Another area of concern to the Board is whether the extremely granular nature of the SLAD portfolio, compounded by the many rapid-response tasks generated in the course of the war effort, will ever permit SLAD staff to develop the skills necessary to perform larger-scale, longer-term development or analysis efforts. This is particularly bothersome in the context of the Army’s need for SoS analysis methodology for network-centric operations on an irregular battlefield. SLAD is currently depending primarily on a single team of academic collaborators at New Mexico State University to provide the tool set needed for that transformational and essential task. This should be matter of significant concern to ARL management and Army leadership.
In contrast, the Board has been frustrated for years about the insularity of SLAD staff with regard to the larger scientific community and the reticence of SLAD to professionally engage with that community. SLAD staff are clearly frustrated with this message, and to the extent that ARL resource management serves as a constraint (in providing travel and conference funds), justifiably so. However, for SLAD staff to develop professionally as their counterparts in other federal, university, and industrial laboratories do nationally and internationally, there is really no alternative to more extensive and prolonged professional interaction.
SLAD has new mission and vision statements, notably including the aspiration for the SLAD staff to be unsurpassed in dedication and willing to do whatever it takes to support the warfighters. The Board has long been impressed by the dedication of SLAD staff in supporting our nation’s warriors, especially when measured in terms of long hours, personal risk, and making do with available resources. The Board exhorts SLAD to be similarly dedicated and willing to do whatever it takes to better engage the external scientific community to leverage its findings and results in furthering the SLAD mission. The lesson of the excellent results obtained through SLAD partnership in JTAPIC should help motivate a much broader engagement than currently exists (significant counterexamples such as BRL-CAD notwithstanding).
That the SLAD portfolio does not lend itself as readily as those of the other directorates within ARL to external collaboration, publication, and conference participation should not serve as an excuse to an appropriately motivated staff. SLAD insularity significantly compromises the directorate’s ability to leverage academic and commercial developments, especially in such areas as computer and network security, biomechanics, and software development, where investment outside the Army dwarfs organic resources and capabilities. Academic collaboration is also a key to strategic workforce development, since the exposure of graduate and undergraduate students to highly relevant applied research and development may enhance SLAD’s recruiting pool. SLAD staff has shown increasing involvement in conferences and professional societies in recent years. Funding constraints and demands for support of current military operations appear to have recently blunted this improving trend over the current assessment period. SLAD and ARL management should resist the temptation to allow current short-term pressures to cause a relaxation into a more insular posture. Strategic workforce development, as well as longer-term Army needs, demand that SLAD staff seek professional enrichment and involvement in the broader technical community.