By 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.
The New Year continues to be a busy time for the Chief Scientist’s office. I took part in the Army Science Board plenary meeting held Jan. 18-20 at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Headquarters at Fort Eustis, VA. The Small Unit Data to Decisions Study was initiated with the full team. That study, and continued work on the Strategic Look at Army S&T Study, prepared for active engagements through the spring with various labs and S&T customers.
On Jan. 27, I gave a luncheon speech to the Advanced Program Management Course at Defense Acquisition University (DAU), hosted by Claude M. Bolton Jr., former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. I spoke to senior acquisition professionals about my experiences in project management and observations on technology transition into programs of record. This could become a regular engagement with DAU.
As part of continuing external engagements related to academia, industry, and government labs, on Feb. 3, I was joined by Jeff Jaczkowski, Deputy Project Manager for the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, on a visit with members of the University of Texas Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Departments, who were working on low-cost sensing and associated intelligent processing and advanced actuation, with potential applications in robotics and human augmentation systems. Drs. Sriram Vishwanath and Luis Sentis were my hosts, and the technical exchange with their students and staff was quite enlightening.
COL Lary Chinowsky, my Special Assistant, Mike Perschbacher of Rovnotech, and I met with Jim Lasswell and his team at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA, on Feb. 2. We discussed their unmanned vehicle systems and collaboration with the Army and other services in this important area.
On Feb. 7, I gave the keynote address at Ground Day of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2012. I showed a few video clips of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) work from the past 12 years, which addressed some major success stories in UGV penetration of key mission areas associated with explosive ordnance disposal, route clearance, urban reconnaissance, and checkpoint security.
Comments were also made on bringing forward our successful technology demonstration results in autonomous behaviors for ground robots into products that reduce operator burden and enhance utility for missions beyond the current baseline. I noted that we need to work together on an updated UGV strategy with industry to get at new business models for robots that can enable wider adoption in a time of fiscal and force structure reductions. It was a great session, and I’m looking forward to continued dialogue in the months ahead.
On Feb. 14, Dr. John Miller, U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Director, hosted COL Chinowsky and me on a tour of the facility in Adelphi, MD. We had a very good session on cyber security and batteries/switches with ARL and members of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center. We also toured some of the labs and met with the researchers conducting amazing work in nanochemistry and power component development and early performance evaluation.
Finally, I headed to Israel to attend the Namer ground combat vehicle operational test and evaluation senior leader brief and to visit with my Israeli counterparts on their S&T initiatives. The visit was short, but I got a tremendous amount done. This collaboration has greatly increased the U.S. understanding of the Namer and its capabilities, and the data gained from testing will inform and refine our Ground Combat Vehicle requirements. On Feb. 16, I briefed at the U.S. – Israel Memorandum of Understanding meeting, where I gave a Namer assessment update to the delegation.
For the first time, I will be traveling to Afghanistan to visit our troops and meet some of the program managers supporting the operations. I am very excited about this opportunity to go into theater. At the end of February, I will travel to California to attend the 2012 Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Army-Industry Collaboration Conference, which is focused on our basic and applied research. I also plan to visit universities in California before heading back to the Pentagon.
Previous S&T Notebook Articles:
Events Update (26 January 2012)
Looking to the Future (2 December 2011)
Taking the Pulse (1 November 2011)
Exploring Partnerships with Israel (27 September 2011)
Army Chief Scientist to Make Regular Contributions to USAASC Publications (2 September 2011)