DOD's top acquisition official meets with Army researchers

August 11, 2016

By David McNally, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall visited the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Aug. 8, 2016, at the Adelphi Laboratory Center.Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall visited the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Aug. 8, 2016, at the Adelphi Laboratory Center.

ADELPHI, Md. (Aug. 11, 2016) -- Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory met with Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall Aug. 8, 2016, at the Adelphi Laboratory Center.

Kendall answered questions from laboratory employees after explaining what the Department of Defense is doing to improve acquisition practices and implement sound investment strategies for the future force.

"One is increased emphasis on being more responsive to threat changes," Kendall said. "We cannot assume that when we put a system out, it's going to be fine for the next three or four decades. We've got to stay on top of what the threats are doing. They're moving quickly. They're responding to us, and we have to do the same."

Kendall is the DOD's champion for what is known as "Better Buying Power 3.0," or the third iteration of acquisition improvement.

"We started out focused on control and cost consciousness and trying to get everyone in our workforce to pay more attention to costs," Kendall said. "That required some active work to understand our cost structures and get better deals with industry."

As defense officials moved the program to the next level, these initiatives did not stop, he said.

"There's much more continuity than there is change in the three iterations of Better Buying Power," he said. "We basically took what was working, we modified it, added new things and changed emphasis."

Kendall said his goal is primarily about providing dominant capabilities to the warfighter so that the United States can maintain and extend technological overmatch.

"The ultimate aim is to develop what we refer to as the Third Offset Strategy," he said.

"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.

The DOD is pursuing technologies such as autonomy, artificial intelligence and related technologies as part of its third offset strategy.

At the ARL Network Science Research Laboratory, Kendall learned how industry and academia are working side-by-side with Army researchers through the Open Campus Initiative.

"ARL designed the NSRL as a collaborative environment enabling researchers from a variety of different domains to come together and jointly conduct foundational research in Network Science" said Dr. Brian Rivera, chief of the Tactical Network Assurance Branch. "We are looking to understand the complex interactions between human, information and communications networks to provide improved communications and decision-making systems for the Soldier."

Through Open Campus, the laboratory collaborates with national and international academia, industry, small business and other government partners in forward-reaching research in areas of strategic importance to the Army.

During the day-long visit, Army researchers showcased many technologies that complement the DOD's Third Offset Strategy.

Army neuroscientist Dr. Jean Vettel presented how her team is trying to improve Soldier performance by developing technologies that use information about the brain and its ongoing network activity to enable technology that dynamically adapts to its user.

"We're interested in improving human-machine collaboration," Vettel said.

Vettel's team demonstrated a system developed under funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense under the Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative, known as ARPI, where humans team with computers to enhance tasks like target identification. Using two human agents and eight autonomous deep learning computer vision agents, the hybrid team of agents completed the tasks eight times as fast, but with comparable accuracy to humans alone.

Army researchers also revealed a future vision of autonomous robotic systems exploring new environments, sharing intelligence and enhancing manned-unmanned teaming.

"This is where we want to go looking into the future," said Collaborative Alliance Manager Dr. Brett Piekarski, Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance. "We really think it's in the distributed and collaborative intelligence, control, and resilient behaviors for large numbers of heterogeneous [or diverse] systems."

Kendall observed ground and air robotics in operation and listened to the challenges facing researchers.

"I know you're doing a lot of great work," he said. "The message for you is to work as hard as you can and get as much from the money you have as possible -- that means technologies that are going to go into the hands of the warfighter and get into our fielded systems."

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 11, 2016