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MITRE in the News - 2009
The VVA Veteran
Article Title: "Suits for Vets: A New Outfit for Disabled Veterans"
"...Word of the new program, dubbed 'Suits for Vets,' spread throughout the company thanks in part to several mentions in the company's internal newsletter, 'MITRE Matters.' Soon collections were organized at company holiday parties and before Memorial and Veterans Day. Such projects are not unusual at MITRE. The company always has encouraged employees to participate in civic and community affairs, granting paid time off to its employees to support involvement in the community..."
Homeland Security Today
Article Title: "Preventing Synthetic Pathogens from Getting into the Wrong Hands"
It is now possible to synthesize select controlled biological agencies, a field known as synthetic genomics. "The emergence of this field is driven by recent advances in the underlying technology of commercial DNA synthesis that allow biologists to produce and assemble segments of DNA quickly and cheaply with almost perfect accuracy," wrote MITRE lead artificial intelligence engineer John Dileo. [see "Synthetic Genomics: Microfactories Made to Order"]
"While the synthesis of small segments of DNA has been possible for two decades, the use of these early techniques to produce a genome (the complete blueprint, in the form of DNA, for the construction of an organism) would have required years of work and been prohibitively expensive," Dileo continued. But today "DNA production and assembly techniques have advanced to the point that a medium-sized virus can now be constructed in weeks. In addition, these improvements have led to a rapid increase in the number of companies that offer whole gene synthesis. The resulting competition has lowered prices to within the budgets of most researchers."
The Department of Health and Human Services recently imposed guidelines on the synthetic genomic industry that outline steps for companies to screen for suspicious orders for customized DNA sequencing as a result of post-9/11 concerns over bioterrorism.
AFCEA's Signal Online
Article Title: "Communications Convergence Breeds Opportunities"
After decades of creating information technology tools, the U.S. military is now focusing on convergence. This and related themes emerged during the recent MILCOM 2009 conference: acquisition challenges, financial constraints, power to the tactical edge. Participants at the conference, which took place in Boston from October 19-21, shared their insights into present conditions and their visions of the future. Richard J. Byrne, president, command and control center, The MITRE Corporation, explained complexity theory and how it applies to communication systems and their acquisition. His premise is that the individual components of complex systems create emergent behavior, which comprises cooperating, repeating and responding to results that result in unpredictable behavior.
It is because of this unpredictability that procurement officials must be willing to accept less than 100 percent solutions, Byrne said. He pointed out that this already is taking place in current theaters of operation. At least 60 percent of the solutions the U.S. Army is using are not part of programs of record, he said. Information technology professionals and procurement officers must think outside the box when developing and purchasing systems for the military, Byrne maintained, keeping in mind that each system brings unique solutions and problems into the mix.
Article Title: "Engineering a New Business"
As the market for DNA on demand continues to grow, increases in the scale and efficiency of new genome engineering approaches promise to accelerate product discovery and even open up new commercial opportunities. A congruence of innovation in the fields of microfluidics, miniaturization, automation and DNA synthesis, assembly and sequencing promises to provide new capabilities to companies focused on engineering innovative new products for pharmaceuticals, bioenergy, agriculture and beyond.
Three broad classes of companies are emerging. First, many companies are making DNA parts for sale as reagents to academia and industry. The majority of these companies manufacture synthetic oligonucleotides (or oligos), but some are specializing in larger assemblies, even complete synthetic genes. In recent years, the synthetic oligo market has continued to grow.
The difficulty comes in identifying potentially dangerous sequences. This would require an inclusive, constantly updated list. Another problem is that one can create a dangerous agent starting with a set of short oligos, ordered from different companies, according to John Dileo, lead scientist at The MITRE Corporation. To make it harder to accomplish such a task, Dileo and James Diggans, group leader for computational biology at MITRE, developed the DNA order tracking system (DOTS). This software would gather oligo orders from companies to see if any sequences could be combined to make something illegal or dangerous. "Long genes can be screened relatively easily," says Diggans. "The harder part comes with short oligos."
So far, DOTS works in simulated runs at MITRE. To work in the real world, though, all synthetic-oligo companies would have to submit each order they receive to a general database. But Diggans says, "There is a lot of concern about the centralization of orders, because of confidentiality with customers." As a next step, MITRE will try out its software in field tests.
Article Title: "AAAE, FAA and MITRE Corp. Convene First Runway Safety Conference"
The Federal Aviation Administration, in cooperation with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and MITRE Corp., held the first International Runway Safety Conference December 1-3, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The "Taxiing Toward Tomorrow" event focused on the reduction and eventual elimination of runway incursions and excursions. The event brought together members of the safety community and a cross-section of key industry stakeholders to work towards solving one of aviation's most serious problems. While the vast majority of runway incursions do not result in accidents, they point to a risk in the system that needs to be addressed immediately. The FAA and the aviation industry are committed to finding the most effective ways to eliminate these incidents. The conference agenda included discussions and reviews of runway safety's most critical issues, including human factors, airport layouts, technology, cockpit and air traffic control procedures and safety management systems. Panels assessed runway safety progress to date, initiatives underway, and plans being made for future environments in the U.S. and around the world.
Baltimore Business Journal
Article Title: "MITRE Corp. Opens New Anne Arundel Office as Part of BRAC Expansion"
MITRE Corp. recently celebrated the opening of its newest office in Anne Arundel County, Md., becoming one of the largest companies to expand in the area as part of the Pentagon's military realignment plan. The Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va.-based firm, which operates Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, leased 73,000 square feet in a new office building at the National Business Park, opening the high-tech center with about 80 employees initially, MITRE CEO Al Grasso said. That number could double in the coming years as the company shifts workers from Northern Virginia. MITRE works with several government agencies at Fort George G. Meade and needed space as close as possible to that military base, Grasso said. "The closer we are the better we are, and this is as close as it gets," Grasso told the newspaper.
The Colorado Springs Business Journal
Article Title: "Back in Black"
Air Force Academy researchers are working with MITRE to create a more efficient, cost-effective way of making black silicon, a material that is used to absorb light in solar photovoltaic cells, cameras and night vision goggles. Black silicon is created when silicon is immersed in sulfur hexafluoride and hit with a high-intensity laser beam. Harvard researchers stumbled on the substance about a decade ago and licensed the patents for its production to Massachusetts-based Sionyx Corp.
However, no one has discovered a way to efficiently create the substance in large quantities. That's why the academy and MITRE are working together to improve the process. The joint project began six months ago, using a different laser to determine if the light spectrum absorbed by black silicon can be increased.
"We're hoping the technology will allow the silicon to work better, to create more electricity, to absorb more light even in the infrared," said Jody Mandeville, a researcher with MITRE. "We've known that this happens for a while, for more than a decade, but we're trying to understand why it happens and to see if we can make it happen in a more efficient way."
Article Title: "Cultivating STEM Fields: Nurturing Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics"
NACE Journal Associate Editor Pattie Giordani wrote an overview article on how companies are involving themselves in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields at both student and teacher level. MITRE was featured extensively: Don Landing for his overall effort as MITRE's STEM Coordinator, Jessica Yu for her work in the college recruiting and internship programs, Suzanne Kearns for her involvement in the LIFT 2 program for teachers, Bobby Blount for his leadership of the annual Texas Solar Race Car event, and James Ellenbogen, for his mentorship of the MITRE Student Program in general, and students' interface with nanotechnology in particular.
The Maryland Daily Record, Baltimore
Article Title: "Maryland Prepared for BRAC Families"
In this article, MITRE's director of strategic initiatives for the Army Systems Division, Danny DeMarinis, discusses his move to Maryland so he can work more closely with a MITRE sponsor as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). DeMarinis also tells the newspaper about efforts by the state of Maryland to reach out to new BRAC residents, many of whom work in organizations that support military sponsors.
Journal of Biomedical Informatics
Article Title: "Cloud Computing: A New Business Paradigm for Biomedical Information Sharing"
MITRE authors Arnon Rosenthal, Peter Mork, Maya Hao Li, Jean Stanford, David Koester, and Patti Reynolds examine how the biomedical informatics (BMI) community can take advantage of cloud computing resources. The authors conclude that substantial economies of scale potentially yield costs much lower than dedicated laboratory systems or even institutional data centers, and they maintain that clouds belong on the list of approaches to be seriously considered for BMI. The article presents an analysis of the plausibility of various cloud vendors' claims regarding cloud computing resources. Rather than listing the absolute strengths and weaknesses of cloud-based systems (such as for security or data preservation), the article focuses on the changes from a particular starting point, such as individual lab systems.
Article Title: "Interplanetary Internet Tested"
The many paths a message can take through the Internet make that network robust and efficient—and the envy of those whose job it is to design communications schemes for the far-flung spacecraft leaving Earth each year. After more than a decade of development, NASA is in a rush to have a communications network ready by 2011 that can efficiently carry data between Earth and the multiple probes, rovers, orbiters, and spacecraft exploring the solar system—effectively binding them together to form an interplanetary Internet. Tests performed on the International Space Station last May were the second of three tryouts of the network's key technologies, called Delay Tolerant Networking, or DTN, protocols. MITRE principal engineer Keith Scott chairs a working group at the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, an international organization that recommends standards for spacecraft communications. They are considering adopting DTN. Then, mission by mission, a network would grow, weaving an interconnected Web between the planets, the space station, and spacecraft.
Article Title: "Project Whirlwind Comes Home"
The Project Whirlwind Computer collection—a compilation of pioneering digital computing research conducted at MIT in the 1940s and 1950s—has been transferred back to MIT from The MITRE Corporation, and its contents are being opened to the public for the first time. In operation until 1959, Whirlwind laid the foundation for simulation and real-time technology and formed the basis for the U.S. Air Force's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system. MITRE was incorporated in 1958, one month following the installation of the first of 23 national SAGE centers, to provide systems engineering and ongoing support for SAGE.
Government Health IT
Article Title: "Keep an Open Mind: Public Health Agencies Consider Open Source Software to Reduce Costs Without Sacrificing Features"
Public health departments across America are taking a closer look at open source IT software for its time and cost savings benefits, as well as adaptability. While open source can lower costs, users might have to purchase commercial support and maintenance. "The total cost of ownership is a key issue," said Harry Sleeper, an open source expert at MITRE, where an electronic health record testing tool was developed. Sleeper, who has been advancing services and applications using Java and Ruby on Rails (a Web application development framework) for the past five years, said even with commercial support, the cost of open source health IT will be lower than comparable proprietary systems.
MIT Technology Review
Article Title: "Detecting Aircraft Pathogens Before It's Too Late"
Carrying millions of passengers each year, commercial airlines are vulnerable to biological contamination, making the rapid spread of disease a real threat. Researchers at MITRE have conducted a study that, for the first time, looks at the particle distribution of exhaled breath to better understand how airborne pathogens spread in aircraft cabins—and how best to detect the particles that may carry viruses. "If you want to detect infectious viruses from exhaled breath, you need a biosensor with single particle detection," says Grace Hwang, principal investigator of the study and a lead biosensors scientist at MITRE. "Our goal is to capture the infected cases coming into the U.S. before people are symptomatic," says Hwang. "That will buy time to defend against a pandemic spread, and the economic benefits would be enormous." To conduct the study, MITRE researchers used a computational fluid dynamics model to investigate the extreme coughing and sneezing situations of passengers. They determined that ultrasensitive biosensors are necessary to detect the presence of viruses.
Article Title: "Science of Success"
Virginia high school senior Narendra Tallapragada began working as a paid employee at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Va., two years ago, during the summers after his sophomore and junior years. He became interested in the subject of materials structure and composition, and that project, with assistance from MITRE mentors, evolved into an award-winning entry at the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search. Out of 1,600 entries, Tallapragada's placed fourth. The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology senior is savoring his scholarship prize, and is leaning towards attending MIT as a double major in physics and electrical engineering.
Article Title: "Bedford Shows Strong Support for Dollars for Scholars Phone-a-thon"
On February 28 and March 1, The MITRE Corporation in Bedford, Mass., hosted the local chapter of the Citizens Scholarship Foundation in a telephone fund drive to raise scholarship money for Bedford High School seniors planning to attend college or technical training. More than 2,300 Bedford and Hanscom Air Force Base community residents were reached via phone by 112 Bedford High School students located at the MITRE campus, in an effort that raised a record $35,250. Scholarships will be awarded at a reception in May.
Article Title: "Information Technology Acquisition: A Common-Sense Approach"
Al Grasso, president and CEO of The MITRE Corporation, wrote an article published in the spring edition of Defense AT&L. The article discusses the realities and complexities of large-scale IT acquisition against the backdrop of rapidly evolving technology, business processes that are increasingly interconnected within and across federal agencies, and fiscal and human resource constraints. Grasso pinpoints three critical challenges to successful IT acquisition: governance (place emphasis on consistent management, cohesive policies and processes, and decision rights for a given area of responsibility), requirements management (invest sufficient resources in the requirements and concept definition phase), and program management practices (successful programs have a technically strong government program management office). He offers four ways to improve the process: focus oversight on best practices, take a portfolio approach to IT program management, attract and retain critical government professionals, and strengthen program management offices.
U.S Department of Homeland Security
Article Title: "DHS Science & Technology Directorate Establishes Two New Federally Funded Research & Development Centers"
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate recently announced the formation of the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI) and the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HS SEDI™). The MITRE Corporation will operate the HS SEDI federally funded research and development center, which will "provide advice on concept evolution, development integration, best practices in lifecycle systems engineering and management, and program-level technical and integration expertise across the homeland security enterprise."
The Wall Street Journal
Article Title: "SEC Moves to Review Whistleblower Complaints, Enforcement Tips"
The Securities and Exchange Commission has partnered with The MITRE Corporation to conduct a comprehensive review of how the agency processes tips and complaints from investors and whistleblowers. SEC chairman Mary Schapiro announced this move to strengthen the SEC's enforcement division following charges filed against financier Bernard Madoff.
Article Title: "Defense Industry Underscores Commitment to TM Forum Standards"
The TM Forum—the world's leading trade consortium focused on business effectiveness for the communications, media, and defense sectors—and The MITRE Corporation recently co-hosted a defense industry meeting to examine the role of TM standards in managing defense networks. Held at MITRE's McLean, Va., offices, the gathering marked a significant step in the development of the Forum's Defense Interest Group, which focuses on enabling collaboration between key players to adapt TM Forum standards and best practices for the defense industry, allowing service providers, product vendors, and system integrators to best meet the needs of government defense departments, including the U.S. Department of Defense and NATO. "As part of its industry outreach, collaboration, and information sharing efforts on behalf of our DoD sponsors, MITRE was delighted to host this event," said principal systems information engineer Bob Natale, co-chair of the Defense Interest Group, formed in June 2008. The milestone meeting included more than 80 attendees representing 35 companies.
Article Title: "Key to Eliminating U.S. Flight Delays? Redesign the Sky Over New York City"
The MITRE Corporation, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, is helping improve the flow of traffic in New York's ever-crowded airspace. The long-term plan—the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign—aims to make the airspace more efficient and flexible, decreasing delays due to the more than two million flights that pass over the city each year. With a third of all commercial flights in the U.S. affected by New York airspace, local delays contribute to delays across the country. Joe Hoffman, simulation modeling engineer, and his colleagues have been redrawing the "map of the roadways in the sky" over the metropolitan area's three busiest airports—John F. Kennedy, Newark, and LaGuardia—for maximum efficiency. Using MITRE's Air Traffic Management Laboratory, the group has been working closely with air traffic controllers to test various solutions to shave several seconds off of each flight, which will ultimately lead to hours of time saved in the aggregate. The redesign entails adding new arrival posts, departure gates, takeoff headings (similar to streets leading up to the intercity highways), and "expanding the low-altitude zone in which all arriving and departing aircraft fly." The FAA started implementing the new takeoff headings in December 2007. It plans to have the full strategy in place by 2012. By then, the FAA hopes to have reduced delays in New York by an average of three minutes per flight.
Best Practices in HR
Article Title: "Company Fulfills Resolution to Promote Healthy Lifestyles All Year"
The MITRE Corporation's Embrace Your Health (EYH) initiative—an award-winning program that promotes physical activity, good nutrition, and work-life solutions—was recently featured in Best Practices in HR. The article highlighted the programs offered through the company's health services centers in Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va., MITRE's principal locations. The centers provide on-site access to a wide range of services, including ergonomic evaluations, chiropractic care, and monthly lunchtime seminars on health-related topics. Employees are encouraged to get cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density, and other screenings at in-house health fairs. Additionally, MITRE's food service provider recently adopted a "zero trans fat" cooking method and features at least one "healthwise" or "carb-conscious" meal choice for lunch every day. Bill Albright, director of Quality of Work Life and Benefits, and Joyce Barth, Health and Wellness program manager, said EYH is a success largely because management fully supports the initiative and that the activities offered are relevant to employees in different stages in their lives and careers. This focus on health and wellness has contributed to the company's low voluntary turnover rate, Albright noted.
Federal Computer Week
Article Title: "DHS Turns to Old Model for R&D"
The Department of Homeland Security is creating two new federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) to support its complex technology programs and vast procurement needs—the Systems Engineering and Development Institute and the Studies and Analysis Institute. FFRDCs play a critical role in "leading agencies to significant innovations in specific areas" and offer agencies "unbiased, objective, and independent analysis and advice from leading experts who otherwise would not be available." The MITRE Corporation's Raymond Haller, director of the Defense Department's Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) FFRDC, explained that, while the centers have broad access to private government information, there are rules and restrictions in place to ensure the protection and proper use of the information. "Those restrictions are in place for a sound set of reasons," said Haller. Federal regulations require sponsoring agencies to review FFRDCs and limit contracts for the centers to five years.
Article Title: "Glycobiology: Surface Sensing"
The cutting-edge nanobiotechnology research of MITRE's Grace Hwang and Elaine Mullen is featured in the latest edition of the scientific journal Nature. One of several articles in the issue with a focus on the new field of Glycobiology (the study of complex sugar molecules and their role in biology),"Glycobiology: Surface sensing" discusses Hwang and Mullen's groundbreaking collaborative work with University of California, San Diego researchers Lin Pang and Prof. Yeshaiahu Fainman that has led to the development of an ultra-sensitive nanotechnology-enabled sensor for the detection of pathogens, such as viruses. When a glycoprotein is attached to the sensor's gold foil surface—which is perforated with nanometer-wide holes—and a pathogen or carbohydrate-binding lectin attaches to sugar receptors on the protein, the device detects a change in plasmon resonance.* This key advance in pathogen detection has important applications in the health and bio-defense fields. Hwang, Mullen, Pang, and Fainman are still working to improve the device's sensitivity to identify under one million influenza particles per milliliter. The current sensor development was described in the December 2008 issue of IEEE Sensors Journal.
*Note added by MITRE: Basic research and preliminary demonstration of the sensing capabilities of the device were conducted by Professor Fainman's lab in 2006 (Tetz et al. Optics Letters, 31(10), 1528-1530) as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) University Photonics Research Center for Opto-Fluidic Integration.
Article Title: "MITRE Offers Recommendation-tracker Software and Free One-day Course"
Network World recognized The MITRE Corporation's free Recommendation Tracker (RT) software and course as an important tool to help operations managers improve security by keeping track of vulnerabilities, patches, and interactions of applications software with operating systems. RT is "an open source program that facilitates development of automated security benchmarks. System administrators use benchmarks—essentially a set of recommendations—to securely configure an operating system or software application and then set up automatic testing to ensure proper configuration." MITRE is offering a one-day RT course at its Bedford and McLean campuses.
CSO Security and Risk
Article Title: "Security Experts ID Top 25 Programming Errors"
The MITRE Corporation, the SANS Institute, and experts from more than 30 U.S. and international cyber security organizations developed a list of the 25 most significant programming errors that can lead to serious software vulnerabilities. The errors, which can lead to security bugs and enable cyber espionage and cyber crime, are common mistakes made in the process of developing software—not the vulnerabilities that result from programming errors. With the list, programmers can write more secure code; buyers can purchase more secure software; and educational institutions can "teach secure coding more confidently."
MITRE in the News Archives
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