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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 9, 2020

Recapping the Annual RDT&E, Innovation Idea Submission Review (ISR) – Highlights from the 2020 conference

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

Every year members submit creative solutions to the Coast Guard’s most complex challenges to CG_Ideas@Work. These ideas are reviewed and prioritized during the annual Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) and Innovation Idea Submission Review (ISR).This collaborative meeting involves leadership from the deck plate to the flag suite, where the ideas submitted are ranked, and the potential list of RDT&E Projects for the next fiscal year is built.

Adm. Charles Ray, Coast Guard Vice Commandant, kicked off the two-day program, highlighting his investment in the ISR. “I believe in this process,” Ray said. “All too often we get caught up in the tyranny of the present. But here’s an opportunity to look into the future.”

Ray urged the office representatives and subject matter experts in attendance to think beyond the Coast Guard we have today, to the one we need tomorrow. He emphasized that in addition to dealing with disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented hurricane season, the Coast Guard is also living in the intersection of domestic and international threats to national security. 

“We’re a worldwide Coast Guard,” Ray said. “Not a three miles offshore Coast Guard.” 

Ray commended the ability of members to remain agile and surge where needed. He reminded the participants that being able to respond to disasters should be of the utmost importance when deciding which ideas to vote for and prioritize over others. 

Representatives from the Coast Guard’s Atlantic and Pacific Areas highlighted the top idea submission priorities of the Areas. Both Command Master Chief Devin Spencer of Atlantic Area and Command Master Chief Heath Jones of Pacific Area emphasized the need for geospatial cloud analytics integration with CG 1-View to help combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing as their number one idea submission priority for fiscal year 2022. 

Geospatial cloud analytics could potentially allow the Coast Guard to quickly make sense of the enormous amounts of data collected to track illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing operations in a user-friendly way. This could allow the Coast Guard to respond more nimbly in the arena of IUU fishing, allowing their operations to be more effective and efficient.

“The data is already out there,” said Spencer. “Why not invest in the software that sorts [the data] for us, so we can work smarter not harder in the domain of IUU fishing.” 

Jones also urged the group to think of the value in simply researching an idea, even if it seemed improbable. “Sometimes it’s worth the effort to know what we don’t know,” said Jones. 

Vice Adm. Scott Buschman, deputy commandant for operations, kicked off day two of the ISR, underscoring the value field experience brings to the table. He urged the group to remember that “not all good ideas come from headquarters.” 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Vice Adm. Scott Buschman, deputy of Coast Guard operations, speaks at the annual Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) and Innovation Idea Submission Review (ISR), Oct. 21, 2020. The ISR is a collaborative meeting that involves leadership from the deck plate to the flag suite, where the ideas submitted are ranked, and the potential list of RDT&E Projects for the next fiscal year is built. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Loretta Haring.)

Buschman’s emphasis on building ideas from the field was not lost on the group, who spent a good part of the two days discussing which ideas would best serve folks in the field, and meeting the operational needs of the Coast Guard. 

With research priorities that align to the Coast Guard Strategic Plan provided by both the deputy commandant for operations and deputy commandant for mission support (DCMS), program stakeholders had strategic direction from leadership to use as guidance when prioritizing idea submissions.

Over the two-day conference, representatives from various offices in the Coast Guard, ranging from the Office of Search and Rescue and the Office of Cutter Forces to the Office of Navigation Systems and the Office Marine Environmental Response Policy, voted on 78 ideas. The ideas were presented by domain: systems/aviation, surface, environment and waterways, modeling and simulation, and C5ISR/IT and networks. 

Through extensive honest discussion with individuals who were not afraid to respectfully disagree at times, the result of the meeting was a rank ordered list of potential project ideas. 

The idea proposed with the most support was automatic object detection in video imagery. This idea would explore using advanced computing to process imagery from maritime patrol aircraft and ground sensor systems along with thousands of hours of surveillance footage, to improve maritime domain awareness for operational commanders.

Top-ranked ideas from the ISR will be evaluated at the flag/SES-level, which will further refine and strategically align potential research projects into an FY22 portfolio focused on the highest priority Coast Guard needs. 

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