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Poly to research for DoD 

Cal Poly will soon be conducting logistical research and developing software for the U.S. military under an upcoming three-year Cooperative  Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Department of Defense.

University President Warren Baker will join Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), at a ceremony Dec. 1 at Scott Air Force Base, outside of St. Louis, to mark the opening of a new research center sponsored by the university.

The Knowledge Management Laboratory (KML) Center is a nonprofit lab opened in September. Students and faculty will work with information technology reps and government researchers to improve transportation and delivery of equipment to the military by USTRANSCOM.

The center is the latest development in a nearly 17-year working relationship between Cal Poly’s Collaborative Agent Design Research Center (CADRC) and USTRANSCOM. CADRC created and maintained software to streamline the military’s ship-loading process, earning the university two contracts totaling $21.5 million. The program was expanded in 2007 to include aircraft, trains, and trucks.

Under the new research agreement, the KML Center will allow CADRC to develop a system that employs intelligent reasoning to filter and interpret data.

The university is seeking further sponsors for the center from various commercial, government, and academic sources. As of this printing, Microsoft has been the only major company to commit at the “partner” level, requiring an annual fee of $50,000, according to CADRC Executive Director and KML Center Director Jens Pohl.

“The KML Center Consortium provides an opportunity for Cal Poly students and faculty to engage in state-of-the-art research and design with industry and the government in the context of a real-world, large-scale operational environment,” Pohl wrote to New Times.

Not all Poly students are game with the university conducting research for military operations. David Fintel, president of the Progressive Student Alliance, an on-campus community activist organization, sent a statement to New Times:

“The Progressive Student Alliance is supportive of any activities that Cal Poly may offer to help its students,” it read. “However, without further information we cannot support any funding that Cal Poly puts towards the research for the Department of Defense. This is a very politically charged action, and Cal Poly should not have the right to speak for the political beliefs of all the students.”

According to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s website, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements are not grants but means to pursue joint research goals while protecting intellectual property.

—Matt Fountain

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