full-scale demo scenarios of Marine operations that are normally only given to general officers and distinguished visitors. These included close-in air support from helicopters, Harriers, and F-18s, and practice rounds in all weapons. (Standing in the quiet only to have a Harrier swoop in and hover about 100 ft above your head while two helicopters sortie in with weapons support and Marines jumping out tends to wake one up rather quickly!)

Afterwards, we were also given a static display of some weapon systems, and spent time talking with line Marines about their equipment and training.

August 9 began with a briefing by Gen. Wilhelm of the Marines' CBIRF (chemical and biological incident response team) capabilities. This was followed by a visit to the infantry weapons training facility. There, we received demos and hands-on experience with the laser/computer training equipment for M-16, handgun, machine gun, and anti-armor weapon marksmanship. (Note: the best marksman I observed was also a company cook; the Marines probably don't complain about cooking much. As we later had lunch at the facility mess hall, and it was quite good, I suspect they wouldn't need to complain much, either. Also, I hit a 5 out of 5 with the M-16 on my second set of targets...I guess I could qualify as a cook?) After lunch we boarded a C-130 transport aircraft for our flight -- thru and around a building hurricane -- to Andros Island, the Bahamas.

August 10-11 was spent at the Atlantic Undersea Testing & Evaluation Center (AUTEC) located on Andros Island, Bahamas. This is situated to take advantage of an unusual artifact of underwater geography -- a deep ocean area known as the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO). Here, using a specially instrumented range and equipment, the Navy conducts various forms of deep-water tests, including submarine-antisubmarine warfare, and tests of new torpedos. We were given a tour of the facilities by CDR Dave Schmitz, base commander, and Dr. Richard Nadolink and Mr. Ted Athanasakes of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC). We were shown a replay of an actual sub exercise conducted at the facility prior to our visit. We then traveled about the base and visited several of the equipment and technical shops.

Sunday morning, Aug 11, contained some free time to sun on the beach and explore the mosquitos and "sea lice" in the water; many of us simply turned up the air conditioning and tried to catch up on sleep. In the afternoon we boarded "our" C-130 and flew to McDill AFB in Tampa, FL.

August 12 began with a briefing on the Special Operations Command by the DCINC/Chief of Staff of USSOCOM, Maj. General James McCombs, and by Gary Smith, the Special Operations Acquisition Executive for SOCOM. This was followed by several briefings on research, acquisitions and equipment developed for special operations forces (Airborne, Green Berets, SEALS, Delta Force, etc). They couldn't tell us much in the way of specifics because we didn't have a specific "need to know" but we heard enough to be glad SOCOM is on our side!

In the afternoon, we traveled to the headquarters of US CENTCOM (Central Command) where we received a series of briefings on mission, capabilities, and current situation. Briefers included General Binford Peay the CENTCOM CINC, and RADM Marfiak, the DCINC, and included issues of budget, intelligences, prepositioning, and technology challenges. After this, we boarded our C-130 for a flight to Jacksonville, FL, where we got to experience some spontaneous hospitality from the XO at the Jacksonville NAS -- a communication mixup caused us to land there instead of at the municipal airport, where planned. The poor XO there was told that a plane with 4 retired O-10s and 22 civilian DVs with O-9 standing was unexpectedly about to land at his field! (For the uninitiated, an O-10 is a 4-star general/admiral, and an O-9 is 3 stars -- our "courtesy rank.") No harm done, and we had an uneventful and relaxing bus ride to Kingsland, Georgia, although the XO was probably sweating bullets until we arrived safely!

August 13 we arrived at the Kings Bay Naval Station, home of Submarine Group 10 (the Atlantic Trident sub fleet). After a command briefing by RADM Charles Beers about the structure and mission of the base, capabilities of the submarines and the Trident missile, we visited the SWFLANT (Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic). There we were briefed on how contractors and the Navy personnel at the base assemble and service the Trident missiles for the subs. After the briefing we were given a bus tour of some parts of the base. During the bus tour we drove by several areas consisting of very large bunkers in largely empty fields, behind several high fences with lots of barbed wire, and several prominently positioned well-armed Marines with armored vehicles near by -- we were told these were areas we wouldn't be able to tour, and I don't think the group especially wanted to (draw your own conclusions -- I can neither confirm nor deny). We did, however, get to visit a missile assembly facility and observe portions of a Trident being assembled.

In the afternoon, we visited the crew training facility: a state-of-the art series of classrooms to train Trident crews. This included full-scale mock-ups (or actual duplicates) of diesel power plants, torpedo equipment, missile tubes and launch control, and of engineering and damage control spaces. The simulators can have various faults and failures injected to train and test crews in ways that could never be performed on a real sub; the simulator for fixing leaks at depth, for example, was a room full of pipes that could be flooded with dramatic "leaks" at hundreds of gallons per minute.

To close out our visit, we were taken to the USS Kentucky for a tour hosted by the "Gold" crew (Capt. Richard S. Stark). (Trident crews switch off for sea duty, with a "blue" crew alternating with a "gold" crew.) This included a simulated alert and missile launch, a tour of the bridge, a tour of crew living quarters, and a tour of engineering and the engine room -- something rarely done, even for VIPs, as this is a nuclear-powered sub. While on deck we saw a display of opening a missile hatch next to where we were standing (and closely watched by Marines with automatic shotguns) -- a close-up reminder of the reason for all this technology, and reinforcing the sobering realization that we were standing only a few feet above several hundred kilotons of destructive power.

We then went to the local airport and caught our flights for home.

Session IV was October 28-30, and was devoted to the intelligence community

Most of the briefings were of general programs, needs, and approximate capabilities. The exact nature of capabilities, limitations, and missions were not discussed with our group because few of the members had clearances at a high enough level for such specific details. Thus, many of the briefings consisted of vague descriptions that hinted at interesting research problems, but never actually got to describe them. There were some interesting topics discussed, however.

On October 28, we visited the headquarters of the CIA in Langley, VA. We received a short tour of some of the facilities, including various displays and memorials in the halls that are like a mini-museum, but which may never be available to the general public. Afterwards, we received briefings from many office directors in the Directorate of Science and Technology. This included discussions of technology trends and challenges.

During lunch we were joined by John Deutch, (then) Director of Central Intelligence. He spoke to us some about his vision of the role of the Agency, and the future role of technology in a changing world.

At the end of the day, we toured the portrait gallery and visited the exhibit center (museum), where we saw a fascinating set of displays of historical espionage equipment. We also got to visit the gift shop where many of us purchased official CIA coffee mugs, and some nostalgic T-shirts with the KGB emblem.

On October 29, we visited the Defense Intelligence Agency at Bolling Air Force Base. There, we received several wide-ranging briefings on the mission of the DIA and some recent areas of interest and concern. This included discussion of how briefing books and maps are assembled for various needs, the Joint Military Intelligence College, remote sensing, counter-terrorism, information warfare, missile proliferation and detection, acquisition, and crisis management.

On October 30, we visited the National Security Agency at Fort Meade. The day began with a briefing by Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, the director of the NSA. He spoke at length about the mission and history of the NSA, the impact that changing technologies are having on their abilities, and on the interface between technology and policy. I found his remarks on encryption restrictions of particular interest.

Next, we were presented with short briefings on technologies that are likely to be of interest to the NSA in the coming years. These included discussion of quantum computing, information warfare, signals and communications, microelectronics, and some other new technologies. There were also discussions about technology transfer and its effects on national security. During our working lunch, the chief scientist, my friend Brian Snow, presented us with a briefing on various trends in information security (both computing and communications), and the role of the NSA in securing those technologies for the government.

We then went to BWI airport, and on to home.

Session V was January 29-31, and covered (mostly) Congress and associated organizations, along with some special topics

On January 29, we met at IDA to discuss our individual impressions and findings to date. We then heard some short briefings on various topics, including a presentation on reduction of the nuclear weapons arsenals. Several former, very distinguished high-ranking political and military leaders have started a formal movement to eliminate nuclear weapons rather than simply reduce the stockpile. This group includes Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, one of the DSSG mentors, and he made the presentation to us.

We also had a presentation on how the Congressional Budget Office helps prepare the Federal Budget, and what some recent trends there suggest. We concluded the day's session by meeting with various IDA staffers and touring the IDA library.

On January 30, we traveled to the Capitol building. We had a breakfast briefing on how the Senate budget process works by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We also received briefings from several individuals with extensive experience based on their service as Congressional staffers, or as research assistants at government agencies. The perspective on the House's approach to budget was presented by Rep. Thomas Davis (R-VA) of the House Science Committee. Everyone involved enjoyed some lively discussion in Q&A about priorities for academia and research, the role of research in national defense, and the way budget priorities are set.

After lunch, we toured the Capitol building itself. We visited the rotunda, the old Senate and House chambers, the crypt, various statuary halls, and visited the new House chamber. (It was interesting to see the same room, about a week later, on TV during the State of the Union Address.) One of Rep. Davis's aides served as our tour guide, and she regaled us with various bits of history, trivia and gossip about the Capitol and its denizens (including a few ghosts).

After the tour, we received a briefing from General Joseph W. Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (this was before he sprang to prominence in the news for his non-military activities). He talked to us about how the military prepares its budget, sets priorities, and prepares background for the massive Federal budget for defense. After the General, we had other briefings from personnel with the Congressional Research Service (Library of Congress) and from Congressional staff about how our legislators are briefed about technology and budget issues. This was both enlightening and depressing -- it is clear that major decisions are made based on very cursory study by many of the parties involved: If the issues are too complex, they cannot be explained quickly enough to be considered by more than a few experts, and few of our elected representatives have the background (or time) to become expert in important areas.

That evening we had a reception and dinner with various IDA personnel, and personnel from many of the agencies we had visited. This included Dr. Anita Jones, (then) DDR&E at Scty. of Defense.

January 31 was devoted to briefings at IDA. These included some background on the studies and roles of groups such as the NRAC (Naval Research Advisory Council), and JASONs. After that, we received several briefings on a variety of topics. The two that were most interesting to me involved a discussion by T. M. Prociv, the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Matters; his title is almost as long as his talk was, on defenses to chem & bio warfare threats, particularly from terrorist organizations. The second talk was from George Ullrich, the Deputy Director of the Defense Special Weapons Agency. He showed how they used supercomputers to analyze the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudia Arabia to determine the weapon composition and defense measure against similar attacks.

After lunch, we received briefings on the Clinton Arms Control Agenda, and on modernization efforts in the military for the next century. Both of these covered material we had heard before, but it gave us an opportunity to ask questions about particular items. After that, we all left for home.

The two most memorable comments I recall during the three days (paraphrased): "We have to study so many things related to the Federal budget, it becomes impossible to understand the whole thing. Thus, any item in the budget under $500 million isn't really of concern -- it is noise." {stated by someone associated with Congress}

"The concern is not so much of trying to budget for and procure the best piece of equipment [for the military], but rather to find usable items that are produced in enough Congressional districts to be sure we'll get them." {from someone associated with creating the military budgets.}

A very educational 3 days. I found this especially helpful in preparing for my testimony before the House Subcommittee on Technology 2 weeks later....

Session VI was June 24-July 2 and confined mostly to the Washington DC area

Our goal was to work on our "think pieces" and avail ourselves of resources in the vicinity. There were some visits and demonstrations during this time, however.

June 24th was a day devoted to research and some bookkeeping duties.

On June 25, the group visited Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, MD where some presentations were made on the challenges of coping with the changing R&D industry in today's world. The group was scheduled to receive briefings from several VPs, and from the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine.

The afternoon of the 25th saw the group at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. There, the group got tours of the lab and microfactory devoted to night vision and sensor technology. This included some briefings on advanced technology for night vision technology.

On June 26th, the group again resumed their research studies at IDA, and at other DC-area locations. I visited the CIA and NSA to obtain information on my report.

On June 27th, the group traveled to Aberdeen, MD, to the Army's Test & Evaluation Center. There we received a number of briefings and demonstrations of how new material is tested, examined, and integrated into operational environments. This included a tour of various target simulation labs, instrumentation labs, and various field ranges where mobile artillery and tanks were tested. At lunch, we were treated to MREs (meals ready-to-eat) of various forms (most were better than we expected them to be, and perhaps better than what I have had on campus).

The high point of the 27th was visiting the test track. After several briefings on how vehicles are tested, on standards, and on human factors issues, we were allowed to test drive some of the equipment ourselves. This included an M2 Bradley, a HMMWV (Hummer), and an M1A2 Abrahms tank (I drove all of the above). The tank was surprisingly easy to operate and drive -- for a huge vehicle with treads and a 40+ mph top speed! (But it still drove like a tank.)

The remaining days of the session were spent visiting various topic experts and authorities. My visits included personnel in the Secretary of Defense's office at the Pentagon, DARPA, the FBI's CITAC and Computer Crime Lab, the CIA, the NSA, and some others. Others in the group also visited DoE headquarters, the Edgewood Arsenal, the Naval Research Laboratory, and other locations.

Session VII was held on August 11-19

This trip combined demonstrations, site visits, and further work on our study topics.

On August 11, we traveled to Barstow, CA. There we boarded UH-1 (Huey) helicopters for a 20-minute ride over portions of the Mojave Desert and into the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin. We received a tour of the Operations Center and saw technical demonstrations of the MILES II gear used in training. (MILES II is a systems of encoded laser sensors and transmitters that are mounted on vehicles and personnel. During "war games" the sensors detect if a target has been hit, and by what. This is transmitted to the operations center where a real-time running tally is kept by computer of the battle and its outcome.)

During the visit we also received a briefing on the OPFOR (Opposition Force) that trains at Ft. Irwin, and that challenges the visiting groups that train there. Afterwards, we returned to Barstow for an early turn-in.

We left Barstow at 4am on August 12 enroute to Ft. Irwin. During the drive we were treated to a spectacular view of a meteor shower over the desert.

After arriving at the NTC, we were given a short status briefing. Then we donned fatigues and helmets, and were driven into the desert in command HMMWVs. We took up position on a hill in the center of the forward battle area where we could observe the unfolding battalion-level wargame. Action was narrated to us by staff officers and by Brig. General Dean Cash, the commander of the NTC. We observed several company-level forays, and operations by competing air units. Then, action unfolded around us as an OPFOR tank took out two Blue Force Bradleys within 100 yds of us (using our hill as cover), followed by a Blue Force infantry squad destroying the OPFOR tank.

When OPFOR managed a run around the remaining Blue forces and cut them to pieces (I seem to remember a figure such as only 6 functional tanks left out of 91 vehicles) we returned to the operation center for a final briefing on what we had seen unfold. We then left by bus for Las Vegas, and then by air to Albuquerque, NM.

August 13 we were hosted at Sandia National Labs. We received a briefing from the director of the lab on the mission and history of Sandia, and on the Stockpile Stewardship program. We also received briefings on the ASCI supercomputer initiative, on robotics research, on synthetic aperture radar, and on large-scale simulations. One of the most interesting (to me) lectures and tours was of the "Z-pinch accelerator," a building-sized set of capacitors designed to discharge nearly 2 megajoules of energy via a special set-up to produce incredible X-ray intensity. This is being used in research and as a prelude to controlled fusion research. We were also given a tour of the micromachine laboratory and chip works where interesting work is being done on micromachines (e.g., gears and motors of 50 micron size).

Our visit to Sandia closed with a tour of the (public) National Atomic Museum. This is an oddly fascinating museum about the history of nuclear weapons and power in the US. Included are a number of bomb casings from actual weapons, along with historical and technical data. After the tour, we drove to Los Alamos.

August 14 was spent at Los Alamos National Labs. The day began with an overview and lecture by the lab director, Sig Hecker, and followed by an overview by Walt Kirchner of DoD-related work at LANL. Following that, we were given an introduction to the facilities at the lab that we would use during the rest of the stay. Then in two groups, we were given tours of the "Blue Room"; we all had to get special authorization from the Secretary of Energy for the tour. The room is a vault that contains cutaway, full-sized, mock-up, hands-on models of warheads that have been produced at LANL over the years. The collection included everything from the "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima to the W88, which is the most recent weapon to be stockpiled in the U.S. arsenal. Our tour guide was a retiree who had actually worked on the items from the days of the Manhattan Project onwards. The technology was fascinating, if we could avoid thinking about some of the (potential) context. On our way out we were advised to wash our hands throughly, several times, as the models we were handling contained depleted uranium for "effect" and we undoubtedly had some on our hands. There was some line at the sinks!

August 15-19 was spent working on our "think pieces" and meeting with people at LANL (and Sandia) who might have something to contribute to our areas of interest. I met with several people, including a few division directors. I received a tour of the computing and networks facilities, including the ASCI room. We also spent a little time to visit Santa Fe and several area restaurants, and the Bradbury Museum in town (the museum of the Manhattan Project and LANL).

Session VIII (the final session) was held November 17-19 at IDA in Alexandria, VA

This was the wrap-up session, and the one where we presented the briefings on our study topics. It was also an opportunity to hear about various science advisory boards in DoD with which we might possibly be involved in future years.

November 17 began with talks on the structure and recent studies of three advisory boards, with each presentation being made by each board's chair: Delores Etter talked about the Naval Research Advisory Committee, Craig Fields talked about the Defense Science Board, and William Press talked about the JASONs. The scope of the studies proved quite interesting, and led to many questions.

The remainder of the day was filled with members of the DSSG presenting their think pieces. One was on potential uses of nanotechnology, and the remainder were devoted to problems concerning nuclear stockpile stewardship, and countering threats of chemical and biological weapons. The day's session concluded with a presentation by Lawrence Dubois, the director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office on the relationship between DARPA and universities. His talk elicited a few interesting questions from the audience, including some animated comments about problems with DARPA and/or selected program managers. This carried on into a reception and banquet held at IDA for the DSSG participants, mentors, and visitors.

November 18 began with a briefing about the Naval Studies Board by its chair David Heebner. We then carried on into three presentations on computers and networking by DSSG members; interestingly, the three independently-developed briefings all made mention of the dangers involved in the growing use of COTS products within the government. We also heard briefings on micro air vehicles, low frequency sonar, space weather effects on communications, and submarine defense methods. There was also a presentation on how Congress might better avail itself of scientific advice, and how as scientists we might facilitate that process.

November 19 began with some comments from DSSG mentors on the role of science and technology in the military and civilian sectors. That was then followed by a panel presentation and discussion about DoD advisory boards. Personnel from executive staff or board leadership were present from the Defense Science Board, Naval Studies Board, Air Force Science Advisory Board, JASON, Naval Research Advisory Council, and the Army Science Board. These groups range in size between 15 and 100 scientists and technologists from the private sector who conduct studies on DoD-related problems, usually during the summer. We had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss a number of issues with these representatives, including what role we might play in future studies.

The session concluded with Gen. Larry Welch's presentation of our "graduation" certificates to the DSSG members, and a discussion about our role as DSSG alumni in future studies and efforts. Then, we had lunch, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. Several of us still need to finish writing our final papers before we are finally done, but this should occur before the end of the year.

My personal summary

It has been a fascinating two year experience. I was not sure what I expected when I agreed to join the program, and now that it is done, I am not sure I can describe all that I experienced! Perhaps the best I can do is comment on a few points that stand out right now as I think back on the things I saw and did:

I got much more out of the DSSG than I expressed above. It was a really worthwhile experience, and I would recommend it to many (but not all) of my academic peers who might be in a position to participate.

I think the most valuable part of the experience was the people. I got to meet and talk with some wonderful people associated with the various agencies, boards, and service branches. I also got to spend time with some very dedicated and good-natured people who work at IDA.

But by far, the best part was spending time with the other DSSG members. I would even pay to do that again. The other people in the group were bright, motivated, and almost always cheerful. They volunteered time to explain things to me from their disciplines, and often helped me get flashes of insight into the nature of their research. I often felt out of place talking to them, and a little embarassed at how (of necessity) my specialization is somewhat imprecise compared to the formulas and logic of chemistry, physics and biology. I made some friends with these people who I am sure will be major lights in their respective fields in the years to come (assuming they recover from the forced association with me. :-)

Seriously, I am at heart a polymath. Meanwhile, the academic profession requires depth and specialization in a single area. Thus, it was wonderful to be thrown in with a group of enthusiastic and personable geniuses across the breadth of the sciences, and be able to listen to their inquiries, hear about their research, and to ask (sometimes dumb) questions.

I gained a great sense of pride and confidence in our military during this experience. I gained the same feelings about our academic and research system from associating with my DSSG peers. Either would have justified the whole investment of time for me. And if, at some time in the future, I am asked to serve in an advisory role where I get to work with members of either group, I will certainly agree to do so. And that, I suspect, helps make the DSSG experience worthwhile to IDA and DARPA.

Think Piece

My "think piece" for the DSSG was on the dangers of using COTS products in security-sensitive situations. I wrote this in the summer and fall of 1997; it is quite interesting to read it now.


The above account of my DSSG experience was written in 1997. As of 2011, I have been involved in several government-related activities (listed in the first sectgion), and I believe the DSSG experience has really contributed to my understanding and effectiveness in those activities.

I have nominated several colleagues for the DSSG and several have been accepted. One of them, Annie Antón, kept a log at my suggestion and has put it online. She was a member of the DSSG IX in 2004-2005.

Updated: 06/11/14

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