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OCR for page 37
8 Major Conclusions and Recommendations The central conclusion reached in this study is that the introduction of improved materials into the defense systems and weapons inventory is necessary, looks overwhelmingly difficult, and requires sustained, long-term efforts. Today's small, fragmented, suboptimal effort in energetic materials research and development puts a critical U.S. national technology area at risk. Resources across the entire spectrum of energetic materials research and development are severely limited, but particularly so in the funding for scale-up and advanced development studies of potential new materials. Funding for the nation's energetic materials technology effort is shrinking.) Without the opportunity for the current workforce to train the next generation of expert scientists and engineers, much corporate knowledge may be lost. This knowledge is key to maintaining the cu rrent weapon stockpiles safely, to ensu ring their performance, and to develop) ng the next generation of energetic materials. Resources required for scale-up and characterization of new materials are so limited that it has proven nearly impossible to advance a new energetic material through the required extensive characterization and qualification that must be performed to bring the material to a level of maturity that will allow a system developer to consider the material as a low- or moderate-risk candidate. In addition, transition funding for promising new materials and formulations is essentially nonexistent. Concomitant with the decrease in research and development resou roes, the com m ittee fou nd that the i nd ustria I base for prod uction of energetic materials has continued to erode, as observed also in a manufacturing study by the Department of Commerce,2 which concluded that energetic materials technology development is in rapid decline and that the nation's energetic materials technology base is at risk unless significant new resources are committed to this vital technology and top-level national leadership is committed to sustaining this capability. Revolutionary, orders-of-magnitude increases in performance as measured by increased energy density or increased power are unlikely to occur in the near future. Yet, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security. 2001. National Security Assessment of High Performance Explosives and High Performance Components Industries. Executive summary available at http://www.bxa.doc.gov/defenseind ustrial baseprograms/OSI ES/DefMa rketResea rch Rpts/Explosive Componentsindustries.html. Accessed September 2003. Department of Commerce. See note 1 above. 37

OCR for page 37
38 ADVANCED ENERGETIC MATERIALS incremental improvements in performance provide great leverage when coupled to other systems-specific improvements. Potential payoffs accrue in improved survivability and in increased range and increased lethality of weapons. The scarce resources available to the energetic materials technology effort are too often focused on short-term responses. The driving force behind such short-term efforts is perceived technology capability gaps, which may be attributable to hyperbole in news accounts of foreign weapons effects, as well as overly dramatized intelligence reports of foreign capabilities.3 The current defense focus is on limited theater actions, with an emphasis on deployment of precision strike weapons that are smaller, cheaper, and at the same time more lethal against all target classes. An extensive technology effort from the energetic materials community will be required to meet the explosive and propellant requirements of these new systems. To ensure that such an effort is effective, it is important to couple it closely to efforts of the services to improve target lethality and weapons effects. Current funding for the services often focuses on near-term individual service requirements, and the resulting competition for scarce resources inhibits cooperative efforts aimed toward more global national requirements. To overcome these barriers and competition for scarce resources, a major restructuring of the programmatic control and funding of energetic materials research and development is required in order to rebuild a robust and productive national effort in energetic materials technology. 1. The committee recommends that the Department of Defense redirect attention and resources to focus on strategies for reducing transition barriers to scale-up. This effort should be closely coupled to the ongoing efforts of the services to improve target lethality and weapons effects. Such an approach would ensure an extensive technology effort from the energetic materials community and would help provide for an adequate supply of well-trained scientists and engineers to meet the nation's future defense requirements. 2. The committee recommends that the Department of Defense consider centralizing its management of energetic materials research and development in order to achieve a longer- term, cross-service perspective. One possible approach to such a restructuring might include establishing an Energetic Materials Technology Office in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Similar to the Office of Munitions, such an office would require a unique program element funding line with the charter and authority to lead a national, coordinated energetic materials technology thrust effectively. A clear benefit of this approach would be a robust and productive national effort in energetic materials technology. The recently initiated Advanced Energetics Initiative might be the cornerstone of this national effort. However, any approach to achieving this suggested office would require establishing broad oversight and coordination responsibility as well as authority over all the energetic materials programs of the Department of Defense and a charter to develop cooperative engagement with and coordination of industrial and academic programs at the National Laboratories focused on energetic materials. The overarching issue remains one of priority. Energetic materials are a key component of the nation's defense strategies. A coordinated and sustained effort in research, technology transition, and production technologies is needed to maintain the contribution of these materials to U.S. national defense. 3 Examples can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1854371.stm and http://www.com mond reams.org/head linesO2/0303-06.htm. Accessed Novem ber 2003.