Speaker: Kevin Kirshenbaum
Title: From CNAM Basements to Submarines: the career path of a PhD Alumnus
Operational test and evaluation (OT&E) refers to testing a military system in the environment in which it will be employed by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. This stage of testing is in contrast to development testing which often involves technicians already familiar with a system using it in laboratory environments. As an employee at the Institute for Defense Analyses it’s my job to advise the Department of Defense on the planning and evaluation of operational tests. We also observe testing to gain insights for our analyses. Specifically, we work in support of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), a civilian appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). DOT&E is charged with providing independent evaluations of operational effectiveness, suitability, and survivability of major defense acquisition programs. I work on submarines, surface ships, and maritime patrol aircraft. By testing these systems in realistic environments we can ensure that warfighters have combat-credible knowledge about fielded systems.
In this talk I will discuss how I went from CNAM to working at a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) planning, observing, and evaluating operational tests of military systems. I will discuss how we use statistics to plan tests that quantify and mitigate risk, and how these skills can be used to improve your own research now. As part of my discussion, attendees will run experiments to test a new notional system, with rewards for those who can properly design and execute a test. Finally, I will discuss how a physics PhD helps me in my current position and the benefits of working at an FFRDC.