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8 Crosscutting Issues NEED FOR TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT STABILITY Army Research Laboratory (ARL) leadership is in transition. At several levels, from the ARL Direc- tor through individual directorates, “acting leadership” is the watchword of the day. The hard work and significant accomplishments of the current acting leaders are acknowledged, but ARL personnel clearly desire stability in the management chain; many leadership decisions will be made elsewhere within the Army. It is important to note that instability introduces uncertainty, which in turn introduces risk of inefficiency and misdirection. This uncertainty is most apparent in the Vehicle Technology Directorate, which is transitioning under the Base Realignment and Closure Act, establishing new research agendas, rapidly hiring new personnel, and making key long-term decisions regarding major experimental facili- ties. The Army should expedite a return to stability of ARL’s technical management in the near future. The hiring issue is not confined to senior management. ARL has been highly successful in recent years in recruiting many bright, early-career scientists and engineers, often in newly developing tech- nical areas. Although these new recruits offer great promise for the future, they are in need of strong technical leadership. Some technical areas are benefiting from seasoned internal leadership, but in a number of newer areas senior technical leadership should be recruited from outside ARL, because ARL continually addresses emerging scientific and technical areas. Acknowledging limited flexibility in the scientific and technical personnel track and issues of hiring freezes, there may be an alternate strategy for addressing this clear need for senior technical guidance: ARL should consider 2- to 3-year appointments through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) process, targeted at emergent labora- tory efforts and populated by academic scientists in the area of interest who will use their sabbatical leave for this pursuit. Ideally these individuals would be participants in extramural efforts already in place, strengthening the collaborative interaction and providing senior supervision at a critical time in program development. 118
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CROSSCUTTING ISSUES 119 ARL IMPACT ARL has released the first volume of the “Research @ ARL” series; this event deserves congratula- tion. This volume of technical papers, focused on recent advances in Energy and Energetics (available at www.arl.army.mil/ResearchARL), is the first of many planned documents that will help stakeholders to understand the scope and direction of recent accomplishments by ARL’s dedicated and talented staff. Addressing this audience through such technical compendia is desirable and praiseworthy, but it should not be viewed as sufficient to address the fundamental questions asked of every research and develop- ment (R&D) organization: How would the U.S. Army be different if ARL had not existed over the past 20 years? and Why should we expect future funding to achieve the hoped-for impacts? ARL is a scientific and technical (S&T) organization. Most of its funding is of the 6.1 and 6.2 types. Often such organizations measure their effectiveness by identifying technology transitions to others who will carry out the development and technology maturation processes. They have to then convince stake- holders of projected future impact of their efforts. However, in attempting to project the future impact of current programs, any S&T organization is hampered by the inevitable fact that it may take several years or even decades before the full impacts of current programs are realized. Regardless of how the story is formulated, the stakeholders’ confidence in the laboratory and its management will be bolstered by evidence that the decision making and processes of the present are comparable to or better than those of the past that led to measurable impacts. To tell this story properly, many organizations have had recourse to retrospectively tracing the consequences of R&D events in recent or distant past. ARL last performed this exercise in 1997,1 but there is no recent such activity at ARL. The full impact of research can only be measured after the fact. Near-term impacts (or transitions) require looking back only a bit and can be monitored during most of the R&D effort. Long-term impacts require deeper historical probes and are more likely to be assessed for only a few notable examples. In both cases, organized processes for gathering and analyzing these data require management attention and designated leadership. Developing these data and presenting them in a manner that is useful for the intended audience is a job best left to professionals specializing in such activities. To achieve these goals, the S&T organization benefits from having an appropriately supported historian with sanctioned access as well as internal report requirements organized to ensure the collection of appropriate data and personal recollections. It is important to emphasize the potential value of impact analysis for management and staff in the ARL itself. Lessons learned from past efforts can be mined and used to provide context for manage- ment self-improvement. New hires can readily learn about the organization’s successes and failures to accelerate their effective participation in laboratory efforts. Not incidentally, awareness of impact of the laboratory’s work can instill a sense of pride and inspiration in all members of the laboratory, with obvious value to all concerned. ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT This section addresses cross-organizational activities within ARL, which may vary in size from as small as scientist-to-scientist interactions across two directorates to as large as multi-directorate enter- prise efforts such as the Network Sciences and Autonomous Systems programs. Organizations whose 1The Genealogy of ARL, ARL-P 360-2, May 1997, ARL, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Available at http://www.arl. army.mil/www/pages/516/arl_genealogy.pdf (accessed October 15, 2012).
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120 2011–2012 ASSESSMENT OF THE ARMY RESEARCH LABORATORY reward structure is stove-piped within directorates, such as ARL, may experience uncertainty with respect to who is leading the effort, how priorities are set, and who receives credit for accomplishments. On the other hand, the potential value of such collaborations in a technological world that is growing rapidly at the interfaces between disciplines is recognized by all and should justify increased management focus on collaborations. ARL’s increased attention to enterprise R&D efforts is commendable. As the technical quality and depth within directorates continue to improve, ARL should continue to increase its focus on broad multi- disciplinary issues that can only be addressed by collaborative work across several directorates and with extramural partnerships that enhance the ARL intramural capability. During the review period covered by this report, the ARL Technical Assessment Board (ARLTAB) had occasion to conduct separate reviews of the Network Sciences and the Autonomous Systems Enterprises (discussed in detail in Chapters 2 and 6, respectively). In addition, several members of the ARLTAB and its panels reviewed the development of plans for a third enterprise area, multiscale modeling. These enterprises demonstrate strong leadership by ARL senior management in identifying technical strengths in various parts of ARL and stitching them together under unifying labels. These independently developed areas have the potential for synergism and collective development. In each case there is great technical breadth and depth. However, each enterprise area is in need of more decisive top-down man- agement direction that can encourage and exploit the synergism. The following paragraphs offer several specific cautions and suggestions for management attention in such enterprise management. ARL management is organized by directorates. Because no program is fully matrix-managed with promotion and salary decisions delegated to an enterprise manager, leadership for the enterprise’s activities is spread out among the several directorates, and often such arrangements can blur the lead- ership structure. Many types of organizational structures can be applied to this situation, but clearly defined leadership by management is required. Without clear leadership, there can be no commonly understood cross-organizational plan, and without such a strategic plan there can be no metrics or goals for management (or external advisory committees such as the ARLTAB) to use in judging enterprise accomplishments. Each enterprise anticipates major contribution from extramural entities. Without a clear enterprise strategic plan, extramural partners cannot optimally direct their efforts, and there can be no defined template by which ARL managers can judge the importance and impact of these extramural efforts. (A more complete discussion of ARL extramural programs is presented below). Enterprise efforts evolve in time, resulting in changing priorities that demand flexibility to move resources from low- to high-priority areas, in some instances from one directorate to another. Line-item budget inflexibility may inhibit ARL management in this regard. Sufficient flexibility has allowed senior management to accrue funds in support of Director’s reserves and initiatives. These efforts deserve con- tinued support and praise, and they suggest that ARL may indeed be able to take appropriate actions to move resources between enterprise topic areas when required. Communication is critical to an R&D enterprise. Leadership and technical personnel at all levels should have frequent formal and informal opportunities to meet, share information, and build collabora- tive programs. Some of the presenters at the ARLTAB reviews seemed to be hearing from their colleagues for the first time. Although this may be applauded as added value from the ARLTAB review, it discloses the need for increased management attention to improving lines of communication. Of course, com- munication with technical peers from other organizations should also be encouraged through increased travel to and participation in relevant technical meetings, including international professional meetings, and through special workshops organized by ARL to achieve such goals.
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CROSSCUTTING ISSUES 121 Enterprise efforts are very important, but management should be wary of diluting disciplinary excel- lence in other technical areas as each of the participating directorate’s attempts to demonstrate its strong participation in the enterprise. EXTRAMURAL COLLABORATIVE ALLIANCES Since its inception as the singular S&T laboratory for the Army, ARL has used several funding and organizational tools to engage a large extramural cadre of scientists in universities, industries, and other government laboratories. These efforts at their best extend the range of expertise focused on Army warfighter needs far beyond the capability that can be localized within ARL. The new multiscale modeling Cooperative Research Agreement (CRA) is the most recent example of this approach, involv- ing three directorates: the Sensors and Electronic Devices Directorate (SEDD), Weapons and Materials Research Directorate (WMRD), and Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD). Other collaborative alliances are the Network Science International Technology Alliance (ITA) and multiple Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) programs focused on robotics, network sciences, cognition and neuro-ergonomics, and micro autonomous systems and technology. Benefits of Extramural Collaborative Programs ARL is to be commended for the utilization of these extramural programs, which have enabled ARL to establish contact with and provide vehicles for leveraging world-class research in the identified areas. These collaborative alliances are unique in the history of all government laboratories, and they help ARL to bring all this talent to bear on the targeted problem areas. Another real benefit is the sense of community and excitement about the selected areas felt by many bright people within ARL who become involved in the programs and in collaborative ventures with extramural partners. However, issues arise from efforts to make optimal use of these alliances. It is important to note that neither the ARLTAB nor any of its panels carried out a comprehensive review of any of these col- laborative alliances during this review cycle. Rather, fragmentary information was gathered during the enterprise reviews of Network Sciences and of Autonomous Systems programs and during regular panel reviews of several of the directorates. Internal Management A major strength of the collaborative alliance approach, that is, local management by the extramural collaborators, may also be viewed as the concept’s inherent weakness. Too much flexibility coupled with too little program direction from ARL management could lead to an environment in which excellent science is done but the benefit to the soldier through ARL and subsequent development programs is not achieved. The challenge for ARL is to evolve the way it monitors and manages its portfolio to leverage the best outcomes from these efforts. The sheer size and diversity of these large crosscutting projects can often make them appear dis- organized to the outside observer. It is also the case that early on in such programs uncertainty about the optimal choices in a large solution space can be best addressed by a shotgun approach that aims at multiple programmatic targets without an integrating plan. Nevertheless, problem size does not preclude a concise visionary statement of the desired outcome, in particular one that includes a clear statement about desired impact on a soldier in the battlefield. This type of vision statement will guard against the temptation to try to address everything from day one and will, instead, expose clear intermediate goals
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122 2011–2012 ASSESSMENT OF THE ARMY RESEARCH LABORATORY and benchmarks that are imperative to successful management of programs on this scale. Clarity of vision also has inherent benefits for participants, who can more readily tailor their own contributions to achieve the vision. As the program matures, it should increasingly be managed with a systems approach that clarifies goals, sets metrics, and down-selects from among alternate approaches. Ultimately the responsibility for this approach lies with ARL, but it should be implemented in concert with the academic and/or industry members of the alliance. For some programs, the plan may lend itself to the use of target capability concepts. For example, Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) program goals as currently stated have elements of a complete capability concept. Conceptually, the MAST robot is hand-held size and smaller, primarily utilized within distances of approximately 100 meters of the soldier or small unit, and intended to provide increased rapid and mobile situational awareness in complex real-world urban and other environments. To complete the MAST capability concept, ARL management might add metrics for time to complete the mission; reliability (in terms of getting there and back without break-down and of finding the enemy and munitions after completing the mission); and the mission readiness of the robot. Links to Intramural Science and Technology ARL should give serious attention to its model for optimizing the effectiveness of alliances in which the partnering organizations are universities. There are two models for ARL to consider, and they are not mutually exclusive. In the first model, ARL researchers are scientific peers in the research collaboration with partners who should be, and often are, academic scientists of substantial international stature. In the second model, ARL researchers perform the invaluable function of translating Army requirements and educating the academic partners of the field constraints, and thereby help transform academic problems into equally challenging problems that also are of interest to the Army—that is, they act as links in the feed-forward, feed-back loops between academia and the laboratory. Both models have value for ARL, and both have demanding requirements. For the first, collabo- rating researchers from ARL need to have as deep a fundamental understanding of the science as the university collaborators. To have peer status, the researchers’ accomplishments need to be recognized. For instance, the publication records and awards need to be comparable. In the second model, for the constraints from the field to be persuasive and for clever inclusive problem formulations, the intellectual depth again needs to be comparable on both sides. It is important to reiterate that the ARLTAB has not performed a comprehensive review of any of these alliances, but has drawn impressions from listening to the references to these made in directorate reviews and more complete overviews in the enterprise reviews of Network Sciences and Autonomous Systems CTAs. It appears that both models are in play, but the primary mode of interaction is that of model two, ensuring translation of the academic research to achieve Army impact. ARL should continue to take steps to enhance the utilization of model one. This opportunity to build the capability of ARL staff through strong direct one-on-one collaborative research with the best academic scientists should not be wasted. To achieve this goal, ARL should adapt the research culture in the laboratory to better encourage, support, and reward collaborative projects between scientific staff and their alliance peers in academia. With sufficient support from the Army, ARL should explore per- sonnel exchanges between the institutions, the co-advising of graduate students and the co-locating of some of them in ARL laboratories, the Director’s reserve funding that encourages such collaborations, incentives for joint publication, and other mechanisms.
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CROSSCUTTING ISSUES 123 Review of Extramural Collaborative Alliances The ARL Director has instructed the National Research Council-constituted ARLTAB, with its six panels of technical experts, to carry out reviews of the six ARL Directorates, with the primary focus on intramural technical effort. Instead of being subjected to regular and comprehensive reviews, the work of the external collaborative alliances is considered at the level of detail deemed appropriate during regular directorate reviews, and the focus of such examinations has been on the work of the ARL par- ticipants in external collaborative alliances, largely excluding the work of the external participants. On occasion at the behest of the ARL Director, additional reviews are conducted, which may include more comprehensive consideration of one or more of these alliances. During the current review cycle, some of the work of several alliances was reviewed as part of the enterprise reviews of the Network Science and Autonomous Systems programs. It is becoming increasingly evident that greater attention should be paid to the work done by all participants in collaborative alliances, both intra- and extra-mural. If the alliances are to succeed as intended, then their efforts need to make profound impacts on the content and quality of ARL’s portfolio as well as on the accomplishments of its staff. If this is so, then management should wish for validation from external review. To the extent that it is not so, management should welcome the advice and counsel from the external review process. ARL should consider establishing an independent review that will allow for adequate examination of the work done by all parties in the collaborative alliances. Flexibility is the critical guiding principle. No single format or frequency of review is likely to fit all situations. Impact Analysis The issue of impact analysis was discussed earlier as it relates generally to all ARL programs, whether carried out within ARL or through extramural effort. When applied to collaborative alliances, this issue takes on special importance. Within the Department of Defense, the Army is unique in its extramural engagement strategy for performance and management of mission-critical S&T. It seems appropriate to ask whether such an approach could benefit the Air Force and Navy, but it is difficult to make the case either for or against. Indeed, it is difficult to find documentation that clarifies the advan- tages and disadvantages of this approach and its comparative value to the traditional use of government laboratories by the other two services. ARL should consider addressing this concern by performing or commissioning retrospective analyses of these extramural collaborative activities, to be targeted at such issues as best practice in management, technical accomplishments, and impacts on the Army and on the conduct of business in ARL.
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