S&T Notebook: Robotics, Strategy, Small Units and More

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.

While this has been a busy summer with lots of activity pertaining to the future of Science and Technology (S&T) Management in the Army, the end of July and early August were packed full of reviews and actions.

On July 25, I participated in the Congressional Robotics Caucus, co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Phil Gingrey (R-GA), M.D. The meeting covered a variety of subjects, but the focus was on driverless cars and supporting technologies. I described the unique requirements of such systems in the Army and the need to consider user trust when fielding unmanned systems with any degree of autonomy.

Dr. Jim Overholt, our Robotics ST [Scientific Professional Corps expert] at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center, contributed much of the material and talking points for a possible success-oriented development path. (For more information on the ST Corps, see my article “Thought Leaders,” Army AL&T Magazine, July-Sept 2011, online at asc.army.mil.) Gingrey supported the advancement and application of this technology to save Soldiers’ lives and said that the research and development dollars spent by both industry and government were well worth the effort.

The Army Science Board (ASB) conducted its Summer Study Meeting July 23-27 in Dedham, MA. After the ASB had completed panel reports and background writing, members voted to accept the findings and recommendations of the current studies. On July 27, the board formally presented the out-briefing of the study, “Strategic Direction for Army Science and Technology,” sponsored by the Secretary of the Army (SecArmy).

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.

The board also out-briefed the results of the study, “Small Unit Data to Decisions,” sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. This study focused on opportunities to exploit the proliferation of information sources to understand and shape the battlefield at small-unit levels.

These studies will be briefed to the SecArmy in mid-September.

On July 26, my Military Assistant, LTC Charles Emerson, addressed the National Research Council’s Committee on Capability Surprise on U.S. Naval Forces at the National Academies. While the council’s concern was on Naval affairs, capability surprise and ways to deal with it at strategic levels are concerns shared across the services. LTC Emerson articulated the Army’s background and experience in this area while detailing some of the ways we were addressing it in the acquisition community.

That same week saw the completion of Israel’s Namer Infantry Combat Vehicle testing, in which my office has been involved over the past 14 months. The completion of the test objectives were the product of months of hard work and exemplary effort from the U.S. and Israeli teams. The results of this testing are valuable inputs into the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle program planning.

The following week I attended the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Enterprise for Multiscale Research of Materials (EMRM) kickoff meeting. The EMRM builds upon ARL’s strong internal programs in multiscale materials research with the addition of two cooperative research agreements: Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments, awarded to a consortium led by the Johns Hopkins University; and Multiscale Multidisciplinary Modeling of Electronic Materials, awarded to an alliance led by the University of Utah. Over the past few years, theory, modeling, and experimental fabrication have advanced to a degree that promises exciting new advances in this field.

I had the Integrated System Architecture (ISA) team outline and demonstrate their concepts to me recently. ISA is an effort under the Deployable Force Protection team headed by Dr. Niki Goerger in the Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. The past decade of deployments has seen an explosion of sensor stovepipes as new technologies have rapidly augmented our forces, and I see this work as critical to guiding us to a performance-based architecture standard. The Army will overcome a huge hurdle when we sensor products are available in a common environment based on rules-based applications that can adapt over time to changing cyber threats and user needs.

I accompanied Ms. Heidi Shyu, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (ASA(ALT)) for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA(ALT)) and Army Acquisition Executive, when she recently visited the U.S. Army Geospatial Center (AGC). Our purpose was to gain a better understanding of geospatial support and capabilities being provided to the warfighter and to the acquisition community in general.

I very much enjoyed the interaction with the AGC professionals as they described and demonstrated the data and analysis tools developed to inform and enhance command and control, logistics, and intelligence systems being used and refined by the Army and DOD. They made a great impression on all who participated.


The Army Science Board conducted its Summer Study Meeting July 23-27 in Dedham, MA, after which the board formally out-briefed the findings of two current studies to Army leadership. (Photo by Randall Wingett, ASA(ALT) Graphics Design Specialist)

Coming Up
Later this month, I will accompany Ms. Shyu to Sandia National Laboratories. Following that, I will be participating in an Air Force Research Council session at the Air Force Research Laboratory and a variety of cyber-security reviews and development efforts.