ity for the technical management of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s thermionics program to the Air Force Research Laboratory. Doing so would enhance the technical continuity for the technology and place the program in an agency responsible for developing power systems and conversion technologies. As the focal point for thermionic research, the Air Force Research Laboratory should attempt to establish cooperative activities with other government agencies, such as the Department of Energy, the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

By transferring thermionics research and development to the AFRL, the federal government would establish one thermionics focal point, for the AFRL could then become the thermionics community coordinator and employ the existing Space Technology Alliance (STA) and the Interagency Advanced Power Group (IAPG) to coordinate efforts and disseminate information. The STA is a U.S. government forum for increasing collaboration across government, industry, and academia. The alliance comprises eight government organizations: the departments of the Air Force, Army, and Navy; the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; the Department of Energy (DOE); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and the National Reconnaissance Office. IAPG is a U.S. government forum whose goal is to increase collaboration in power technology research and development activities across the government. The IAPG operates the Power Information Center, which distributes summaries of current and past projects in power technology to member organizations.

To achieve this aim, the AFRL, or other sponsoring agency, could establish interagency collaborations on thermionics with NASA, the DOE, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.2


In general, the committee found that most of the research and development sponsored by the DTRA has been good. The benefits in the materials regime are especially apparent as discussed in Chapter 7. The DTRA has accomplished what appears to be solid results in the single-crystal research area, largely by sponsoring research conducted by Russian research institutes.

Finding: DTRA-sponsored efforts in thermionics have yielded respectable technical results at a relatively modest funding level.

However, in general the DTRA thermionics research and development program is attempting to accomplish too many things given the modest levels of funding that are available. The committee appreciates the efforts of the DTRA management team to date and understands that DTRA is attempting to create a technology base of useful elements that other programs or initiatives might use in the future (see Table 2.1). The committee believes, however, that other system programs or mission initiatives will not consider using thermionic power system technology since the technology is largely undemonstrated at the level of a complete power system. Also, future needs for any power conversion technology will be driven by the potential requirements of future mission systems. Since the farterm continuation of a thermionics program is contingent upon the technology actually being used, the committee strongly believes that future thermionics research and development should be localized around a potential sponsor effort. The committee has kept this philosophy in mind when constructing the recommendations in this report.

Finding: The present DTRA program is spread among too many different areas to allow a large impact in any one area.

The DTRA thermionics technology program has been affected by the method of funding and by the manner in which the program has been administered. Since the program has been funded by so-called congressional plus-up funds, there is no long-range funding plan. As a result, no long-range plan for technology has been put in place and pursued that would result in the technology being available on a system level in the foreseeable future. The committee found that there is a general lack of continuity and coordination of funding for the current thermionics research program.

The current program tends to focus on component technology and performance enhancement as the easi-


The term “sponsoring agency” is used to reflect the recommendation that the program be transferred from the DTRA to the AFRL.

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