NNSS integral to United States’ holistic approach to supporting national security personnel

Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) Program Managers Scott Sonnon and Ian O’Keefe established the Human Performance Analytics (HPA) system to analyze, customize and optimize the safety and security of the United States by unlocking ever-greater potential of personnel in national security organizations.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) adopted the HPA program to assess, customize and deliver training for emergency responders, military and intelligence officers to increase mission-specific physical, psychological and physiological performance. Partnering with the NNSS, a well-coordinated, fully-integrated training portfolio was created through selection of the highest caliber instruction cadre.

The NNSS is not just the creator of the HPA program; a subset of employees are also users. HPA has quickly become an integral part of the Nuclear Emergency Response Team (NEST), which includes the NNSS’ Nuclear Response Division (NRD).

(Learn more about NEST and the NRD on YouTube.)

An additional user of the program is the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Strategic Partnership Program to military Special Operations Forces and Strategic Intelligence Partnership Program to the Intelligence Community.

HPA utilizes a “next-level,” holistic approach through training, wearables and assessment of biomathematical data analytics for customized solutions to common stressors. The NNSS is involved with all three pillars of this system, including training, wearables and analytics, depending on the sponsor.

Training levels are determined by the sponsor and rigors of individuals’ jobs. The three levels of training are resilience training, which includes learning quantified degrees of fatigue, stress, pain, energy, and alertness affected by occupational demands; optimization training, which tracks individualized trends in physiological data over time for mission-specific preparation; and lastly, enhancement training, which is achieved by synchronizing internal and external resources with the mind and body.

The NNSS has partnered with the DoD to further advance its human performance optimization research. By tracking and studying individualized trend changes in physiological data over time, the NNSS will better be able to help individuals sustainably perform at peak capacity through the establishment of customized mitigation toolboxes that can be refined and developed for mission-specific preparation, execution and compensation.

The wearables are biosensors used during sleep and/or physical training to provide monitoring and feedback to the operator. The wearable will deliver the data, similar to a FitBit, but the uniqueness of the product is in the analytics. Depending on the sponsor and the impact of the training, Sonnon and O’Keefe can create unique solutions to respond to the data.

In 2020, the HPA team presented ideas and concepts to students and professors of academic partners at Brigham Young University and Cornell University to work on the artificial intelligence (AI) for the wearables. In a time where COVID-19 shut down most of the world, it compressed HPA to tightening solutions to the data.

“There are no missions without people,” Sonnon said. “Through HPA’s delivery, we hope to be able to keep our people longer by better understanding their stress and taking action to mitigate it.”

The system aims to identify what is happening and what can be done; it will then provide solutions for personnel to be their best selves for a longer period of time.

HPA is not a cut and paste way of thinking and is a “multifaceted application to wellness,” through looking at the whole person and creating a unique way to respond to his or her specific stressors, said O’Keefe.

“Water conforms to the container it’s poured into,” said Sonnon. If identifying what can wear down an emergency responder versus another personnel member on a physiological level, he said, it will strengthen the overall performance of the individual. For the program to be effective, it must be perfectly customized to the mission and the individual challenges faced.