Fast-Paced, High-Tech Advances Provide Winning Edge
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
MCLEAN, Va., Nov. 14, 2000 In one second, a single strand of fiber-optic cable can transmit the data contained in 11,000 encyclopedia volumes.
David E. McLaughlin (left) and Kevin J. Donegan, contractors at the Naval Research and Naval Surface Warfare Center, man an exhibit at DoD's Commercial Technology for the Warfighter conference Nov. 8 in McLean, Va. McLaughlin is a corporate engineer with VECTOR Research Division, Engineering Technologies, Analysis and Technology, in Annapolis, Md. Donegan is vice president for marketing and sales with Silicon Power Corp. in Latham, N.Y. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Amazing -- to some. To others, this factoid simply shows just how far and how fast technology has progressed over the last quarter century. And they say the pace of technology isn't slowing, but moving through cyberspace faster than Star Trek's Enterprise at warp speed.
"Today, it's not very difficult at all to have a single fiber that can have 40 different wavelengths of information," said Jude E. Franklin, vice president and chief technology officer at Litton PRC, a global information technology corporation headquartered here. "Each wavelength can have ten gigabytes per second."
Franklin addressed about 200 military and civilian technology experts in early November at DoD's "Commercial Technology for the Warfighter" conference. The event highlighted DoD's Dual Use Science and Technology Program and the Commercial Operations and Support Savings Initiative, known as COSSI.
The dual use program, set up in 1997, links Army, Navy and Air Force research and development efforts with private industry. The goal is to develop technologies that have both military and commercial potential. The COSSI, also set up in 1997, aims to insert leading-edge commercial technologies into fielded military systems.
"Revolutionary capabilities give our warfighters the edge," Delores M. Etter, deputy undersecretary of defense for science and technology, said in opening remarks. "Our mission is to be sure that we are developing affordable and superior technology for the warfighter."
Franklin pointed out that private industry now plays the major role in the nation's research and development effort. The federal government only provides 2 percent of the money that goes into research and development, he said, whereas in the 1950s, the government provided around 44 percent.
People adapt more readily today to technological advances than they have in the past, he noted. People adapted faster to using the Internet, for example, than they did electricity, the telephone and the automobile, he said.
Franklin discussed challenges facing the IT -- information technology -- community, in particular, and what they mean to private industry and the military. He warned of the potential for information overload and the need to ensure interoperability.
Military leaders will work and collaborate in the virtual environment, Franklin said.
"If you're going to do warfighting on a global basis, with allies, with coalitions, you need to have ways that you can exchange information in a facile manner," he stressed. "Decisions, plans and information all need to be agreed upon so you can all go off and do things in lock sync."
Maintaining information superiority throughout the battle space is vital, he said. "You've got to make sure you've got good information assurance, that you believe the data that's coming in, so you can take the appropriate actions," he said.
Franklin spoke of the need for more effective systems engineering to develop better equipment systems for the warfighter. He called for robust development of intelligent software that adapts to military conditions. "Those are the things we're going to need and we're going to need them soon," he said.
Technology developers need to find ways to lighten the power supply, for example, he said. "Right now, we're putting 45 pounds of computer equipment on infantrymen's shoulders and asking them to do their job. That's just not going to work. ... I think we need to spend a lot more time on that, as well as find ways to decrease power consumption."
In the future, he predicted, developers will focus on providing situational awareness on the fly, data visualization and virtual reality solutions. They'll look at ways to immerse decision makers within the "infosphere" so they can see and understand what's going on.
New technology must be affordable on the military side, yet profitable for industry, Franklin said. Dual-use and COSSI projects "make a lot of sense" and "are the right way to go."
DoD's dual use program allows the military to leverage scarce research funds and form strategic alliances with universities, industry and the military, according to Dan Petonito, DoD's program manager. Both sides share research costs; the military puts half and industry put in the remaininder. Millions of dollars have thus been invested in the development of dual use technologies.
So far, Petonito said, DoD has initiated 283 dual use projects, about 45 more have been selected, but not yet awarded. The Army's National Automotive Center, for example, working with Continental Teves, developed an electronically controlled active braking system for Humvees and medium-sized trucks. They recently received the first Dual Use Science and Technology Achievement Award for the effort.
People throughout the services are encouraged to think high-tech and initiate such projects, Petonito said. Other cooperative projects to date are developing "smart" batteries that report their charge status and condition, miniature infrared cameras and improved imaging equipment for the medical community. Another project developed a way to identify structural damage in aging aircraft.
The dual use program, due to end in fiscal 2002, was set up as a pilot to develop a way for the services to partner with industry, he said. "The goal now is to move from being a 'program' to being a 'process,'" Petonito said. "It's a way of doing business."
For more information on the Dual-Use Science and Technology program, go to www.dtic.mil/dust.
Under the COSSI program, DoD and corporate America adapt off-the-shelf technology to reduce operations and support costs and to improve the performance of military planes, helicopters and other weapon systems. COSSI provides seed money so commerical technologies can be inserted technology into what are known as "legacy" systems.
The DoD initiative leverages private sector research and development, according to Rich Mirsky, who heads COSSI at DoD's defense research and engineering office here. The program also promotes civil and military integration and supports acquisition reform.
COSSI is a two-stage process. First, DoD funds the nonrecurring engineering, testing and qualification needed to adapt a commercial item for military use. Then, selected contractors develop, manufacture and deliver prototypes to military customers for installation into fielded DoD systems.
One project, for example, involves adapting propellers on Navy P-3 aircraft to switch to an electronic system from an electromechanical one. Propeller maintenance costs are expected to drop from over $20 per flight to less than $4 per flight.
For more information about COSSI, go to http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/Conferences/s98chrts/hertze~1.ppt.