Summary

The charge of the Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board is to provide biennial assessments of the scientific and technical quality of the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). These assessments include the development of findings and recommendations related to the quality of ARL’s research, development, and analysis programs. The Board is charged to review the work only of ARL’s six directorates—and this excludes review of two key elements of the ARL organization that manage and support basic research: the Army Research Office and the Collaborative Technology Alliances. The advice provided focuses on technical rather than programmatic considerations. The Board is assisted by six standing National Research Council (NRC) panels, each of which focuses on a portion of the ARL program conducted by one of ARL’s six directorates. When requested to do so by ARL, the Board also examines work that cuts across the directorates. The Board has been performing assessments of ARL since 1996; the current report summarizes the Board’s findings for the 2005-2006 period, during which 83 volunteer experts in fields of science and engineering visited ARL annually, receiving formal presentations of technical work, examining facilities, engaging in technical discussions with ARL staff, and reviewing ARL technical materials.

The Board continues to be impressed by the overall quality of ARL’s technical staff and their work, as well as the consistent relevance of their work to Army needs. The Board applauds ARL for its clear, passionate concern for the end user of its technology—the soldier in the field. While two directorates (the Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Survivability and Lethality Analysis Directorate) have large program support missions, there is considerable customer-supported work across the directorates, which universally demonstrate mindfulness of the importance of transitioning technology to support immediate and near-term Army needs. ARL staff also continue to expand their involvement with the wider scientific and engineering community, including monitoring relevant developments elsewhere, engaging in significant collaborative work (including the Collaborative Technology Alliances),



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2005–2006 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory Summary The charge of the Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board is to provide biennial assessments of the scientific and technical quality of the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). These assessments include the development of findings and recommendations related to the quality of ARL’s research, development, and analysis programs. The Board is charged to review the work only of ARL’s six directorates—and this excludes review of two key elements of the ARL organization that manage and support basic research: the Army Research Office and the Collaborative Technology Alliances. The advice provided focuses on technical rather than programmatic considerations. The Board is assisted by six standing National Research Council (NRC) panels, each of which focuses on a portion of the ARL program conducted by one of ARL’s six directorates. When requested to do so by ARL, the Board also examines work that cuts across the directorates. The Board has been performing assessments of ARL since 1996; the current report summarizes the Board’s findings for the 2005-2006 period, during which 83 volunteer experts in fields of science and engineering visited ARL annually, receiving formal presentations of technical work, examining facilities, engaging in technical discussions with ARL staff, and reviewing ARL technical materials. The Board continues to be impressed by the overall quality of ARL’s technical staff and their work, as well as the consistent relevance of their work to Army needs. The Board applauds ARL for its clear, passionate concern for the end user of its technology—the soldier in the field. While two directorates (the Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Survivability and Lethality Analysis Directorate) have large program support missions, there is considerable customer-supported work across the directorates, which universally demonstrate mindfulness of the importance of transitioning technology to support immediate and near-term Army needs. ARL staff also continue to expand their involvement with the wider scientific and engineering community, including monitoring relevant developments elsewhere, engaging in significant collaborative work (including the Collaborative Technology Alliances),

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2005–2006 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory and sharing work through peer reviews (although the sensitive nature of ARL work increasingly presents challenges to such sharing). ARL is generally working very well within an appropriate research and development (R&D) niche and has been demonstrating significant accomplishments. Examples among many include development of technology for electromagnetic armor, machine translation of foreign languages, autonomous sensing, portable fuel cells, hyperspectral imaging anomaly detection, flexible displays, and portable biotoxin analysis; research in atmospheric acoustics and radio-frequency (RF) propagation in battlefield environments, auditory awareness and speech communication in battlefield environments, and active stall control and active wake modeling for rotorcraft; development and application of sophisticated models of soldier performance and of software to support assessment of survivability and lethality of systems; and studies to assess and improve the designs of helmets and body armor for soldiers. ARL is increasingly addressing challenges that require cross-directorate collaboration by performing crosscutting work. The Board encourages ARL to continue to address several specific areas that require collaboration across ARL directorates. It is clear that ARL views high-performance computing as a critical technology driven by requirements from a variety of applications across multiple directorates, including armor and armaments, atmospheric modeling, aerodynamics, and computational biology. There is an opportunity to improve the understanding of what is common across these many applications so that an ARL-wide support strategy can be enhanced. In particular, the extensive use of the high-performance computing resources for modeling and simulation provides an opportunity in these areas to develop an ARL methodology that will ensure that the best possible scientific practices are being employed and that redundant infrastructural effort is minimized. Additionally, carefully exploring opportunities to exploit the modeling resources would help to significantly reduce the costs of system hardware and software development and testing for applications such as hardware prototyping, system predictive performance modeling, and verification and validation of multiscale analysis and forecast models. ARL is also conducting important programs in autonomous robotics and in human-robot interactions, demonstrating significant challenges with respect to control of multiple robotic elements. A worthwhile endeavor would be to consider an enterprisewide development effort dealing with the autonomous coordination of multiple robotic systems and addressing the supervisory control of groups of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by smaller groups of human operators. A unified effort in the area of information security, especially in the establishment of test and “bake-off” facilities and organizations, would help to clarify the problems faced by the Army and to identify when the best of commercially viable technologies are likely to provide some at least interim solutions. Ad hoc wireless networks are beginning to permeate many of ARL’s projects, from sensor networks distributed over the battlefield, to dynamic intelligence networks aboard UAVs, to intra- and intersoldier networks. Efforts that bring together these disparate groups would facilitate shared approaches, code, and subsystems to spur progress across the board. One of the most important technologies for addressing the dramatic increase in data made available by these networks is information fusion. To attack this multidisciplinary problem, there could be great advantages in combining relevant ARL resources in new ways and then focusing this effort on a manageable set of important problems. This could spur development of robust solutions that will help define the overall information fusion landscape and thereby more general architectures. ARL has been responding admirably to severe pressures to transition new technologies quickly to the field and to simultaneously address the challenging requirements of the Future Combat Systems (FCS), while also maintaining its role with respect to longer-term basic research. The Board recognizes the importance of each of these types of endeavor for ARL but notes here the importance of basic research

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2005–2006 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory as a foundation for future R&D accomplishments since basic research activities may be at greater risk currently. ARL has been successfully addressing these significant challenges by careful management of technical resources; this effort has been strengthened and stabilized over the past 2 years by appointment of permanent management in several key positions. Through its extensive interactions with the external academic, industrial, and government research and development community, ARL develops opportunities to hire talented scientists, engineers, technicians, and managers. Contacts are developed through the Collaborative Technology Alliances, the Army Research Office, regular stakeholder meetings, collaborative work at the directorates, planned interaction with academic organizations, and regular recruiting activities. ARL’s ability to secure needed talent would be enhanced by any administrative adjustments that improve speed and flexibility with respect to new appointments.

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