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A -- Request for Information (RFI): Strategic Collaboration

Solicitation Number: SN07-28
Agency: Other Defense Agencies
Office: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Location: Contracts Management Office
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Special Notice
Added: April 2, 2007
Request for Information (RFI): Strategic CollaborationSN07-28

DARPA seeks white papers describing innovative ideas and concepts supporting Strategic Collaboration. Individuals and organizations with innovative ideas in the areas outlined in this RFI are invited to submit a white paper in accordance with the Instructions to Responders.


The recent and increasing prominence of Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations pose a qualitatively and quantitatively new type of problem for the US military. SSTR/HADR operations are considerably more complex than traditional single-service, joint-service, or even coalition operations, in that they typically involve a large, diverse mix of military organizations, non-military government organizations, regional and international government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private volunteer organizations (PVOs), individual volunteers, and the local population. These operations are:

1. Large-scale: Entire regional or national populations can be affected by natural disasters or conflicts, engaging thousands of responders and stakeholders with diverse skills, resources, fields of expertise, orientations, cultures, objectives, and languages.

2. Dynamic, Structurally and Interactively Complex: Involving both structured organizations and dynamic, ad hoc, and emergent teams, SSTR/HADR operations are event-driven and rapidly evolve under unforeseen and often urgent circumstances. Responding organizations and individuals arrive on-scene, and are reinforced or depart according to their own schedules, resources, political realities, or other circumstances.

3. Ad Hoc: Every SSTR/HADR operation is unique. Most of the responders and stakeholders have never worked before (a) with each other, (b) with the indigenous populations, (c) with the host governments, (d) with local military and paramilitary forces, or (e) with civilian service organizations. Some responding organizations, particularly military and paramilitary groups, may have highly structured command and control (C2) hierarchies, while other groups may be less rigorously organized.

4. Cross-domain: Effective operations require those involved to cut across multiple organizations and institutions, fields of expertise, and cultures.

5. Many and Diverse Actors: Typically, there are 1,000s of participants/stakeholders from 100s of organizations with diverse skills, orientations, cultures, interests, objectives, and languages.

6. Emergent: Solutions require spontaneity, innovation, creation and combinations of both new and old techniques. Supporting emergence requires, among other things, a system, which provides near real time feedback of actors and their locations, capabilities, expertise, activities, and teams in non-intrusive and intuitive ways. System transparency and feedback are essential attributes for effective self-organization.

The problems found in these situations exceed the ability of any one actor or organization to solve or even to comprehend. No single person has the experience or expertise to detect, recognize, conceptualize, represent, and experiment with these problems in order to solve them. SSTR/HADR operations require participants to collaborate across domains, organizations, cultures, and languages. For the purposes of this RFI, this is called Strategic Collaboration.


This RFI seeks information on relevant technologies and concepts that could form the basis for a DARPA program to develop a Strategic Collaboration capability, i.e., a network-enabled collaborative environment (tools, processes, embedded metrics, organizing principles, new concepts of operations, runtime analysis, etc.) within which large numbers of people (1,000s of people from 100s of organizations, with different experiences, cultures, expertise, and concepts/constructs/languages) can come together in top-directed organizations, as well as emergent communities (communities of interest), in discourse and collaboration (each with their own language using their own tools, procedures, methods, etc.) to detect, recognize, conceptualize, represent, and experiment with the extremely complex problems of large scale SSTR/HADR operations, beyond any one person?s experience or comprehension to solve alone, within the context of a single integrated environment (gaming, simulation, and instrumented C2).

Specifically, this RFI seeks information on relevant technologies, capabilities, and concepts in the following areas:

1. Semantic Glue: Provide individuals from diverse organizations and cultures, speaking different languages and having different goals, the ability to collaborate in support of SSTR/HADR operations. ?Semantic Glue? refers to the collection of technologies and capabilities that will enable strategic collaboration by providing lightweight, adaptive and interactive representation schemes (language, icons, and geospatial graphics) for exchanging information, across a wide array of devices with different form factors (ranging from cell phones to desk top computers), in environments with varying network bandwidth and reliability, while providing semantically meaningful information appropriate to the individual, organization, form factor, and network capacity.

2. Ad Hoc, Dynamic Networking on Diverse, Unstable Networks: Considerable progress has been made in developing ad hoc networking capabilities under the assumption that the responding organization owns the networks and the devices; however, deploying complete communications network systems to support the large numbers of SSTR/HADR participants is not only prohibitive, it is impractical from the point of view of needing to train all participants to use these devices. As recent SSTR/HADR operations have shown, the local environment often retains some level of communications connectivity (landline, cellular, satellite, etc.). Further, individuals in disaster areas often already have devices with which they are familiar and upon which they have useful data. Ideally, SSTR/HADR responders should leverage existing networks and devices to support Strategic Collaboration. This requires the ability to perform ad hoc, on demand networking on public and private networks, which may be unstable and evolving. Requirements include the ability to: detect the health and status of the network(s); manage the flow of information as a function of the transmitting and receiving devices (form factors) and available bandwidth; and allow individuals and organizations to register their existing and often non-interoperable devices and platforms. This must be accomplished with minimal technical staff and be interpretable by typical, non-technical operators.

3. Mobile Computing Applications to Support Local Optimization: The traditional military approach of top-down organization/optimization of resources is not feasible in these environments; however, there are often large numbers of people and organizations who are ready, willing, and able to assist. Recent web-based examples have demonstrated that people can dynamically network to achieve common goals such as conducting commerce via online auctions (e.g., eBay ?) and markets (e.g., Craigslist ?), developing new social networks (online dating services, social networking sites), and planning and carrying out volunteer, ad hoc activities (e.g., GeoMissions via Geocaching ?). An analogous set of tools and capabilities could be developed to support SSTR/HADR operations, allowing both formal organizations and individuals to locally match their resources and needs. Specifically, teams wrestling with understanding, framing, and solving problems could find the expertise, knowledge, and team mates they need. Individuals and organizations would be able to access these tools a la a web-based, text messaging, or similar interface using their own devices (from cell phones to desk top computers), register capabilities/needs, and be ?matched? to the appropriate activities. Participants could also provide information back to the system in the form of local reports. Technology to support this includes Web 2.0, mobile computing, lightweight frameworks to support information exchange (see ?Semantic Glue? above), among others.

4. Understanding (Human) Network Performance: Provide a higher level understanding of emerging human networks, their capabilities, and capacities, in terms of commander intent and objectives, understandable by average people on the scene charged with making key resource decisions but who are not network experts. Identify those emergent networks that are performing well and those that may need assistance or direction. Provide visualizations to cause emergent systems to evolve in intended ways. Provide feedback on the status of key SSTR/HADR elements (medical, food, water, security, etc.) as well as the SSTR/HADR human terrain.

5. System Level Issues: Combining all of these capabilities into a rapidly deployable system presents significant challenges. The resulting system needs to be able to operate in both a reachback and in a standalone mode; it needs to be robust to disruptions in connectivity and maintain system and information integrity and security; and it needs to be persistent across many operations so as to enable learning, e.g., last year?s tsunami becomes this year?s game/simulation, which becomes next year?s ?tuned? instrumented SSTR/HADR C2 system.

6. Mensuration: The resulting system should be instrumented to support continuous adaptation, feedback, and optimization of resources. Embedded real-time metrics could support machine learning for both human networks and the communication networks upon which they depend. New concepts are needed for defining metrics and instrumentation to support SSTR/HADR operations and measure collaboration.


A Strategic Collaboration Technology Review Workshop is tentatively scheduled for June 20-22, 2007, in the vicinity of Arlington, VA. The purpose of the workshop is to interactively explore technology and system concepts and to collaboratively identify key technology needs, current capabilities, and gaps. Space is limited and attendance will be by invitation only, based on a review of the white papers. The workshop may include an overview of Strategic Collaboration requirements and challenges, invited presentations, Q&A, and group participation and brainstorming sessions. Attendees are expected to be actively involved in breakout groups, out briefings, and other activities. Workshop invitees will be notified via email by May 21, 2007. A website with further information on the workshop and for registration will be provided at that time.


A Strategic Collaboration Challenge Problem Exercise is tentatively schedule for July 10-12, 2007, in the vicinity of Arlington, VA. The purpose of the exercise is to observe the interactions between two different types of organizations during a SSTR/HADR problem solving exercise. Space is extremely limited and attendance will be by invitation only, based on the white papers and workshop participation. Exercise invitees will be notified by June 29, 2007. A website with further information on the workshop and for registration will be provided at that time.


DARPA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources, including but not limited to, universities, university affiliated research centers, federally-funded research centers, private or public companies, and Government research laboratories.

White papers should adhere to the following formatting and outline instructions:

1. Format specifications include 12 point font, single spaced, single-sided, 8.5 by 11 inches paper, with 1-inch margins. All submissions must be made electronically (as described below), and be in one of the following formats: Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, or Microsoft PowerPoint.

2. Cover Page (1 page)

a. Title

b. Organization

c. Responder?s technical and administrative points of contact (names, addresses, phones and fax numbers, and email addresses)

d. Topic area(s) addressed

e. Indication of willingness to attend the Workshop

f. Indication of willingness to attend the Exercise

3. Technical Ideas (up to 5 pages)

a. Executive summary

b. A discussion of the capability/challenge addressed (from your perspective)

c. Technical response. Your discussion should address the following: What is your proposed innovative technology/concept? How does it address the specific capability/challenge that you identified? What is the current capability vice the desired capability? How would you measure its performance in the context of a Strategic Collaboration system or standalone? What extensions or advances are needed to achieve the Strategic Collaboration vision?

d. Brief summary of any relevant experience in SSTR/HADR operations.

4. An optional list of citations, including URLs, if available.

Respondents are encouraged to be as succinct as possible while at the same time providing insight.

DARPA will employ an electronic upload process for response submissions. NO PROPRIETARY OR CLASSIFIED INFORMATION SHALL BE INCLUDED IN THE RFI RESPONSE. Responses to this RFI are due no later than 1300 EDT (1:00 p.m.), on Monday, 30 April 2007. Responders may find submission guidance at: Organizations must register at to respond. One registration per white paper should be submitted. Organizations wishing to submit multiple papers should complete a single registration for each response. By registering, the Responder has made no commitment to submit.


DARPA will host a website in support of RFI SN07-28, Strategic Collaboration. The Website will contain information supplementary to this document such as Question & Answer lists in the event that clarifications are needed. The URL for the web site is In the event of any discrepancies between material published on this website and FedBizOpps, the FedBizOpps announcement takes precedence.


This is an RFI issued solely for information and new program planning purposes; the RFI, workshop, and exercise do not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals or proposal abstracts. In accordance with FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Submission of a white paper, and/or attendance at the workshop or exercise, is voluntary and is not required to propose to subsequent Broad Agency Announcements (if any) or research solicitations (if any) on this topic. DARPA will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred in responding to this RFI or participating in the RFI workshop or exercise. No proprietary or classified information should be submitted. Respondents are advised that DARPA is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received, or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted under this RFI.

All information submitted in response to the RFI will be considered public information and will be made available to workshop attendees and, in the event of a BAA or other solicitation, on a public website. NO PROPRIETARY OR CLASSIFIED INFORMATION SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE RFI RESPONSE. All materials presented or discussed at the Strategic Collaboration RFI Workshop and Exercise must be approved for public release in advance by the organization that funded the research. It is the responders? responsibility to ensure the material has been approved for public release by the organization that funded the research.

Submissions may be reviewed by: the Government (DARPA and partners); Federally Funded R&D Centers (such as MIT Lincoln Laboratory); and Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors (such as Schafer Corporation, SET Associates, CACI International, and System Analysis, Inc.).

Point of Contact

Stephen Davis, Contracting Officer, Phone (571) 218-4949, Fax (703) 807-4962, Email

Other Defense Agencies, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Contracts Management Office, 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA, 22203-1714, UNITED STATES
Stephen Davis, Contracting Officer, Phone 571-218-4949, Fax 703-807-4952, Email