WVPA Sharing

W.Va. National Guard begins active partnership with Fairmont State University Open Source Intelligence Exchange program

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia National Guard has begun an active partnership with Fairmont State University’s Open Source Intelligence Exchange (OSIX) program, providing students real-world opportunities to develop, hone, and enhance their education in collaboration with the WVNG intelligence directorate (J2).

During the fall 2023 semester, OSIX students prepared in-depth open source intelligence briefings for WVNG personnel on topics of interest. This gave the students the opportunity to present real-world presentations and products to Guard subject matter experts, then get critiqued on their research, data, and analysis as it would apply in a military setting. Future engagements will include visits by OSIX students to WVNG facilities, and enhanced opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and continuing research and analysis presentations.

“While the OSIX program has been on our radar for quite some time, we began an active partnership with Fairmont State this past semester through engagements with our WVNG joint intelligence directorate and our State Partnership Program,” stated Chief Warrant Officer 3 Billy Tomblin, Deputy J2. “OSINT is critical at the local, state, and national level to keep our communities and nation safe from any range of threats. We are excited about the positive impacts OSIX has had and will have here at home in the Mountain State utilizing emerging technologies and new media to strengthen our national security.”

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined as intelligence produced by collecting, evaluating, and analyzing information from publicly available sources. By piecing together data from various sources such as public records, news media, libraries, social media platforms, websites, etc., OSINT information can be used by government, the military, law enforcement, and other organizations and professionals to detect and mitigate any number of potential threats, including domestic and international terrorism.

OSINT has proven so valuable due to its accessibility, timeliness, near-real-time situational awareness, cost-effectiveness, and transparency, it has been referred to by the U.S. intelligence community as, “the source of first resort”. According to a 2022 article highlighting the power of OSINT in the Wall Street Journal, “80% of what a U.S. president or military commander needs to know comes from OSINT.”

Dr. Todd Clark, Associate Professor for National Security and Intelligence and Director of the OSIX program, states that the opportunity for students to “cut their teeth” presenting to actual military professionals helps to prepare OSIX students for their futures.

“Having the opportunity to work with working subject matter experts provides our OSIX students invaluable experience that will help them expand their horizons and employment opportunities once they graduate,” said Clark. “Getting personal critiques and collaborating with the WVNG helps our students gain a better understanding of intelligence support products that can assist Department of Defense decision makers and helps them better understand the direct needs and demands of military-style environments.”

Established in 2009, the OSIX program at Fairmont State is the laboratory and applied research component of the university’s National Security and Intelligence (NSI) program. The program provides the necessary background for students to pursue careers as research or intelligence analysts in government agencies and private enterprise. NSI students are handpicked and rigorously screened to participate in OSIX.

Open source intelligence information plays a critical role here at home to help West Virginians during times of need, and to assist law enforcement and officials during important National Special Security Events (NSSE) such as Presidential visits, National Scout Jamborees or even for emergency response.

When devastating floods ravaged West Virginia towns in the summer of 2016, a group of Fairmont State students were monitoring Facebook and Twitter for people in need. OSIX was instrumental in identifying citizens who needed emergency and first responder assistance, and then notifying proper authorities.

In 2010, OSIX supported the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center during President Barack Obama’s visit to Beckley to attend a memorial service for those killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster by monitoring social media and by summarizing information not reported by traditional media.

U.S. Army Sergeant Yi Ting Lin, a former member of the West Virginia National Guard, says the OSIX program helped to put her on her current path.

“The OSIX program is great! Not only did it provide a priceless experience working in simulated real-life OSINT environments, but it also allowed me to meet likeminded, highly driven individuals who were seeking careers in the intelligence field. OSIX helped build my confidence, pushed me to aspire for more goals, and opened many doors of opportunity, including my previous service in the WVNG and my current role as an active duty linguist.”

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address