Office of the Secretary of Defense

THE CHALLENGE

Project Thunderstorm was established by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO), within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as an enduring Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) technology demonstration. Project Thunderstorm enhances interagency collaboration, and the development of new and innovative approaches to current and future operational challenges, by identifing and refining new and emerging ISR technologies. While proven to be a highly useful venue to address a multitude of potential challenges and test a variety of technology platforms, Project Thunderstorm lacked a clearly articulated strategy. This meant Project Thunderstorm could undertake a large number of interesting actions without effectively addressing challenges relevant to departmental guidance or priorities.

WHAT NOETIC DID

Noetic drew upon its extensive experience in the planning, execution and evaluation of previous Thunderstorm spirals, as well as other similar technology demonstrations, to identify the strengths and limitations of the extant approach. Noetic engaged with stakeholders, including Department of Defense officials, military personnel, law enforcement agencies, university researchers, academics, and technology developers, to understand their motivation for participating, the limitations of the extant approach and the essential elements to gain the greatest value from the activities. Noetic identified disparity in needs between the academics focus and the technology developers when compared to the requirements of operators in predicting future threat trends. Noetic developed a new approach using four graduated activities to effectively identify real gaps and emerging operational challenges, develop mitigation concepts, test those concepts and then demonstrate technologies capable of achieving the mitigating concept. This approach ensured the challenges examined were relevant and therefore the demonstrated technologies more likely meet the needs of the warfighter.

THE BENEFITS

Noetic’s strategy helped the Rapid Reaction Technology Office and other key stakeholders understand the value the program could provide to their organizations, ensuring increased support for participation. Most importantly, it helped develop Project Thunderstorm into a diversified series of activities that address emerging threats from a multifaceted perspective to deliver operationally relevant outcomes.