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Research Questions

  1. What do broad trends in basic research and R&D (research and development), both federal and in the private sector, mean for the future of Army research?
  2. What are the characteristics of top-quality research laboratories?
  3. How can the Army get the best long-term value from its investments in basic research?

Abstract

The U.S. Army is in the midst of an unprecedented technical transformation as it rapidly adopts and adapts to cutting-edge science and technology to remain an effective and relevant fighting force. This report describes the result of an expert panel assembled to consider how current trends in research and development (R&D) might unfold over time and how those trends could affect the laboratories and R&D centers that support the Army. The panel looked at national trends in basic research and R&D, including trends in Department of Defense research funding; conducted an in-depth examination of the Army research enterprise; and profiled several non-Army laboratories known for their high-quality basic research, to gain insight into how the Army might better structure and fund its own labs. The panel identified several trends, such as an increasing focus on near-term results and tendency toward risk aversion, that are hampering the Army research effort. The report concludes with a list of recommendations for addressing these issues to help the Army get the best long-term value from its investments in basic research.

Key Findings

Investment in Basic Research Benefits the Nation and Is Vital to National Security

  • Government-sponsored basic research has been critical to U.S. leadership in research, with the Department of Defense (DoD) being a significant contributor.
  • Long-term defense capability will diminish considerably without a healthy basic and applied research effort.

Trends Both Within and Outside the Army Are Hampering the Army Research Effort

  • A reduction in DoD basic and applied research resources and also in non-government-sponsored basic research is forecast.
  • The Army basic research program is increasingly risk-averse and too near-term in its focus, with declining discovery and invention.

Management of the Army Research Enterprise Could Be Improved

  • The Army's science and technology leadership lacks the resources to execute its policy, strategic, planning, oversight, and program defense responsibilities.
  • The Army's science and technology leadership lacks the resources to execute its policy, strategic, planning, oversight, and program defense responsibilities.The amount of basic and applied research funding available for the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Director to invest at his or her discretion is far too low, as is the share of the Army's basic research funding that is allocated to in-house independent research.
  • The Army has not expanded its scientist and engineer (S&E) workforce rapidly enough in the fast-changing research area of network and information sciences.
  • ARL has not done enough to bolster its reputation both within and outside the Army.
  • ARL does not have a plan for funding anticipated facilities and equipment needs.

Recommendations

  • The Army should establish a culture of discovery in basic research to encourage risk-taking and pursuit of opportunities with high potential, in part by providing incentives for experienced researchers to take greater risk in new areas of discovery.
  • The Army should continuously improve its recruiting and retention of scientists and engineers (S&Es), and it should increase its S&E bench strength in the fast-evolving areas of network and information science and technology, where the biggest advances are likely to come.
  • The Army should increase the amount of discretionary basic and applied research funding allocated to the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Director to 5 to 10 percent of ARL's total basic and applied research budget, and also increase the share of basic research funding that is allocated to in-house independent research.
  • To raise awareness of the return on investment that ARL provides, ARL should task a panel of distinguished S&Es from outside the Army to identify ARL's top 20 most important research inventions in the past 25 years.
  • The Army should develop and fund a recapitalization plan for its laboratories and research, development, and engineering centers (RDECs).
  • ARL should report directly to the commanding general of Army Materiel Command, and the Army Research Office should be put under the operational control of the Deputy Assistant of the Army for Research and Technology.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Science and Technology Trends

  • Chapter Three

    The Army Laboratory Enterprise

  • Chapter Four

    Characteristics of a High-Quality Basic Research Laboratory

  • Chapter Five

    Assessment

  • Chapter Six

    Findings

  • Chapter Seven

    Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Top Discoveries over the Past 25 Years Submitted to the Panel

  • Appendix B

    Nobel Prize Scientific Research Supported by the Army Research Office (Reference)

  • Appendix C

    National Medal of Science Recipients Who Have Been Army Research Office Investigators

  • Appendix D

    Army Research Office Mission Statement (Reference)

  • Appendix E

    Army Research Laboratory Mission Statement (Reference)

  • Appendix F

    Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Mission Statement (Reference)

  • Appendix G

    Panel Members

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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