Finding 2-2. Transition of laboratory science and technology to deployment in DOD operations requires competent systems engineering as well as expertise in component engineering. The expected progression from graduate scientist or engineer to system engineer usually takes several years of increasing exposure to simulation and modeling, materials optimization, control and communications software development, and field testing. Today, universities often provide opportunities for undergraduate research, interdisciplinary problem solving, prototyping projects, and formal courses on system engineering. As a result, STEM graduates from many universities have some hands-on experience in cross-disciplinary projects and course work in system engineering. However, systems engineering at the scale required is performed entirely by DOD and its contractors. This understanding of systems engineering is particularly important for efficient military acquisition and preparedness for both DOD contracting and the industry responding to the government requirements.
Recommendation 2-2. The DOD should reassemble government teams to do preliminary system engineering— including affordability, capability, and sustainability—and program structuring so that the government focus is on relevant requirements when interacting with the defense industry. The industry teams also require system engineering and integration teams that can efficiently respond to the government’s requirements.
Finding 2-3. Uncertainty as to the types of military engagements the United States is likely to face in the next decade creates an urgent requirement for “anywhere, anytime” training. With the rapid development of worldwide satellite and cellular communication networks, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) capabilities, and modeling and simulation, the infrastructure exists to integrate these assets into a true “anywhere, anytime” training capability.
Recommendation 2-3. The DOD should initiate a major program to secure the necessary STEM-qualified government teams to deliver effective, worldwide training and to leverage information technology and ISR infrastructure to meet a mandate of “anywhere, anytime” training.
Finding 2-4. Innovative materials broadly underlie critical technology for the DOD and are essential for maintaining a technological edge. The most recent innovations in materials science are cross-disciplinary and range from fundamental science to use-inspired research and development. An emphasis by DOD on STEM education in materials science and related areas (e.g., nanotechnology, systems biology, energetics, photonics) can seed the development of new capabilities as well as new solutions to old problems.
Recommendation 2-4. The DOD should maintain expertise in materials science as broadly defined. This can be achieved in part by leveraging existing programs within DOD labs as well as at universities, and by increasing the interaction between the two. Making DOD careers attractive to the STEM workforce requires emphasis and placement of DOD resources in the entire pipeline from basic research and discovery science to applied research and product development.
Finding 2-5. The United States increasingly relies on information technologies to support its warfighters. The support provided by information technology improves the capability to respond effectively to the changing mix of challenges. Data collection, data translation, data mining, cybersecurity, and data manipulation for correct interpretation of increasing amounts of information require expertise not only in the understanding of physical sensors and advanced computing software and platforms but also expertise in linguistics and a deep understanding of local cultural nuances. Consistent with the most recent national security policy documents, the United States especially needs to increase its ability to operate in the Asian/Pacific theater. There is evidence, however, of a nationwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals with appropriate security clearances.
Recommendation 2-5. The DOD should pay special attention to the need for multidisciplinary STEM personnel to support the information technology infrastructure for defense. While individuals are being trained at universities