S&T Notebook: Strengthening Communication between S&T and Acquisition

Dr. Scott Fish

This is a regular 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.

On May 21, I gave the keynote address to the 18th Annual Automotive Research Center Conference, a cooperative effort hosted by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC). Increasingly, S&T development is done with cooperation with academia, government research centers, industry partnerships, and centers like these, showcasing the best of these efforts. I toured TARDEC’s recently updated facilities and participated in discussions on the current development and state of the art of ground vehicle engines and drive system controllers.

The following day was the annual Army S&T Corps meeting. This prized group of eminent scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are our senior technical leaders, with responsibilities associated with identifying key research and development directions, mentoring our junior technical cadre, and pursuing their own groundbreaking work. They actively participate in external technical communities, are geographically disperse, and have extensive experience across a broad spectrum of Army-relevant technical areas. Their stature is equivalent to that of chaired professors at leading research universities and government Senior Executive Service civilians. This meeting included a collective discussion of current trends and methods of enhancing interaction with the laboratory leadership.

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Lauren Armstrong and Deepak Kapoor at ARDEC’s nanotechnology center talk with Fish about the novel properties of nano-materials. The center is leveraging the technology to develop materials that can be used for lightweight composites and explosive applications)

A large part of my interest involves how S&T programs are transitioned out of their place of development (for example, government labs, industry research and development, and university research) and into programs of record. There are numerous paths, but the best transitions occur where there is a large degree of communication, trust, and planning between the developer and the program management office. Strengthening these links creates better outcomes for the warfighter.

In this vein, I have conducted several site visits to our program executive offices (PEOs) and RDECs. In June, I visited both the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) and the U.S. Army Air and Missile Defense Research and Engineering Center. In conjunction with those visits, I also visited PEO Missiles and Space, PEO Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Weapons, and PEO Ammunition. Several exciting developments are occurring in those areas, and some transition strategies are being examined in light of potential requirement changes reflecting the latest DoD strategic guidance.

At ARDEC, an update on the nanotechnology center showed new achievements in the creation, production, and use of nanoparticles, while identifying new challenges to enhance product performance for the warfighter. The center is becoming a locus of industry and government nanotechnology research.

Redstone Arsenal has several promising S&T developments in base protection that will prove essential to our future security. These are being incorporated into the major thrust areas of deployable force protection and the Force Protection Basing Technology Enabled Capability Demonstration.

Near the end of June, I attended the Robotics Rodeo, hosted by the Maneuver Battle Lab and the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, GA, and co-sponsored by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and TARDEC. The robotics development community continues to demonstrate new and innovative solutions to current Army problems with the use of a variety of intelligent robot behaviors. Based on the enthusiasm of both the government and attendees, the future Army will continue to see robotic innovations to augment its capabilities.

On July 23, I briefed the Defense Materials Manufacturing and Infrastructure Workshop on Materials and Manufacturing (part of the National Academies). The group is investigating the issue of counterfeit parts as an increasing concern to military and government procurement professionals dealing with a burgeoning obsolescence issue. The group discussed potential mitigation strategies and the need for more insight into this area.

Coming Up
Later this month, I will be attending the summer session of the Army Science Board (ASB), which will brief its study findings to Army leadership. The board has had two studies this year: “Strategic Direction for Army Science and Technology,” sponsored by the Secretary of the Army, and “Small Unit Data to Decisions,” sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

We also plan on supporting the Board on Army Science and Technology (a standing committee chartered by the National Academies) by attending its upcoming meeting in September.
 

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Anthony Franchino (right) at ARDEC demonstrates the Automated Direct/Indirect Mortar (ADIM) to Dr. Scott Fish (left), Army Chief Scientist. The ADIM is a magazine-fed, 81mm automated mortar that can be truck-mounted. (Photos by LTC Charles “Jack” Emerson, Military Assistant to the Army Chief Scientist)