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Work: Exciting Technology Under Development

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, March 04, 2016 — The civilian and military personnel at the laboratories here are working on cutting-edge technologies to maximize human performance, protect the warfighter, and secure the nation.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work made a number of stops here yesterday during a one-day visit, including to the 711th Human Performance Wing and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

The visit was focused on the technologies that would support the department's third offset strategy, intended to deter and protect against emerging and new threats, he said.

That strategy includes the development of learning systems, human-machine collaboration and combat teaming, and network-enabled and cyber-hardened autonomous weapons, the deputy defense secretary said.

Research and development and readiness are deeply connected, Work said. The department has achieved a good balance between future readiness and current readiness, he added.

Advanced Technologies to Help Warfighter

Work highlighted the programs he was briefed on yesterday, including the technology demonstration program known as BATMAN -- Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge -- which focuses on adapting technologies to dismounted airmen.

It’s an advanced technology research program within the 711th Human Performance Wing, developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

BATMAN includes the Battlefield Airmen Trauma Distributed Observation Kit, or BATDOK, which would allow an Air Force pararescue jumper to monitor the vital signs of several wounded service members at once through the use of sensors and a small, wireless computer that can be worn on the jumper's forearm.

"That's a perfect example of how wearable electronics and stuff like that can assist the human in doing their jobs on the battlefield," Work said.

That technology could be used elsewhere in the battlefield to protect and assist service members, Work explained.

Other technologies under development include autonomous weapons systems, advanced aircraft anti-collision systems, sophisticated monitoring sensors for aircrew, and new aerial radars and sensors that track activity on the ground. 

Work's impression of the day: "It was really cool. I was really excited."

Promote STEM, Stay Cutting Edge

At the start of his visit here, Work spoke to a group of middle- and high school students, to encourage them to consider a government career in science.

The youth were visiting the base for "Week at the Labs," a White House initiative to inspire students -- especially those in underserved communities -- to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The United States is among the most technologically advanced nations in the world, Work said. It is "absolutely critical for the security of the nation" that it stays on the cutting edge, he said, so recruiting the best people is important.

In decades past, the technology that was driving military innovation was coming from the U.S. government, but that's not the case anymore, the deputy defense secretary said.

Most of the military-relevant technologies of today, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, are being driven by the commercial sector, he added.

"We're in a competition for talent," Work said. That is why it is critical to recruit the best and the brightest that America has to offer, who include, Work said, the youth who visited the base for the day.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)