CHAPTER TWO
Using New Materials in Defense Systems

INTRODUCTION

Beyond the technical requirements for future military materials, the committee and its panels raised important questions about the research and development (R&D) management processes that broadly affect materials application:

  • How can emerging and future materials advances be better communicated to defense acquisition personnel who make technical decisions about the design of systems, subsystems, and components?

  • How can technical decisionmakers in government and industry better communicate to materials researchers critical system, subsystem, and component engineering opportunities where existing materials limit system performance, so that the opportunities can be addressed by materials not yet in service?

  • How can materials R&D be structured so that proper attention is paid to the complete set of functional characteristics a material must have to be put into service and perform successfully?

  • How can materials R&D funds be deployed so as to reduce the time for a new material to progress from discovery or invention to service?

  • How can government-funded materials R&D programs be prioritized to leverage commercial industrial materials R&D?

Similar questions were addressed and recommendations made in Materials Science and Engineering: Forging Stronger Links to Users (NRC, 1999). The same questions were addressed



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CHAPTER TWO Using New Materials in Defense Systems INTRODUCTION Beyond the technical requirements for future military materials, the committee and its panels raised important questions about the research and development (R&D) management processes that broadly affect materials application: How can emerging and future materials advances be better communicated to defense acquisition personnel who make technical decisions about the design of systems, subsystems, and components? How can technical decisionmakers in government and industry better communicate to materials researchers critical system, subsystem, and component engineering opportunities where existing materials limit system performance, so that the opportunities can be addressed by materials not yet in service? How can materials R&D be structured so that proper attention is paid to the complete set of functional characteristics a material must have to be put into service and perform successfully? How can materials R&D funds be deployed so as to reduce the time for a new material to progress from discovery or invention to service? How can government-funded materials R&D programs be prioritized to leverage commercial industrial materials R&D? Similar questions were addressed and recommendations made in Materials Science and Engineering: Forging Stronger Links to Users (NRC, 1999). The same questions were addressed

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in a different context in Materials Technologies for the Process Industries of the Future: Management Strategies and Research Opportunities (NRC, 2000). The process industries report differentiates between a “technology push” and a “market pull” research strategy, noting that the Department of Energy, Office of Industrial Technology, was transitioning its research programs to the latter in the interest of getting more materials research to produce results that would quickly be applied in industry. EXPEDITING THE USE OF NEW MATERIALS IN DEFENSE SYSTEMS Concurring with the previous studies, the committee concluded that the time required to move new materials from research to service generally seems excessive. That the same questions continue to arise in both military and commercial contexts suggests that the problem is fundamental. Much of the problem appears to lie in the difficulty of communicating needs and potential solutions among system, subsystem, and component engineers and materials scientists and engineers. To expedite the use of new materials in defense systems, the committee identified three important and interconnected ideas, discussed below. Research-to-Development Transition Funding Funds need to be allocated specifically to take promising materials from research through the developmental steps necessary for the materials to become reasonable candidates for service use. Advanced materials that are highly leveraged because they can be used widely or because they have the potential to significantly enhance performance in an important defense capability need rapid development focused on engineering issues like manufacturability, low cost, inspectability, joinability, and environmental impact. The materials research elements of defense agencies and departments meet annually to coordinate their efforts. The annual meeting gives them the opportunity to identify high-leverage materials early in the research and provide funding to expedite their investigation. Analysis of materials research that has transitioned effectively, and research that has not, could produce useful criteria for prioritizing projects. Some corporations invest substantially in their own research-to-development efforts, using analytical methods to make the business case

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for key lines of research that could be applied by DoD. The efficiency of transition will be positively influenced by high-level participation of system designers and engineers. The objective of research-to-development transition funding is to reduce the risk of putting materials into service by making the new material attractive to the engineering and programmatic staff responsible for the performance of deployable systems. Communications Communications among materials researchers and system, subsystem, and component engineers are required to get materials into use. These communities already cooperate in many ways, but it is obvious that their communications are often inadequate. Most materials choices are made by working engineers, generally in industry, responsible for performing on a contract. Direct connections are needed to relate materials R&D with industry system, subsystem, and component engineers. The formal process for translating research into systems ends up in many interpretations and reinterpretations of needs, with much information lost and time wasted. Acquisition reformers have mandated the elimination of military specifications (MILSPECS) and standards. This process was a traditional vehicle for deploying proven technology created through service-funded R&D. Underlying the decision to move away from MILSPECS was the assumption that commercial influences would be more effective in facilitating incorporation of advanced technology (NRC, 2002), but their elimination has removed one mechanism for incorporating technology. Though few would want MILSPECS back, new methods for better connecting the value-added links in the chain from basic research through deployment would be useful. Another important aspect of the problem of communication between materials researchers and practicing engineers is that in very new fields, there are no established communication links. For example, there may be biological or bioinspired materials that can complement or supplant traditional materials in areas where the biologists have no experience or contacts and the engineers have no knowledge base to draw their attention to these researchers. Databases More attention needs to be paid to the many ways in which data about materials are organized and made available to engineers in industry who

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specify material for systems, subsystems, and components. High-quality, validated, physical data captured in databases are essential to: Support reliable, physically verified computer modeling; Communicate the readiness for service of specific materials with defined performance criteria; Identify functional gaps in the R&D for given materials; Identify materials that are being explored by government and industry; Provide engineers with management options for resolving system performance and cost issues; and Categorize traditional and emerging materials, their functions, and their multifunctional capabilities in a standardized taxonomy. Data integrity is of paramount importance. Databases need to be free of organizational or commercial bias. Because the database is a vehicle for communications, the kinds of data entered, the formats, quality standards for data acceptability, and other aspects of the database must be decided not only by materials scientists and engineers but also by system, subsystem, and components engineers—all parties to the communication must be represented. The committee envisions that DoD materials research staffs can give structure to the process in which materials data are validated, presented, formatted, and reviewed by letting DoD’s interest be known and stimulating progress through grants and contracts. CONCLUSIONS This committee believes that many of the materials derived from current and future research will be of great value in engineered systems to meet pressing future defense needs. The effectiveness of materials research and development in bringing advanced materials from concept to service can be enhanced by addressing questions and ideas discussed. Two recent NRC reports (1999 and 2000) and this report confirm the importance of doing so. Implementing the following three-part recommendation will accelerate the transition of materials from concept to service.

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RECOMMENDATION 1. TO ACCELERATE THE TRANSITION OF MATERIALS FROM CONCEPT TO SERVICE, The Department of Defense (DoD) should budget research-to-development transition funds and devise a method to select early the materials advances on which to concentrate funds. DoD should adopt measures to enhance communication between materials researchers and users. DoD should make investments to organize and populate databases that describe the physical properties and attributes of materials to complement and validate materials computer modeling, and to facilitate communication among researchers and engineers at the system, subsystem, and component levels. REFERENCES National Research Council (NRC). 1999. Materials Science and Engineering: Forging Stronger Links to Users . Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (NRC). 2000. Materials Technologies for the Process Industries of the Future: Management Strategies and Research Opportunities. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (NRC). 2002. The Impact of Acquisition Reform on Department of Defense Specification and Standards for Materials and Processes. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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