National Security Agency, Vanderbilt sign partnership to advance innovation, education on issues of modern conflict and emerging threats

Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats

On the heels of National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone’s keynote address to the Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats, the university has signed a five-year education partnership agreement with the NSA.  

“This partnership will bring together the sharpest and most innovative minds across military intelligence and higher education to address these urgent and complex issues,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Drawing on our strong track record with military-academic collaborations, Vanderbilt provides the intellectual forum to explore these challenges from new and cross-disciplinary perspectives.” 

Congress enacted Title 10 U.S.C.§ 2194 authorizing education partnership agreements “for the purpose of encouraging and enhancing study in scientific disciplines at all levels of education.”  

“Vanderbilt has long been recognized for our highly interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to find innovative solutions,” said Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan, who signed the agreement on behalf of Vanderbilt. “By engaging directly with the defense and intelligence communities, we can further expand our world-class capabilities to solve the most pressing issues facing our nation.” 

During the May 4–5 summit at Vanderbilt, Nakasone, NSA Cybersecurity Director Rob Joyce and his team met with faculty, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students and university leadership to discuss the importance of partnerships among military, government, academia and the private sector.  

At the Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats, Chancellor Diermeier appointed Raghavan as leader of a new university-wide task force, the Initiative for the Study and Resolution of Modern Conflict, on understanding and responding to global challenges posed by modern conflict. The group will advise university leadership on how to accelerate interdisciplinary research in multiple areas, including data science, AI, cybersecurity and the social sciences. 

Vanderbilt was the first university to sign an education partnership agreement with Army Futures Command in 2019. The agreement paved the way for several teams of interdisciplinary researchers, soldiers and industry partners to collaborate on projects to pioneer technologies that could benefit soldiers and civilians, further modernize the U.S. Army and improve the human condition.  

Army Futures Command has awarded Pathfinder Project funding to Vanderbilt research teams to collaborate with Soldiers and military experts to rapidly innovate high-impact technologies with a path to commercialization. 

  • The 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Karl Zelik are collaborating to develop the Soldier Assistive Bionic Exosuit for Resupply, or SABER, a soft exoskeleton that augments lifting capabilities and reduces back strain.  
  • The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell is collaborating with Tonia Rex, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Doug Adams, Daniel F. Flowers Professor and Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to assess how the environment of specialized aircraft affects Soldiers’ performance and health. 

Vanderbilt is home to many programs and partnerships to benefit soldiers, civilians and veterans within the university community and beyond.