Mobilizing American Ingenuity To Strengthen National Security: A Challenge to the Public

August 28, 2012
Innovation in Arms Control Challenge Symbol

Our smaller, faster-paced world is changing the security landscape, and these changes will bring with them new challenges and evolutions in current threats. To respond to these changes, we must adapt instruments of statecraft to bring to bear the networks, technologies and human potential of our increasingly inter-dependent and interconnected world. In this spirit, on August 28, 2012, the Department of State launched the Innovation in Arms Control Challenge asking "How Can the Crowd Support Arms Control Transparency Efforts?"

Through this Challenge, we will collect new ideas about how innovation and technological advancement can affect the implementation of arms control, verification, and nonproliferation treaties and agreements. Can innovation bring about creative ways to prevent "loose nukes" from falling into the hands of terrorists? Can smart phone and tablet apps be created for the purpose of aiding on-site inspectors in verifying and monitoring treaty commitments? How can we use commonly available technologies in new and creative ways to support our arms control policy efforts?

Over the past three years, the Department of State has been reshaping our diplomatic agenda to meet old and new challenges by deploying one of America's great assets -- innovation. Inspired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emphasis on harnessing new technologies and 21st century statecraft, we have been working to elevate American "civilian power" to advance our national security interests, making partners of the United States government and its citizens.

As an arms control policy wonk and negotiator, I see great value in incorporating innovative ideas across the whole spectrum of our arms control initiatives. As we look to the future of arms control, new thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century is vital to our success.

This Challenge is an experiment in that thinking. It seeks creative ideas from across the general public, from garage tinkerers and technologists; to gadget entrepreneurs and students, to support the U.S. arms control and nonproliferation agenda. Are there new ways that we can use existing data, such as Twitter streams, to generate information that will be useful to arms control and nonproliferation verification and monitoring? Are there ways that we can help our inspectors to do their jobs better, by having better tools available? Are there ways that governments and citizens can work together to ensure better monitoring and verification of treaties and agreements?

These are the types of questions that we are asking contestants to consider. We are looking for creative ways to tackle the long-standing problems of arms control and nonproliferation verification and monitoring, keeping in mind the big challenges that come about as we move to reduce nuclear weapons to lower numbers, and look for ways to monitor smaller units of account, such as chemical munitions in storage facilities. No matter how big the challenges, when we attack problems with all the brainpower that is available, we can solve them more effectively together.

The contest runs until October 26, 2012 and is open to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents. There is a guaranteed award of up to $10,000. To register please, click here.



Herp D.
New Jersey, USA
August 28, 2012

Herp D. in New Jersey writes:

My suggestion is simple, take the requirements of the 1968 Firearms Owners Protections Act. make these the laws that all state laws match, no more, no less. Take NICS, and bring it up to date, and make sure that it is updated and make sure all mental offices and law enforcement offices update NICS as soon as they see a possible issue and the person in question is notified to appeal the decision.

August 28, 2012

Johan in Canada writes:

On the UN security council sits the biggest manufacturers of the weapons that this article purports to suggest America wants controlled.

News reports - if they are to be believed, are reporting killer(big -grand -enormous) arms sales from China and of course America - safe to assume Russia is in there too -this year.

Here, have some serious brain power for free– stop making the garbage and you wouldn't need to clean anything up.

I doubt the taliban, Somalis or AQ or now is it the anarchists we should all fear – gee so many boogey men -how can one sleep at night.(laugh) Any way – I doubt these groups are making their own weapons – no, the countries on the security council are behind the arming of conflicts globally – who makes these things? Its not a secret.

Tax payer funds weapons manufacturing and development, tax payer pays for the purchase of weapons – tax payer is threatened by the weapons they paid for -tax payer is killed by the weapons they paid for – tax payer pays to fight the weapons they paid to design, build, distribute, kill themselves with in the name of security.

Wide scale government -multi national -international corruption and collusion -lets begin there with the problem of non proliferation. Just like trickle down economics – but with anti corruption. A top down purge – no holds barred – no excuses – anything less is pointless.

Almost as silly and really very sick is having a security council in the UN whose members by and large are the culprits in making our world less secure with the weapons they make and the nonsense they push. The handling of the Syria problem is a testament to this uselessness of the security council.

The words -reap what you sow -or -you get what you give - come to mind -if you dont like your house burning-stop blow torching it. Forget smart power and start with developing some wisdom. Smart power seems to be leading to some very dumb places. After all what is intelligence if not balanced by wisdom? A child with a gun comes to mind.

This is a ridiculous endeavor. Stop making the nonsense and deal with the corruption top down – no crowd needed -no apps or tech needed -just a few good people with some spine.

In God we trust - I dare say is the biggest lie – anyone who had faith in God -wouldn't act in such godless ways. If in God there was trust -the powers that be would fear God and the polluting of his land with so much death and weapons. After all if you trusted in God -you would know that the creator of time and space doesn't need your help to kill – I think he can handle that part on his own.

While on the subject of God – what happened to the evangelists proclaiming the Haiti earthquake is Gods punishment? They seem to have fallen silent under the weight of unprecedented tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and droughts, financial disaster - oh lets not forget the storm that now comes 7 years to the day of the last that hit the gulf region years back– not Gods wrath? A sudden upsurge in Global warming events? I suspect strongly, the coming years to be worse. But hey what do I know.

Do the powers that be really know who they kill with their weapons and war? Im no peace nik -but when your dealing with taking life – you better know about the life you seek to take and attack.

I can only imagine God wouldn't be too happy with anyone killing and attacking his people (and im not talking about only Jewish life – after all there are the lost tribes or are they lost -is it a case of some being just plain blind -perhaps when the blind can see, the tribes will be found)

How much skill and military prowess does it take to hack, attack and terrorize an unarmed family?

Remember it isnt what you can imagine that should be feared -its what is unimaginable and beyond belief that should keep you up at night. If you were told in advance of the tornadoes, drought, earthquakes in bizarre places -like in Washington DC and such -would you have listened? No -you would have thought crazy – heck the Saudis would think witchcraft but hey what can you expect from former herders. It would be wise of them to return to herding.

I would say good luck and God speed but whats the point -it isnt God or speed you need to solve this or any of your myriad of other problems faced – its a little bit of common sense, backed up with some wisdom – your money or your faith - as I would say -because you cant have both.

This and other problems boils down to essentially 2 sides ,not dozens -just 2 – it is white and black (nothing to do with skin color) – answer the question about money and faith and you will know exactly what side you stand.

Where do you stand Secretary Clinton? Would you lose all your money to retain your faith? Its a tough question that deserves deeper thought – its also the question that lays bare who is who – the dividing line if you will.

CricketDiane P.
August 29, 2012

Diane P. in Georgia (U.S.A.) writes:

RFID tags on every nuclear weapon, missile and chemical weapons canister has some merit, but does the US want to have to do that as well? With those little stickers that a cellphone can point at and read info, (not RFID, but like UPC codes) a lot of info could be stored and accessed, remotely read from a very quick scan. But, unlike RFID stickers and tags, they couldn't be seen from satellite or other remote scanning equipment. No one will want to do that though, not the US and not the other world players. It could be very cool though, combined with the new nanotech chemistry sensors that can be added to the tag to identify chemical leaks coming off the canisters. And, it would help countries with their own inventory processes - but they won't do it - not for a treaty, not for safety, not for international concerns. I think it would be even better to have an app on cellphones for the examiners from the UN to be able to read the mass in a location, then the math could be done to identify how much in nuclear or chemical materials actually exist there. Just a thought. I'm going to think some more about it. Thank you for inviting the public to participate in this problem-solving effort.

Ashim C.
August 29, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

Recession in economies have created new opportunities for persuading government's to divert their funds away from defense heads. people at ground level would prefer this as it would promise more jobs and economic empowerment and spurt in infrastructure development for betterment of life. Innovation is required in communicating this.

Robert D.
New Mexico, USA
August 30, 2012

Robert D. in New Mexico writes:

Utilize the capabilities and current management objectives that are of

Primary interest at each of our National Laboratories to innovate to

Accept this search of existing civilian capabilities which could also be

Applied and included in the protocols to arms control treaties.

This could become an attractive innovative and challenging arms control

Weapons related effort at each of our weapons laboratories.

Hans-Joachim S.
August 30, 2012

Dr. Hans-Joachim S. in Germany writes:

Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

It is well known that network-centric warfare systems enhance military capabilities largely.

The interesting question for me is, can network-centric warfare systems also be used as future means for verification of non operational (joint) military activities?

I see only two major hurdles:

1. What will the own military side allow?

2. How far will inspectors of other countries trust the activities they see on the computer screens of the inspected party?

Yours sincerely
Dr. Hans-Joachim S.
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Ohio, USA
August 31, 2012

Godfrey in Ohio writes:

Shared on my photo blog from the heart of it all.

Warren B.
Wisconsin, USA
August 31, 2012

Warren B. in Wisconsin writes:

I suggest you start off on the right foot by understanding that the government and the citizenry are not equal partners. Please take another read through the constitution and realize that you are our subordinates.

California, USA
October 18, 2012

JL in California writes:

Here are some recommendations regarding emergency procedures during a national emergency:

FALLOUT SHELTER (or a more “user-friendly”, SAFE ZONES)

All large open building structures, above ground or below ground, can be quickly converted to temporary, long-term emergency shelters (i.e. parking structures, auditoriums, theaters, large retail open area establishments, gyms, etc.).

To accomplish this, the strategically proposed building structures should be, hopefully, pre-insulated. This means, except for windows and other large openings, all possible exposed openings should be insulated from outside leakage, a typical insulation/weatherization project sponsored possibly by government green jobs.

In addition, pre-installed hooks or other attachment devices should be used for hanging hazard rated vinyl-type material over large and small open areas, such as windows and other open areas, if necessary. This would be additionally sealed by a heavy taping method at the edges or other engineered method for reducing penetration by outside air into shelter area.


These emergency kits could consist of “quick set-up” solar panels that can be quickly connected and laid out on roof areas of emergency shelters. The panels could be rated to building capacity or other calculations. They should have instructions and come as unassembled solar panels with battery, invertors and other items to effectively supply limited electricity to the proposed shelter.

Additional supplies would be radio communication gear, blankets, survival manuals, medical emergency supplies, medical procedure books, six month supply of food rations, a variety of fresh-dated packaged gardening seeds, pertinent maps, hazard material suits, and other necessities needed for emergency survival during a crisis.

From a more long-term prospective emergency kit, “quick set-up” green houses should be used to begin growing food if necessary. This could be accomplished by using clear plastic sheathing and a tent-type poling connection assembly. There would also need to be instructions on growing and harvesting, fertilizer, containers and the use of high efficiency hydro-growing methods. These sealed green houses could also be place on roof tops next to the solar arrays.

Plastic water tanks filled with water, the least expensive method maybe, should also be placed some place high in the building to establish a emergency water supply using gravitational methods. Also, water purification equipment would be a cost effective method on securing other water resources.

For sanitation, septic-type tanks could be utilized at low points in the building for the collection of waste. These septic tanks need not be buried underground, but can be placed above ground with a quick set-up latrine fixture/piping much like the outhouses used now on construction sites. The tanks could be sized to accumulate many gallons for years before needing emptying.

Next I will provide recommendations on logistics involving other matters, such as “people-moving” and possible “Plan Bs”.


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