Mathematics major Grace Farson is one of six University of Nebraska students who have joined the National Strategic Research Institute as strategic deterrence interns.
Throughout the summer, they will each use their problem-solving skills to address real-world, mission-related policy and technical challenges for U.S. Strategic Command, which sponsors NSRI as a University Affiliated Research Center.
Farson and Caden Punteney of the School of Computing are representing the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Farson was an NSRI intern last year, and during the spring semester she discussed a limited nuclear conflict wargame at a USSTRATCOM Academic Alliance workshop.
"Through this experience, these students will have the opportunity to dive deeply into USSTRATCOM's primary focus — strategic deterrence," said Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Rick Evans, NSRI executive director. "Especially given current events, this is an extremely valuable experience for these young leaders who could quite possibly be contributing significantly to our Nation's national security in the future — we certainly hope to inspire them to aim for that ambitious target."
To explore challenges related to USSTRATCOM's primary nuclear deterrence mission, the interns will examine two key areas of significant interest to the command: game theory and electromagnetic spectrum operations.
Led by NSRI fellows Dustin White, assistant professor of economics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Jacques Bou Abdo, assistant professor of cyber systems at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, the game theory interns will work to improve decision-making in strategic relationships, particularly in the new era of tripolar nuclear rivals.
Game theory is a branch of mathematics used to model strategic interactions between individuals or groups with diverging incentives. While it was employed extensively in the Cold War, coming of age in the context of that bipolar nuclear competition, little research has been conducted to extend that formal methodology for application in the new geopolitical environment in which the United States finds itself facing two peer nuclear rivals.
The second group of interns will work under the guidance of USSTRATCOM advisers as well as Allen Geist, NSRI director for electromagnetic spectrum operations programs, to apply best practices in crowdsourced radio frequency network penetration testing to protect networks from vulnerabilities in the electromagnetic spectrum. EMS superiority is essential to successful modern military operations to mitigate risks to U.S. national and economic security. USSTRATCOM leads advocacy for EMS for the Department of Defense.
Through a range of tasks, including reviewing prior unclassified work, developing a research concept, conducting test planning and execution and more, the interns will conduct academically rigorous research while expanding their skill sets.
Ultimately, they will report research findings and offer recommendations for future research to NSRI and USSTRATCOM by the time their appointments end in August. They will also have the opportunity to brief USSTRATCOM leadership at the command's headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha.