At the request of the U.S. Army, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) formed the Research Program Review and Analysis Committee (RPAC) to perform an assessment of the In-House Laboratory Independent Research (ILIR) conducted at the Research, Development, and Engineering Centers (RDECs) of the U.S. Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM).
The RPAC’s review was guided by the following task statement provided by the National Academies:
Under the oversight of the National Academies’ Research Program Review and Analysis Committee (RPAC) eight panels will each review one of eight areas of ILIR research conducted during 2018 at the RDECs (chemistry, computational sciences, electronics, life sciences, materials sciences, mechanical sciences, networks sciences, and physics). Each panel will contribute its findings to the preparation of a single report, prepared by the RPAC, that will present an assessment of the research in each of the eight areas reviewed. The report will be delivered to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology [ASA(ALT)], Congressional offices, and selected Department of Defense Offices and will be posted on the website of the National Academies Press.
The eight panels who performed reviews of the ILIR during the period of November 2018 through December 2018 in support of the RPAC’s assessment are as follows:
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Chemistry at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Computational Sciences at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Electronics at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
TABLE 1.1 In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Research, Development, and Engineering Centers Reviewed by the Research Program Review and Analysis Committee Panels
NOTE: AMRDEC, Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center; ARDEC, Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center; CERDEC, Communications–Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center; ECBC, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center; TARDEC, Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center; NSRDEC, Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center; SMDC, Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center.
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Life Sciences at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Materials Science at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Mechanical Sciences at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Network Sciences at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
- Panel on Review of In-House Laboratory Independent Research in Physics at the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Centers
Table 1.1 identifies for each panel the RDECs and the Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center (SMDC) whose ILIR was reviewed by that panel. This report summarizes the 2018 findings of the RPAC.
THE U.S. ARMY’S RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND ENGINEERING COMMAND AND ITS RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND ENGINEERING CENTERS
The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) is the Army’s focal point for developing and accelerating innovative technology and sound engineering solutions that provide U.S. forces with capability where they need it, when they need it. From missiles, airframes, combat and tactical vehicles, communications networks, and the human–system interfaces that link to the warfighter, to fundamental items of personal protective equipment, rations, weapons, and ammunition, RDECOM provides the full spectrum of basic research, development, engineering, and analysis of warfighter systems, from concept to capability. RDECOM subsumes several RDECs. The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and its Army Research Office (ARO) are additional units within RDECOM. The RDECs are as follows:
- Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC)
- Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC)
- Communication–Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC)
- Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC)
- Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC)
- Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC)
The Department of Defense (DoD) describes the ILIR program of basic research as follows: “Each DoD Component that operates an R&D laboratory or center will support an ILIR program. Participating DoD Component R&D laboratories or centers will use ILIR funds to initiate and support efforts judged to be important or promising in the accomplishment of missions assigned to that laboratory or center. Each R&D laboratory or center will have wide latitude in the use of ILIR funds, subject to the approval of overall funding levels, to enable performance of innovative, timely, and promising work without requiring formal and prior approval that might delay normal funding authorization. ILIR funds will be used to support basic research efforts. The programs will have as their primary goals the performance of highest quality research in support of laboratory missions and the enhancement of factors that contribute to recruitment and retention of outstanding scientists and engineers.”1
The RPAC consists of 10 members, including 8 chairs of the panels who reviewed the ILIR; the 8 panels consisted of 46 members. The expertise of the committee and panel members matched the projects that were reviewed. All members were volunteers who participated without compensation. The panels attended overview presentations by and held discussions with the chief scientists at the RDECs; the panels also received presentations on ILIR projects conducted at the RDECs. The presentations and discussions occurred over a 2- or 3-day period. On the final day of the meeting, the panels assembled in closed session to develop impressions of the quality of the research presented and subsequently met with RDEC staff to seek clarification of factual and contextual understandings.
After each meeting, the panel members prepared written summaries of their findings, which were iteratively reviewed by the panel. The written summaries were reviewed by the RPAC, which developed a summary of key findings and a summary of findings that were common across multiple panel summaries and crafted the draft of this overall report. The draft report was submitted to the National Academies’ Report Review Committee (RRC). The RRC appointed a team of reviewers to examine the report, considering such factors as the scope of the RPAC’s task and the reasonableness of the report’s findings and recommendations. Once the RRC reviewers’ comments were adequately addressed, the report was released for delivery to the Army and for public posting on the National Academies’ website (www.nap.edu).
The panels and the RPAC applied a largely qualitative, rather than quantitative, approach to the assessment. The approach relied on the experience, technical knowledge, and expertise of the members, whose backgrounds were carefully matched to the core technical areas that were reviewed. The panels collectively reviewed an exhaustive set of the ILIR projects conducted at the RDECs in 2018. The RPAC’s goal was to portray an overall impression of the ILIR projects as well as to comment on the quality of the individual projects.
1 Department of Defense Instruction Number 3201.04, October 18, 2013: In-House Laboratory Independent Research (ILIR) Program.
The RPAC and its panels were asked to consider the following criteria during the assessment of the research projects, and RDEC staff were asked to address the following criteria in their project presentations:
- Is this “basic” research?
- What is the goal of this research?
- How is the research relevant to the organization’s mission and purpose?
- What is the theoretical basis of this research?
- What related research has been or is being performed elsewhere?
- How does the project reflect an appropriate research niche that the Army is best suited to address?
- What is the research approach?
- What are the research hypotheses?
- What methods of data collection (e.g., laboratory experiment, modeling, field experiment, survey) are being used and why?
- What specific equipment or tools are being employed in the research?
- What analyses of data are being applied to determine results, and why?
- What are the results to date?
- How do the results fit with expectations and with results found previously or by others?
- What conclusions have been drawn from the results?
- What future research direction do the researchers intend to pursue?
- Are there any points on which the researchers are challenged and are seeking assistance?
- Are there collaborators involved in the project? If so, what are their roles and contributions and that of the RDEC researcher?
- Who reviews the technical quality of the research? With whom do the researchers discuss the progress of their research?
- How much of a researcher’s time is allocated to the project?
- In what ways is the research innovative?
- Is the research limited by resources of staff, equipment, opportunities to publish, or other factors?
- What publications and/or presentations have emerged from the research?
There was variance across the projects with respect to which assessment items were addressed. The presenters addressed items in the set of assessment criteria that they considered applicable to their projects; the committee members posed questions to address items that they considered applicable to the projects.
Very few presenters identified the percentage of their time devoted to their ILIR projects. The nominal percentages varied across projects in line with the project funding, generally between half and full time; however, it was explained that the primary responsibility of the researchers is to support mission-related applied projects, whose needs can change dynamically, and so some researchers could not always devote the nominally allocated time to the ILIR projects.
The RPAC and its panels were instructed that the following items were outside the scope of the assessment and should not be considered during the assessment:
- Organizational changes. The RDEC organizational structure was not subject to the assessment.
- Additional projects or programs. It was beyond the scope of the assessment to recommend additional research projects not directly related to the research being reviewed. It was, however, within the scope to suggest technical directions that could be pursued to achieve or expedite success of the work being reviewed.
- Employee morale or motivation. The Army conducts extensive employee surveys to assess the morale and motivation of its employees. The RPAC was not asked to and does not conduct scientific surveys nor analyze the data required to assess morale or motivation.
- Funding. The RPAC was asked to assess the adequacy of equipment, facility, and human resources, but recommending funding adjustments was out of scope.
Considering the findings of the eight panels, the RPAC summarized in this report the findings pertaining to the eight areas of ILIR reviewed and the findings and recommendations that were common across more than one of the areas reviewed. This chapter discusses the process used to conduct the assessment and report the resulting findings and recommendations. Chapters 2 through 9 provide assessments of the projects reviewed within the eight technical areas reviewed by the eight separate panels. Chapter 10 presents findings and recommendations common across multiple reviews.