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 participants 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.
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 advantages 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.