ADELPHI, Md. (May 26, 2014) -- The U.S. Army Research Laboratory will leverage in-person interactions for deeper insight into the technological challenges the Army faces into the future by opening spaces on campus to Army partners.

"An open campus will serve as a front door to engage academia, other government agencies, industry and non-traditional innovators," said ARL Director Dr. Thomas Russell.

Local academic and industry partners conducting research in materials, electronics and intelligent systems may occupy portions of ARL at the Adelphi Laboratory Center as early as this year.

In preparation for Open Campus, the Corporate Information Office is in its first phase of developing a tool kit with Information Technology, or IT, tools that collaborators could use to share information easily, said Dr. John Pellegrino, ARL's chief information officer and director of the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate.

"We are working behind the scenes to make the state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that is necessary for on-site collaboration between government, academia and industry as seamless as possible," he said. "We want tools that are easy enough that people can use immediately."

The concept behind ARL's IT strategy for Open Campus is the agile methodology, in other words, "we develop a small, solid base of capabilities out of the gate, and then we build upon our IT toolbox as we maintain close communication with end users," said Rose King, who manages the IT integrated project planning behind Open Campus.

The first IT-enabling components are high definition video teleconferencing; the addition of tablets, applications like Cisco's Jabber Communications and software like RedMine and SharePoint; and expanded wireless capability, King said.

For instance, employees have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi from the cafeteria now, but the Open Campus feedback dictates visiting researchers need to have Wi-Fi-enabled workspace that allows them to connect to their home organization and other communities in their field. To this end we must find IT solutions that answer questions like, "How do we expand wireless Internet service while maintaining the Army's cyber security standards?"

The researchers drive the train of deciding what we expand. I hear a consistent story of how we need to share information; and as IT experts it is our goal to take that feedback and figure out how to make it happen within the IT infrastructure and security standards," King said. "It is an ongoing partnership between the people who use the tools (ARL Workforce) and the people who create the infrastructure (IT Leadership)."

One hurdle the IT team will face in building ARL's collaboration toolkit is its Department of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process, or DIACAP, which is scheduled for mid-May. It is an accreditation of the laboratory's information systems that will happen at the same time as we are standing-up some of the Infrastructure changes to enable Open Campus, King said.

"We did well during the last DIACAP inspection; and we intend to keep that level of excellence in information systems security. We know it will be a challenge to meet customer expectations and accreditation requirements simultaneously, but we will know the collaboration enabling tools we have meet the highest standards," King said.

As the capabilities enhancement goes forward through June 1, King wants ARL's workforce to understand the changes taking place, what is happening, how to get help and that as a workforce ARL will not get from A-Z without some challenges," King said. "The process will take time, with hurdles, but also successes along the way."

Technicians will start by replacing ARL's 10-year old video teleconferencing equipment with a new system that is most compatible with commercial partners, she said.

Janet Churchwell, who is leading the VTC changes, said after the upcoming testing, VTC users will log in as normal and may notice small changes like the higher quality resolution. The new bridge can handle high-definition, whereas the current system does not.

Users will notice less lag time, screen layout options, and better overall quality user connections. The new bridge handles about 40 multipoint callers at a time, similar to the current capacity. But in anticipation of more use, an expansion is already underway, Churchwell said.

The Jabber point-to-point video conferencing application will not be affected by the new bridge. The two-user connections are not limited.

The next changes to be implemented under Open Campus will be the introduction of tablets, the new applications and software packages unveiled over the next couple months, King said.

As soon as phase one concludes June 1, the team will slow down and take a look at where they are in the process, and what's next, with their strongest consideration for balancing security guidelines with researcher needs, she said.

"The Open Campus Idea is a culture shock for most of us. We will be introducing new tools and technology into out IT infrastructure. Over the past few years the goals for the IT Infrastructure were to reduce the cost of desktop operations and to limit IT services. So, this will have to bring about a shift in thinking that ARL must invest in new IT capabilities in order support Dr. Russell's modernization goals. This culture shift will take time to adopt," she said.

The concept of Open Campus has been identified as a model within the Army to look at its potential to give the science and technology community more partnering synergy, King said.

"We have to get people using the new tools and talking about them as well as ensuring that the tools and technologies are stable and reliable. This will be a partnership between the IT leadership and ARL workforce."

There will be learning curve, some stops, starts, and quick successes, all of that. But in the end, ARL is committed to creating an IT infrastructure that enables the Open Campus Concept's success." she said.


The Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.