Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. Ukraine. The South China Sea. Spin a globe these days, put your finger down, and you’ll likely touch on a headache — or outright failure — for America’s military, intelligence and diplomatic establishment.
Such troubles may not be on everybody’s mind in Washington this week as the presidential inauguration takes center stage. Yet in the shadows of the pomp, leading defense and technology thinkers will meet for three days at Georgetown University, determined to bring a new, innovative approach to dire national security problems.
The Trump administration would do well to pay attention.
At Georgetown, educators from six schools, policymakers from 15 government agencies, and executives from nine companies will gather to learn how to teach a new class that challenges students to quickly solve defense problems. They’ll learn a tool kit called the Lean Startup that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs use to figure out how to build successful businesses, in order to solve hard national security problems.
This class, Hacking for Defense, was developed with the Pentagon and pioneered at Stanford University last spring. In 10 weeks, student teams devised ideas to solve challenges such as improving the effectiveness of Navy Seal divers via geolocation, and automatically detecting humans on battlefield drone feeds. Four of the eight teams continued their projects after the course ended. Two received direct government support.