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Department joins in call for innovative solutions

WASHINGTON -- Defense Department officials are putting some of their most vexing challenges on the Internet for the public to help solve as part of a new initiative to invite creative solutions to government problems.

Pentagon officials submitted four challenges to the Challenge.gov website that launched today. The site, a White House initiative administered by the General Services Administration, offers millions of dollars in prizes to those who find solutions to challenges that span all areas of government, from improving health and public schools to advancing science, technology and the environment.

The administration's chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra, announced the launch at the 2010 Gov 2.0 Summit here Sept. 7. Speaking alongside the administration's chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, Mr. Chopra said the site is an example of the administration's efforts to close the technology gap between the public and private sectors, bring the two together to solve the nation's problems and reward innovation.

"We wanted an organizational model to take all the components we describe to engage the American people in problem solving," Mr. Chopra said.

Part of the reason for the technology gap, Mr. Chopra said, is that the private sector has moved forward with open-architecture Internet models, while the government has remained closed.

Challenge.gov is designed for long-term success because of its "grassroots, bottom-up" architecture for inviting public input, he said.

Posted Defense Department challenges include:

-- A challenge from the Office of Naval Research, with more than $1 million in prizes, for white papers that solve problems in one of seven areas: enhanced perception systems for autonomous ground navigation, compressive sensing for urban warfare, flow noise mitigation by fish, chlorine-resistant sea water, reverse-osmosis membranes, measurement technology for high-noise assessments, and directed energy in maritime environments. Papers must be submitted by Nov. 10.
-- A challenge from the Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Department's Cyber Crime Center, to pioneer new investigative tools, techniques and methodologies. Fifteen prizes will be awarded. The deadline is Nov. 2.
-- A challenge from the Army Research Lab to create innovative and interactive solutions in virtual environments, with a focus on artificial intelligence. Entries must be submitted by Dec. 6, and prizes total $25,000.
-- The Defense Department's Technical Information Center offers a challenge for papers to be submitted by Feb. 7 to support the center's customer needs with the use of Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies, delivering technical information to mobile devices and experimenting with tool suites.

Other challenges posted Sept. 7 include:

-- A NASA challenge to build an aircraft that can fly 200 miles in less than two hours using the energy equivalent of less than a gallon of gasoline per occupant. The team with the best combination of efficiency and speed will win $1.5 million.
-- An Agriculture Department challenge, as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, to create healthy and tasty new recipes for school lunches. Winners in various categories will share $12,000 in prizes.
-- The Education Department and National Education Association Foundation are challenging public school educators to identify their most pressing classroom problem, and propose a solution. More than $67,000 in prizes is available.

The Challenge.gov site offers details for responding to challenges, and challenges can be searched by topic or department.