Center of Innovation
2354 Fairchild Drive,
Suite 2H29
USAFA, CO 80840-6200
333-3574 (DSN)
(719) 333-3574 (com)

DFER Webmaster

Date Last Updated:
01 Sep 2015

The Center of Innovation at the United States Air Force Academy specializes in thinking outside the box – whether it's working to solve perplexing malware and solve cyber security issues or sending teams to research complex national problems.
And the goal is to involve cadets, every step of the way.
The Center of Innovation stands apart from other research centers at the Academy. The Department of Homeland Security provides funding for the center, which also serves as a testing ground for Intel Corporation's most promising new technologies.

Image of Cadet talking about Summer Research
Video: Cadets talk about Cadet Summer Research

Cadet Summer Research Program Thanks to grants from the Department of Homeland Security, faculty and cadet teams travel around the nation to explore areas within their academic disciplines.
Some cadets went to Los Angeles where their research assisted the Transportation Security Authority in deploying resources to make air travel safer in the United States.
Other cadet and faculty teams went to Kansas State University, where they worked on finding vaccinations against swine flu. While swine flu isn't a problem in the United States, the disease threatens to wipe out the pork industry in Europe.
Still other cadets worked on projects to create terrorism databases to track the habits and philosophies of known terrorist organizations. And more than a few worked on classified projects in the nation's laboratories and Department of Defense agencies.
Cadet First Class John Rosenberg, who went to Kansas State, said the chance to work with people from other countries rated high in the experience. "A lot of people in the laboratory were from other countries," he said, "so that was very different. The person mentoring me was from China. It was a great chance to reach out and learn about other places."
For his part, Rosenberg was thrilled with the experience – not only the chance to do cutting-edge research in one of the finest labs in the nation – but also the opportunity to break stereotypes about the Air Force and the military.

CoI Links
CoI Team
IT Research Report 26 Jun 2015
IT Research Report 27 July 2015
"One thing I learned was to be approachable," he said. "We gave a presentation about the Air Force Academy and someone in the lab told us not to wear our military uniforms – we would scare and intimidate people. I said, "That's exactly why we have to wear it." We should be approachable – we are here to serve them."

Malware The Center of Innovation works closely with Intel Corporation, which has researchers based at the Academy to study malware and other complicated computer security issues.
Researchers are studying ways to identify the original malicious code that criminals copy and then add their own twist to meet their individual purposes. "Only a relatively small number of people really know how to write novel, malicious code," said Lt Col Greg Bennett. "What we have are people buying the source code and copying and modifying it for their own needs." But work at COI could block that avenue. Called Cyber Provenance, a term borrowed from the art community, the researchers are exploring novel techniques to detect malicious source code.
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"Art historians can determine if a painting is consistent with a particular period by looking at the canvas, the type of paint used, the brush strokes" Bennett said. "We have researchers conceptually using similar methods – the composition, how the code is written, compiled, and deployed leaves clues about its origin and author."

Secure Enclaves Another project researched at CoI is one that will revolutionize cyber security. Called Secure Enclaves, the technology could extend secure applications and data to public infrastructure.
"Right now, we've built a wall around the castle, attempting to keep people out of computer systems," Bennett said. "Secure Enclaves puts information in a safe, making every data transfer outside the network remains secure."
The technology puts security is into the chip, in the hardware on the computer, not in a software package, making it possible to secure information even outside protected network firewalls.
Bennett compares Secure Enclaves to the safe rooms the military uses to conduct operations, known as SCIFs.
"This is a virtual SCIF," he said. "it really stands to change the way businesses and the military operate."
The public-private partnership between Intel and the Academy is creating disruptive technology that has potential to change the way the military operates. It's a model that CoI hopes to copy with other corporations – like Google or Facebook – changing the way people use cyberspace.
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Dr. Terry C. Pierce (Captain, USN, Ret.)

Image of Dr. Terry C. Pierce Dr. Terry C. Pierce (Captain, USN, Ret.) is the Special Advisor for Disruptive Innovation for the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate. Dr. Pierce is also the Director of the DHS Center of Innovation located at the United States Air Force Academy, where he champions disruptive innovations for DHS and USG. Previously, he was Associate Dean and research associate professor of Information Sciences at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), where he taught and conducted research on disruptive military innovation.

During his twenty-eight year naval career, Captain Pierce USN commanded the USS Whidbey Island LSD-41, was Chief of Staff for Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet, Okinawa, Japan, and was speechwriter for Admiral Mike Boorda – Chief of Naval Operations. As Commanding Officer of USS Whidbey Island LSD-41, he successfully integrated 100 women into a 1000 man warship and his warship was ranked best in its class in the Atlantic Fleet. Dr. Pierce is author of the book, Warfighting and Disruptive Technologies: Disguising Innovation and he has published 26 award winning articles. In 1992, the Navy awarded him the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement in addressing the subject of maneuver-warfare amphibious doctrine.

During his Navy career, he earned doctorate and masters degrees from Harvard, where he focused on private and public sector disruptive innovation. He also earned a masters degree in national security affairs strategic planning from the Naval Postgraduate School. Captain Pierce attended several warfighting schools including Marine Corps Command and Staff College. His ship, USS Okinawa LPH-3, deployed to the Persian Gulf combat zone during the mid-1980s Iran-Iraq war. He was awarded the Legion of Merit medal.

Disruptive Innovation Projects
During his Navy career, Captain Pierce was involved in several technological and warfighting innovations including championing Technological Component Network (TCN) and the Expeditionary Strike Group disruptive innovation.

Since retiring from the Navy, Dr. Pierce has championed three major innovations:
  • Combined Effects Power: The Power of Cyber and Virtual Domain: See article in JFQ April 2014 (Co-author with LtGen Erv Rokke and Colonel Tom Drohan)
  • Championing USAFA Cadet Research with DHS Centers of Excellence and the private sector
  • Translating Intel Corporation game-changing innovation for the Federal Government
Dr. Pierce was a guest speaker on disruptive innovation for Intel Corporation's senior leadership and the Business Innovation Factory Conferences (BIF-3 & BIF-4).

Dr. Pierce was a guest speaker at the Innovation Value Institute at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth in June 2011 and briefed Ireland's Prime Minister on Disruptive Innovation.

Lt. Col. Greg Bennett

Image of Lt. Col. Greg Bennett As deputy director for the Center of Innovation,Lt. Col. Greg Bennett runs the operations for one of USAFA's most promising research centers – – one that specializes in the kind of public-private partnerships that turns research into successful products. Lt. Col. Bennett has a bachelor's degree from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and a master's degree in counseling and leadership development from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. As a small business owner, Greg is easily able to bridge the gap between research labs and commercial industry. As a military professional, he is conversant in the needs of the warfighter and the Department of Defense.