Auburn University Program Trains Future National Security Analysts - InformationWeek

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7/23/2013
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Auburn University Program Trains Future National Security Analysts

Auburn University and Intelligent Software Solutions partnership enables students to learn by providing data analysis services to the U.S. government.

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Students at Auburn University will have an opportunity to learn data analytics in the context of national security.

A recently announced partnership between Intelligent Software Solutions (ISS) and Auburn University will be co-managed by ISS's Strategic Initiatives division and the Office of the VP for Research at Auburn.

ISS products are used by the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, intelligence organizations and international governments. The company specializes in open software design, intelligence gathering and analysis, which helps clients access and analyze information to best make critical decisions.

Auburn, a public university in Auburn, Ala., with more than 25,000 students, has proven to be on the cutting edge of technology with its Cyber Research Center (CRC) and cyber programs. The CRC focuses on modeling and simulation, information technology, cyber forensics and cyber risk analysis.

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The CRC has worked with the government in the past. In a project for the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint-IED Defeat Organization (JIDDEO), the CRC provided a framework that the military could use to train combat medics, via a computer workstation, to treat injuries, particularly those caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), around the world.

While many students in the CRC are computer or data science majors, participants come from all corners of academia. "We try to take an interdisciplinary approach," said (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, senior counsel at Auburn University for national security programs, cyber programs and military affairs, in an interview. Regardless of their chosen field, students benefit from a general understanding of data.

Participants in the Auburn and ISS partnership will take on unique projects that have real-world application. Kent Bimson, chief scientist and head of ISS's Small Business and University Technology Transition Partnership Program, said in a statement, "The winners in the end are the students who leave Auburn with deeper knowledge of data analysis, and of course our public safety and military agencies charged with protecting U.S. citizens." Students must sign a non-disclosure agreement before beginning government work, Burgess said.

Open source intelligence analysis will be a key focus of the partnership. Auburn students and faculty will work with ISS's Web Enabled Temporal Analysis System (WebTAS), the company's software toolkit for data analysis. The system provides search, visualization, analysis and collaboration capabilities, which participants will use as they engage in industry research and development.

The partnership should allow students to claim unique, real-world skills of testing the newest technologies while confronting national security issues.

ISS will also benefit. "It's actually a good thing for business and academia to partner," said Burgess. "It benefits both sides: Those that are practitioners and those that can take a concept, expand it and make it better," he explained.

ISS stands to gain from the partnership because of students' curiosity and inclination to stretch boundaries and test systems to discover what does and does not work. These characteristics should help students test software and identify flaws, which ISS can then use to strengthen their products.

Burgess anticipates that business-academic partnerships will gain popularity in the future. After all, such initiatives can be applied not only to open source intelligence, but to most areas of academia. "I see it growing more than just [at] Auburn, and I see other schools taking an interest in this," he predicted.

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