Yet on the heels of confirmation hearings for John Kerry (State) and Chuck Hagel (Defense), who will both play significant roles in arms policies and negotiations, the State Department is exploring less conventional approaches to this deadly serious business. As the sequestration was just beginning to take effect, the State Department announced cash prizes in the first ever Innovation in Arms Control Challenge:
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance is pleased to announce the winners of the first Innovation in Arms Control Challenge. This Challenge, which received interest from more than 500 potential solvers, sought creative ideas from the general public to use commonly available technologies to support arms control policy efforts.
Ms. Lovely Umayam, a graduate student from the Monterey Institute of International Studies at Middlebury College, located in Monterey, California, has been awarded the first prize of $5000. Ms. Umayam developed “Bombshelltoe,” an online education platform that examines the intersection of culture and nuclear issues in order to facilitate better public understanding of basic nuclear and arms control-related issues.Runners-up included a "mobile application that provides a platform for users to connect and interact, as well as a rewards program for sharing information on various arms agreement regimes" and a "unique geographically based online social game for verifying treaty compliance."
These ideas seem to mark a trend in government to emphasize new media and technology to raise awareness on a variety of issues, as well as attract the interest of the public, especially young people. In another example, the Centers for Disease Control recently released an iPad app called "Solve the Outbreak," an interactive game that allows a user to be a "disease detective." The U.S. Mint has a whole page dedicated to various games and activities (to raise kids' awareness of... money?) The American people will have to decide if this trend is valuable outside-the-box thinking for government in the 21st century, or if the Obama administration is just playing games courtesy of the taxpayer.
Note: This article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.