Contributing to Intelligence Innovation

Below are two ways to contribute to innovation in government, and specifically in intelligence matters. One is for you to consider, the other is a fun new path for me.

This week saw the second annual Government 2.0 Summit in Washington DC, organized by friends Tim O’Reilly and Dick O’Neill; the presentations and many interviews have been posted here.  One of the neat announcements from the conference was the launch of, a federal effort to use prize-awarding challenges to spur innovation in government. As its mission statement states, “ is an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in partnership with ChallengePost that empowers the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges.”

One Way You Can Contribute to Innovation

I’ll give an example from among the 36 listed on the site, contributed by 16 departments and agencies: the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, proposed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory-Simulation and Training Technology Center and aimed at eliciting new methods of training and analysis using virtual environments and artificial intelligence – training suitable for Army intelligence and for general Army missions. Here’s a summary by SIGNAL Magazine’s Rachel Eisenhower, and if it rings any bells for you I hope you’ll follow this link and contribute your ideas:

This challenge is open to all contestants worldwide, and winners receive cash prizes and a trip to the GameTech Conference in Orlando, Florida, where their entries will be showcased. Submissions will be accepted through December 6, 2010. Tami Griffith, science and technology manager, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Simulation and Training Technology Center, leads the Virtual Worlds challenge and calls herself a big fan of innovation incentive programs. People are naturally inclined to give their two cents when it comes to cutting-edge topics, says Griffith, and is a way to optimize advancements in virtual technology. The Army hopes to find solutions for training and analysis like intelligent conversational bots and programs with adjusted learning capabilities that modify based on the speed of the learner, she explains.” – SIGNAL Online, “Government Seeks Change through Challenges” 9/9/2010

And by the way if you’re not already a reader of it, SIGNAL Magazine is published by AFCEA International and covers C4ISR, information security, intelligence, R&D, electronics, and homeland security topics. If you’re not familiar with AFCEA (the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, see it on Wikipedia or its own site at, it is a highly-regarded non-profit association representing military, government, industry, and academic interests as “an ethical forum for advancing professional knowledge and relationships in the fields of communications, information technology, intelligence, and global security.” It has been around since 1946, now with tens of thousands of individual and corporate members in over 140 chapters around the world. Besides SIGNAL Magazine, the group has been getting very proficient at social media – see its Flickr photostream or its three-year-old LinkedIn group for example.

One More Way I will be Contributing

I was honored today to be elected to a four-year term on AFCEA’s Intelligence Committee, a prestigious collection of some of the smartest minds in that field. I was tempted to respond with William F. Buckley’s great line from his quixotic and unsuccessful Mayoral campaign in New York City in 1965, when he was asked what his first act would be if elected: “Demand a recount!”

But in truth I am happy to join this group (see a list of current members here), and plan to participate fully in the Committee’s efforts to improve government’s performance in intelligence, with the best thinking that the private sector and academia have to offer. As a way of exemplifying their value, here’s a list of some recent white papers published by the AFCEA Intelligence Committee:

You’ll notice that AFCEA lives up to the participatory creed in publishing these white papers, by offering a feedback survey mechanism and running comments blog on each. It also publishes several specialized intelligence blogs by good friends and longtime intell hands Bob Gourley and Joe Mazzafro.

If you study the white papers and AFCEA’s conferences, I believe you’ll be able to see why the U.S. and international governments consider AFCEA such a critical partner in driving innovation, not only in intelligence but in the broader national security realm as well. I’m excited about playing a more direct role for the next few years and eager to start.

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9 Responses

  1. Congrats, Lew! Thanks for the posting. There always remains an opportunity to assist the IC with innovation. The challenge (no pun intended) is knowing where and with whom an innovative idea should be placed to do the most good.

    I am excited that the GSA Challenge program has gotten off the ground. I think it could be a powerful way to tap the unique and extraordinary talents of many diverse sources.


  2. Couldn’t agree more, Brian, and thanks. I hope to see you providing new ideas – and of course I know you’ll be doing the hard work to turn ideas into action, you always have. Thanks for reading -lewis


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