GTRI director appointed to Defense Department

The Department of Defense (DoD) has appointed vice president and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) director Stephen E. Cross to the Defense Science Board (DSB). Cross was nominated by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates for the position.

“The Defense Science Board is an advisory board to the Secretary of Defense and the Under-Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to do studies on the impact of science and technology and policy on needs of the Department,” Cross said.

“The Department of Defense is embarked on efforts to transform the nation’s armed forces to meet the demands being placed on them by a changing world order,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Dr. Ashton B. Carter.

“The Board has ably served the nation in numerous ways by providing innovative solutions to myriad technological, operational and managerial problems,” Carter said.

The DSB assists and advises the by conducting studies each year. These studies range from a major study, conducted each year during the summer, to faster shorter studies, conducted throughout the year per request of the Secretary of Defense or Congressional leaders.

“Any large organization is slow to change. So sometimes these studies are to try to help show that there is a better way to do things,” Cross said.

The DSB meets every other month for two days.

“There is a concentrated period of time in August for two weeks when we will all get together at an off-site location and that is where most of the work in a study is done,” Cross said.

Cross has worked with the DSB on several studies in the past, although not as a board member. In 2000, he participated in a study called “Defense Software.” The purpose of the study was to look at all of the techniques used in the commercial world to develop software quickly used by internet and telecommunications companies, and to see if there were practices that could be better used by the large contractors that support the defense systems.

Another more recent study that he participated in looked at the system needs of container ships and a way to take commercial systems and then modify them with the required military capabilities to fulfill military needs. The plan was to develop systems faster and less expensive using best commercial practices rather than build it from scratch.

“A lot of times, any large organization is slow to change. So sometimes these studies are to try to help show that there is a better way to do things,” Cross said.

“I will be a technical expert on software and architecture of systems and systems engineering and application of systems engineering principles more than likely,” Cross said.

The entire board consists of about 50 people, who the DoD consider leaders and experts in their fields of engineering, science and technology, respectively, and their field’s application to defense and military. Members serve three-year terms, which also may be renewed at the end of each term.

“We are all volunteers. And it is a diverse group. There are people from everywhere from very high-level people in the Department of Defense to one person who used to be the CIA director,” Cross said.

“Secretary of Defense Gates believes the [DSB] needs to be a professional board representing the best scientific and expert advice available to the Department of Defense,” Carter said. “We are grateful to these superb individuals for their willingness to serve.”

At Tech, Cross is an Institute vice president and the director of GTRI. In addition, he also holds faculty appointments as a professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, as an adjunct professor in the College of Computing and as a part of numerous advisory boards throughout the institute.

Within the Tech administration, he serves on the President’s cabinet.

“It is a real honor to work on the Board. You don’t apply for it, you are asked and it was quite an honor to be asked,” Cross said.