Senior defense official meets with Army scientists

August 03, 2016

By David McNally, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work visits the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 3, 2016) -- The Department of Defense's number two official spent time with scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Aug. 2.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work saw Army technologies that align with DOD's vision of the "Third Offset," or jump-ahead advances that target several technology areas, including robotics and system autonomy, miniaturization, machine learning and advanced manufacturing.

"Offset" refers to combinations of technologies, organizational structures and operating principles to help the United States maintain military superiority without matching a potential adversary plane for plane, tank for tank or troops for troop. In prior decades, the United States pursued offset strategies to offset the Soviet Union's numerical advantage – first with a monopoly on nuclear weapons and then with advances in precision munitions and the organizational and doctrinal structures to employ them. DOD is pursuing technologies such as autonomy, artificial intelligence and related technologies as part of a third offset strategy.

During the visit, Army engineers demonstrated a robot exploring its terrain in real time and teaming with a human operator to provide what may become a situational awareness asset to future Soldiers.

"We see robots as teammates in support of the offset strategy," Dr. Stuart Young, chief of the laboratory's Asset Control and Behavior Branch, told the deputy secretary. "Currently robots are tools, and we want to make them organic team members with our Soldiers."

Work also saw the laboratory's efforts in additive manufacturing.

"We're working on structural hybridization," explained LJ Holmes, the laboratory's lead for additive manufacturing. "We have a facility with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing equipment. It's not feasible for us to send that into the field -- at least not right now."

Holmes said they are working on processing multiple materials in one box.

"We have equipment specifically designed to print metals, but through the work we've done here at ARL, we can process metals, ceramics, polymers and glass on one machine."

The idea is that one day in the near future these devices will print a part for the suspension on a truck and the next day print ceramic body armor, or whatever is needed on-demand at the point of use, he said.

Army scientist Dr. Jean Vettel and her team demonstrated how the lab is capturing data straight from the brain and enhancing machine learning.

"Whenever we want humans and machines to work well together as a team, one of the challenges is how to get more knowledge about the human," Vettel said. "Our goal is to find out how we can do neuroscience where we can start quantifying individuals and then design individualized technologies."

Army engineers also showed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV, a rectangular-shaped quadcopter that currently carries up to 300 pounds of cargo and gets to where it needs to be within a 10-mile range.

"In a firefight, when a Soldier is running low on ammunition, resupply is critical," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Guenther, an enlisted advisor at the laboratory. "I've had situations where speedballs were dropped off to me by helicopters. A speedball is ammunition or anything that can be used to suppress and defeat the enemy."

"What are the implications of that?" asked Army researcher Tim Vong. "We're working with users in the joint community to look at this concept."

ARL transferred the program to the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny, New Jersey; however, the lab still serves as subject matter experts on aeromechanics, assessment, analysis, propulsion, intelligence and controls and materials and structures. The U.S. Marine Corps recently joined the program.

During the half-day visit, many other scientists and engineers showcased additional technologies, such as innovative advances in active armor protection and materials sciences.

"Our mission is to organize, train and equip a joint force that is ready for war and that is operated forward to preserve the peace," Work said.

Work has likened his role to the chief operating officer of one of the biggest "corporations" on the planet with the responsibility to build the defense portfolio.

Acting ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti said Army scientists and engineers are actively collaborating with industry and academia through the Open Campus Initiative to make more efficient and effective defense laboratories, which are "adaptive and responsive to the challenges of 21st century national security."

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: August 3, 2016