S&T Notebook: A Two-Year Tenure Winds Down

Dr. Scott Fish

This is the final column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs.

As part of our efforts to expand the Army’s awareness of S&T Initiatives outside the Army, Ms. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, and I visited Sandia National Laboratories on Aug. 23. We were met by Dr. Jeff Isaacson, Vice President for Defense Systems and Assessments, and Dr. Jerry L. McDowell, Deputy Laboratories Director and Executive Vice President for National Security Programs.

They provided an overview of Sandia’s current research and development (R&D) initiatives and transitioning technologies, while showing us some of their unique laboratories with projects of relevance to the Army mission. In return, we discussed ways to enhance the strategic relationship between Sandia and the Army. This was a very fruitful visit.

The following week, I traveled to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, to attend a meeting of the Air Force Research Council, a gathering of the Air Force’s Chief Scientists, at the invitation of the AFRL Chief Technologist, Dr. Jennifer Ricklin. We had an excellent discussion on sensors, munitions, materials and manufacturing, and information. I talked about the Army’s work in these areas and gave them an overview of our S&T portfolio.

DACM

Mike Cook of ATC discusses the Roadway Simulator with Dr. Fish. (Photo by Dana Fritts, Protocol Specialist, ATC)

I also met with Maj Gen William N. McCasland, the AFRL Commander, to discuss increased cross-service S&T collaboration. I was able to tour several AFRL labs and facilities, discussing their programs. I was particularly impressed with how the various Air Force directorates think through and articulate their efforts within the Air Force Strategic Plan. They were terrific hosts.

On Aug. 30, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Mark Maybury presented to Secretary Shyu, and a host of Army cyber-related organizations, work on an Air Force study he’s leading to provide a strategic focus in the cyberspace domain. Cyber Vision 2025 connects current National Strategy with future trends and challenges; it focuses on cyber as a domain, with air and space command and control functions within that cyber domain. The product clearly had parallel implications for the Army and engendered a lively discussion with the presentation participants.

The next week I accompanied Ms. Shyu on a long-planned visit to the U.S. Army Cyber Command and received an overview of Army efforts in the cyberspace domain. Cyberspace will continue to be of national, military, and economic concern with no shortage of future work in that area.

The week of Sept. 10 was a busy one. The Army Science Board briefed both the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, LTG Dennis L. Via, and Secretary of the Army John McHugh, on the results of the board’s latest study, “Strategic Direction for Army Science and Technology.” The study contains recommendations derived from looking at the current S&T environment and familiar trends, such as the growing global and industrial investment in technology. It also looks hard at how to enhance the transition of S&T while providing more focus for our S&T Enterprise.

I started the next week in Warren, MI, with a visit to the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC), where Dr. Paul Rogers has just taken over as Director. I spent time with him and his leadership team getting an update on TARDEC’s work in protection, energy, and robotics. Dr. Rogers and I talked about how to enable his team to continue innovating and providing mechanisms for transitioning advancements to industry faster and more easily.

I also received an update on underbody blast simulation work, and we discussed what TARDEC and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory are learning with these tools, where experimental validation is strong, and where improvements are needed. It was time well spent.

DACM

Steve Knott (left), Associate Director of Ground System Survivability at TARDEC, discusses recent advances with Dr. Fish. (Photo by Bruce J. Huffman, Public Affairs Officer, TARDEC)

At the end of the week, I accepted an invitation to tour the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC), Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, from the new ATC Commander, COL Gordon Graham. Though I have interacted with many individual ATC personnel and participated in several tests there, I was surprised by the breadth and depth of ATC’s work. The increased use of modeling and simulation to help guide test planning, and the focus on the most productive tests to perform, are encouraging.

We must continue to be diligent in this area, as budgets and trends in the complexity of our equipment continue to reduce our ability to verify everything by direct physical measurement.

I was also impressed with the attitude of the project managers, who are finding ways to streamline validation and verification processes earlier in the acquisition cycle and link up with testing being conducted at contractor sites to shrink overall program timelines and cost. This is not easy; it requires continued engagement and clever strategy to maximize opportunities for confident development and certification of equipment for our warfighters. ATC has a great team and is doing critical work for our Army.

This month ends my two-year tenure as the Army Chief Scientist. The experience has been great fun, and I’ve had the chance to shape some very interesting technical investigations across the realm of Army R&D. During this time, I’ve also had the chance to initiate activities both internal to the Army as well as external, and work through some of the typical growing pains of starting a new office in the Pentagon.

Stay tuned for the selection of my successor by Secretary Shyu, whom I wish the very best, and who I expect will be able to take the Army Chief Scientist Office to an even higher level of utility. I now look forward to returning to Austin and initiating new activity with the University of Texas.