Ukrainians mourning at a funeral for soldier

MITRE Drives Whole-of-Nation Response for Whole of Ukraine

By Denise Schiavone , Nouran Ghanem

When the war in Ukraine began, people across MITRE asked, "What can we do to help?" The result: an outpouring of ideas to protect Ukrainian lives. We’re now partnering across sectors to deliver innovative capabilities to confront this global challenge.

The devastating images coming out of Ukraine continue to consume our news feeds—and our hearts and minds. Innocent civilians under attack. Over 10 million refugees fleeing from their homes. An authoritarian dictator intent on undermining global stability. 

Ukraine-born Jeff Vodov had the weight of all this in mind during MITRE’s March CEO call, when he asked, “What can we do?” 

The question and ensuing discussion catalyzed our Quick Ukraine Response Initiative (QURI) to crowdsource ideas for how to get critical capabilities to Ukraine. Our senior leadership established the campaign, and staff across the company rose to the challenge. 

In just over a week, employees submitted more than 100 proposals for consideration. From this pool of promising ideas,11 emerged as front runners.

We're applying the expertise of the entire company to put capabilities into the hands of those who need it now.

Karen Viani, QURI Co-Lead

We’re now partnering with government, non-government organizations, and industry to forge fast and innovative solutions to protect Ukrainian lives and livelihood—and support broader national, humanitarian, and global security interests.

Vodov, who helps lead the initiative, says, “When I first asked my question, I never envisioned the scale and scope of the many different ideas MITRE staff would come up with.”

Executive leadership committed more than $1M of internal company resources toward the top proposals. These addressed national security, humanitarian, and communication infrastructure needs and draw from our work across several federal R&D centers and MITRE Labs.

Now at the six-month anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, what began as ground-level ideas have taken flight—some literally. 

For example, we tested our broadband prototype from a light-sport aircraft, as well as on the ground in California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. We’re now building five kits, with plans for more, to provide the Ukrainian Red Cross reliable and secure internet connectivity.

Other initiatives bring our cyber experience into play. One of those utilizes in-house cyber threat intelligence tools to enable real-time, strategic deterrence. This capability will provide a non-military method to undermine the adversary. 

In another cyber-related effort, we partnered with a small business to leverage MITRE ATT&CK® and secure the data of an international humanitarian organization. That organization gathers and disseminates critical data on violence against healthcare workers and infrastructure from a global humanitarian network. 

They then share findings with a range of stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. State Department. MITRE is also creating a cybersecurity playbook other humanitarian organizations can use.

Other projects, such as the Crowdsourcing Evidence of War Crimes—a.k.a. CAESAR—combine systems thinking and data analytics expertise. A MITRE team is developing a platform to document, preserve, and analyze digital evidence of Russian war crimes and atrocities. 

CAESAR also leverages our ability to connect the right stakeholders. By establishing a partnership network across the public and private sectors, it enables accountability for war crimes on the international stage. 

Driving a Repeatable Approach to Rapid R&D

Beyond pioneering promising innovations, QURI offers a strong model for rapid R&D of tailored solutions. All selected projects achieved minimum viable product status within 90 days. This means they validated the idea early in the development cycle, attracted potential end users, and developed a usable solution. 

Karen Hathaway Viani, co-lead for the initiative, says, “It’s motivating for me to look back and see how quickly we made things happen under QURI. We've been able to apply the expertise of the entire company to put capabilities into the hands of those who need it now.”

Viani adds that as developed capabilities ultimately transition to end users, “They can mature them in whatever direction is most useful for them, with MITRE’s support. And we can learn from how they use the capabilities operationally.” 

For example, we provided the operational community the capability to deny or disrupt adversary use of various military communication and tracking tools.

Additionally, by the end of 2022, CAESAR will transition to a combination of sponsors. It will support the work of an interagency task force integrating the U.S. government response to mass atrocities.

Other QURI front-runners show strong promise for transition, like our advanced data analytics solution to mitigate Ukraine food insecurity. 

Alongside sponsors such as departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce, and through public-private partnerships, we’re working to cultivate these ideas to impactful outcomes.

Keoki Jackson, MITRE National Security Sector senior vice president and general manager, says, “We envision these innovations will go beyond being just helpful to Ukraine to really build on our strengths and differentiated value: a whole-of-nation approach for the whole-of-Ukraine—and beyond.” 

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