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2007-2008 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory
In contrast to most other directorates at ARL, SLAD’s portfolio includes relatively little applied research funding and no basic research funding. The overwhelming majority of SLAD funding is later in the Department of Defense (DoD) research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) chain, either provided by acquisition programs for SLV support or by RDT&E management support funding organic to ARL. The small fraction of applied research funding supporting SLAD is devoted to the development of tools, techniques, and methodologies required to undertake SLV analysis and assessment. This portfolio of funding reflects a relatively long period of stable SLV techniques, emphasizing ballistic survivability of armored systems and lethality of U.S. weapons systems against armored systems. SLAD is now necessarily supporting SLV analysis in a much broader and more rapidly evolving context, in which communications, networking, and information processing, rather than weapons systems per se, are believed to be the essential and sustaining advantage of U.S. military forces. A central concern of the Board remains the issue of whether the directorate’s funding portfolio will result in tools, techniques, and methodologies capable of providing the Army with the assessment capability needed under the emerging paradigm of network-centric warfare in an irregular battlespace. Tables A.1 and A.2 in Appendix A respectively show the funding profile and the staffing profile for SLAD.
CHANGES SINCE THE PREVIOUS REVIEW
The proportion of SLAD’s efforts comprising special studies and inquiries motivated by current operations has increased substantially since the advent of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Board has been exposed to many of these efforts over the recent assessment cycle, necessarily at the expense of the rest of the portfolio. Most of these efforts are of relatively short duration, and although the theme of special operationally oriented studies is clear, continuity of effort and methodological progress are not something that is easily visible to the Board. SLAD’s contributions to the war effort have been competently performed, often under very serious time and resource constraints, and have apparently been significant influences on current operations and supporting acquisition. The Board has been exposed to a large number of these efforts and has consistently been impressed with the dedication and ingenuity of the staff involved. However, this work is not research per se and hence is difficult to evaluate in the context of industrial laboratory or academic research. In particular, it is extremely difficult to understand whether highly responsive and time-constrained analysis and engineering work is among the best in its field, since the field of comparison is necessarily limited.
As noted previously, the SLAD portfolio is very granular, and the Board can sample a relatively small fraction of the individual tasks supported by SLAD. SLAD management has tended to emphasize the operationally oriented tasks and special studies in developing agendas for the assessment meetings. For the future, SLAD should consider leaving the assessment of this work primarily to SLAD’s operational customers, who are obviously in the best position to assess its impact and relevance, and to refocus the Board’s attention primarily on methodological progress, tool and infrastructure development, and the development of necessary new capabilities. To the extent that the Board continues to be exposed to the operationally oriented studies, it will focus primarily on the degree to which SLAD is engaging the external technical community to leverage previous work (both academic and industrial) to enhance the technical credibility and quality of its products.
Beyond the change described above, SLAD has experienced other significant changes over the 2-year assessment period. One of the most significant of these was the establishment of Warfighter Survivability Branch within the Ballistics and Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Division. This branch was established to provide an organizational focus within SLAD for the soldier-focused portion of the survivability