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Big Ideas Exchange seeks tactical edge to address Marine Corps challenges

Big Ideas Exchange seeks tactical edge to address Marine Corps challenges

The U.S. Marine Corps at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted the university’s latest Big Idea Exchange (BIX) presenting and discussing their cutting-edge research and ideas with a greater Navy and Marine Corps audience, May 16. The BIX forum brings forward new and potentially game-changing thinking developed by NPS faculty and students to address grand challenges in American national security.

“The Big Ideas Exchange is the forum to connect our research to the decision makers,” said Col. Todd Lyons, NPS Senior Marine Corps Representative and Associate Dean of Research. “This forum really allows our students to tailor the hundreds of pages of work they're doing down to a digestible format in which they can communicate effectively. It's critical that our ideas don't just stay inside the halls here at Monterey, but rather head out to the fleet where they can impact the greater Navy and Marine Corps.”

The central theme for the Marine Corps-centric BIX was “Empowering commanders at the tactical edge.” Brig. Gen. William J. Bowers, President of Marine Corps University, and NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau attended the students’ presentations and engaged with the participants on their ideas.

Students presented research that examined several diverse areas including how the weight of a combat load impacts the survivability of the warfighter, the use of block chain to improve logistics, and the use of a rocket delivered communications relay.

Marine Corps Capt. Brittany Snelgrove, a student from the NPS Department of Computer Science, looked at utilizing blockchain technology to speed up and improve logistical systems operations.

“I am a logistics officer by trade, and throughout my career I’ve been curious how we can improve connecting and authenticating logistical systems users to better distribute our supplies,” said Snelgrove.
“Marines are distributed across the world, and blockchain will help ease the pressure of a system with distributed connectivity to help get Marines the supplies they need when they need them.”

Also presenting was Capt. Sean Noll, a student from the Defense Analysis department, whose presentation, entitled “Gospel, Opinions and Data,” focused on leveraging data to make better decisions regarding training and equipping Marines.

“We live in a day and age where we can collect and use more amounts of data than previous generations,” said Noll. “Using that data in our decision-making process on how we train, man and equip our force can now provide a better foundation than the foundation that used to be based on just opinions or observations.”

According to Noll, much of his work was based on his own personal experience as an Infantry officer.

“It is a real a real eye-opener when you compare how decisions are made out in the fleet, and then see the vast array of things that you can collect data in which I previously had no reference,” said Noll. “That led me in the direction to take that data and apply it in a way that improves decision making in warfighting and lethality, as well as the changes we're making within the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps.”

Noll expressed that not only was the presentation a good idea to explore concepts, but it was also essential to sharpening his thesis research, as it helped him challenge his current viewpoints and refine his arguments.

“This presentation helped guide my thesis by forcing me to dive into some opposing viewpoints on the information in my research.”

According to Lyons, students who fielded questions about their projects provided an invaluable opportunity to help solidify and test their ideas.

“The incredibly positive reception from the audience and the insightful questions they asked really extended the knowledge of the presentation to the next step and question of ‘how do I do more?’” said Lyons. “This collaboration elicits passion for both the chance at future work, but also the opportunity from General Bowers and from President Rondeau to do something about it now, and that’s really where the rubber meets the road.”

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