April 30, 2014
More Than a War Game: APL’s Analysis Laboratory Gets a “Collaborative” New Name
APL’s Warfare Analysis Laboratory has been renamed the Collaborative Analysis Center Laurel, and the reasons behind the move are both practical and strategic.
“The name change enables us to link the facility to the Collaborative Analysis Center (CAC) at our Crystal City [Virginia] office,” explained Aaron Silverman, of APL’s National Security Analysis Department (NSAD), who manages both facilities. “But more importantly, it reflects the broadening scope of services and capabilities in the facility, from exploring warfare challenges to collaborating on a broad range of issues.”
Since the 1940s, APL has been applying its analysis capability to study future military needs, recommend requirements to meet those needs, and evaluate alternative solutions. In the ensuing decades, APL’s capability in this area evolved to incorporate graphical analysis, computer simulations, high-fidelity engineering simulations, and visualization tools.
The Warfare Analysis Laboratory, or “WAL,” was created in the early 1980s to facilitate the analysis process with display and data-recording capabilities, as well as simulation support. The original WAL was a 400-square-foot room with standard office tables; participants relied on paper maps, mechanical analyzers, and hand-written notes, and the space could only accommodate small groups.
In 2000, APL opened a state-of-the-art facility that features 53 electronic seminar support workstations running groupware, a 50-seat observer gallery, four large projection screens, 3-D scenario modeling and visualization, extensive information/database access and network capability, and multilevel security.
Events in the laboratory—known as WALEXs (for Warfare Analysis Laboratory exercises)—have been applied to a wide variety of warfare problems. But over the years, Silverman said, it has been increasingly used by other APL mission areas to explore topics beyond warfare.
In September 2013, for instance, representatives from across APL’s mission areas conducted a collaborative exercise called “Futures Technology 20/20” to identify 20 actions the Laboratory could undertake to ensure success over the next 20 years. This event included attendees from multiple mission areas participating in brainstorming sessions and surveys to develop a roadmap of technologies for APL to focus on over the next two decades.
When he wanted to collect information about medical infusion pumps, Alan Ravitz—the principal investigator on a project to improve the safety of these medical devices—used the WAL.
“The WAL facility is regularly used for war-gaming, but it’s also excellent for in-depth system development discussions,” said Ravitz, who works in APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Department. “It was an ideal setting for a facilitated discussion among numerous stakeholders. It features an electronic messaging system through which attendees can insert comments, questions, and notes, which provides another source of information flow and communication in addition to the oral discourse that transpires during the facilitated discussion.”
The Laboratory opened the CAC facility in Crystal City in October 2010. With 23 workstations, two large presentation displays, a 15-seat observer gallery, classified and unclassified video teleconferencing functionality, and multiple adjacent breakout rooms, CAC Crystal City has been used extensively by sponsors to examine complex problems in an informal, but structured, manner.
As the lineal descendent of APL’s earlier analytical departments—the Naval Warfare Analysis Department (NWAD) and the Joint Warfare Analysis Department (JWAD)—NSAD oversees day-to-day operations in the Laurel and the Crystal City centers.
“But this is a Lab-wide resource,” Silverman said. “APL’s mission areas and sponsors use both CACs on a continuing basis.”
Media contact: Paulette Campbell, 240-228-6792, Paulette.Campbell@jhuapl.edu