Navy creates a 'safe space' for cyber innovation

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Rapid Innovation Center provides the military with sandboxes to test and develop new devices without fear of compromising network systems -- and the "brain space" to explore those ideas.

With security threats to virtually every aspect of government operations, cyber warriors and technology developers need safe spaces to practice and develop tools without compromising existing networks.  That’s where the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Rapid Innovation Center comes in.  RIC was designed to be a sandbox where devices, programs and innovative ideas can be tested at a safe remove from the rest of the warfare center, RIC innovation lead Steve O’Grady told GCN. 

By emptying an old storage facility that housed spare parts for submarines in Newport, R.I., the Naval Undersea Warfare Center freed up 3,200 square feet of space for the RIC. Navy officials visited Google and other companies using sandboxes to get a feel for how to shape the new innovation center. 

RIC takes advantage of what O’Grady called slack-hacks, time apart from their daily jobs when warfare center employees can work on real-world scenario that keep four-star admirals up at night.  This creative time was made popular by Google, which gave employees about 20 percent of their time to work on a passion project with 80 percent of the day devoted to daily business tasks. 

In addition to providing a safe space for teams and individuals to work on problems, RIC has hosted a number of innovation events where participants solved technology challenges.  While the solutions developed at the RIC are not necessarily becoming programs of record in the near term or getting to the hands of warfighters in an operational sense – something O’Grady described as “probably our greatest challenge” – many of the presentations from the hackathons are sent off to directorates better suited to develop them.  RIC’s goal is to come up with a basic idea that can be passed on to other parts of the military with the expertise that maybe can develop a prototype, O’Grady said. 

The RIC is available to individuals and teams from elsewhere in the military to brainstorm and think outside the box, O’Grady said.   

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