NEWS | Dec. 22, 2021

West Virginia Military Authority, Army sign agreement to create solutions to technology challenges

By (Courtesy article)

The West Virginia Military Authority signed an agreement with the Army to participate in the U.S. Army’s Catalyst-Pathfinder Program to provide opportunities for the West Virginia National Guard. They will engage the nation’s academic institutions and industry partners to create faster and better solutions to military technological challenges.

As part of a Congressional initiative, the goal of the Catalyst-Pathfinder program is to harness the creativity and technical skills of academic institutions and help the Army to quickly create better solutions to real problems.

“Participating in the Pathfinder Program for the West Virginia Military Authority is an incredible opportunity,” said Phillip Cantrell, director of the West Virginia Military Authority. “The West Virginia Military Authority engages with these types of partnerships for the purposes of executing its national security and homeland security mission. Through the Pathfinder program, we will be able to create opportunities for our West Virginia National Guardsmen to identify real problems and needs they are seeing in the field and engage directly in cutting-edge research to help solve those problems/needs.”

The WVMA is the first non-active-duty organization to be involved in this Soldier-focused program that was launched last year.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has long supported the creation and funding of programs that seek to gain insight directly from servicemembers, which is Pathfinder’s main purpose. 

“I have always said West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in the nation, and I am especially proud that the West Virginia Military Authority and National Guard will be at the forefront of this program. Pathfinder will lead in forming invaluable relationships between servicemembers and researchers to better solve the Army’s technical challenges,” said Senator Manchin. “Pathfinder will create solutions to the problems our men and women on the ground are faced with, and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this program for our servicemembers and innovation within the U.S. Department of Defense.”

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory manages the Catalyst-Pathfinder program in close partnership with the DEVCOM Armaments Center.

The Pathfinder program is executed through a cooperative agreement with the West Virginia-based non-profit Civil-Military Innovation Institute (CMI2), which focuses on bringing Soldier-inspired innovations to the battlefield.  

"Soldier-inspired innovation is critical to our national security as our warfighters often know best what they need in the field," said Aly G. Gregg, vice-president at CMI2. "Having our partners at the National Guard lead this effort for non-active-duty organizations throughout the country is a tremendous opportunity for West Virginia."

The Pathfinder model will create opportunities for Soldiers to work side-by-side with researchers to help (1) curate the problem they are seeing in the field, (2) develop operator-focused solutions and (3) field test those solutions against real-world battlefield scenarios. 

“The Pathfinder program creates collaborative engagements toward problem-solving and technical solutions between leading academic researchers, government subject matter experts, and Soldiers from our active and reserve Army divisions,” said Dr. Arwen DeCostanza, Catalyst Pathfinder Program Manager, DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory.  “This agreement with the West Virginia Military Authority will help the development of a blueprint as to how we will build and scale this program for broad impact.”