ARLINGTON, VA - Collective maritime endeavors against piracy, smuggling, terrorism, weapons proliferation and other threats present unique technology challenges for Sailors, Marines and allies – but they also serve as catalysts for cooperation on science and technology (S&T) solutions, resulting in a growing number of partnerships worldwide.
To address these shared security concerns, associate directors and science advisors from Office of Naval Research Global (ONR Global) returned from their assignments abroad with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commands to Arlington, Va. for ONR Global´s annual All Theater Conference, May 4-7.
"Science and technology is solid common ground for international collaboration," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Nevin P. Carr Jr. "The work of ONR Global associate directors and science advisors to find and leverage global S&T for naval needs leads to research partnerships – and partnerships are a key tenet of the Department of the Navy´s Maritime Strategy."
At the conference, ONR Global´s Commanding Officer Capt. David Maynard discussed future opportunities and issued a challenge to his staff.
"Our job is to connect ONR´s program officers to the best S&T in the world, but it doesn´t end there," Maynard said. "S&T research is a non-threatening way to open dialogue in countries on common naval problems, and I need you to view your work on this strategic level."
Ambassadors Onboard and Abroad:
Science advisors are assigned to Navy and Marine Corps commands, and they act as ONR´s ambassadors to the Fleet Forces providing advice and access to technical expertise for the warfighter.
Additionally, ONR Global employs 21 regional associate directors to monitor technology developments from offices in Chile, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Associate directors – who are accomplished scientists and researchers – help connect science advisors and ONR program officers to expertise abroad.
Dr. Chong Ong, an associate director in ONR Global´s Tokyo office, says that S&T can open doors for U.S.-China interaction.
"Of course, this is a controlled interaction, but little steps add up to one big stride," Ong says. "At the research level, there is a shared hope on both sides that pursuit of knowledge will lead to greater understanding and cooperation between our navies."
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Gary Roughead visited China in April, and acknowledged the Chinese navy´s involvement in counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden as an example of the increased security cooperation between the two navies. With Asia among the fastest growing technology regions in the world, ONR Global is currently exploring additional presence in the area.
ONR Global operates on the principle that scientists equipped with first-hand knowledge of the experience of the warfighter have an enhanced ability to communicate warfighter needs. Amongst ONR Global´s 25 science advisors, none are more tactical than those advisors assigned to I, II, and III Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF).
Eric Evans and Mike Edwards are science advisors with I and II MEF, respectively, who work with the Marines, hear first-hand about their technical needs. Results of embedding science advisors range from counter-IED (improvised explosive device) improvements to the latest innovations in training technology such as the Infantry Immersive Trainer, which provides Marines a chance to gain experience virtually in a mixed reality environment before deploying to Iraq.
ONR Global provides engineers and scientists with opportunities to transit on ships and submarines in the "Scientists to Sea" program.
"This is an important program for our staff," says ONR Executive Director Dr. Walter F. Jones. "There is no substitute for being there with Sailors and Marines to see how they live and the challenges they face everyday. It´s like the difference between war and war movies. I encourage all of our researchers to spend time at sea or down range with the Marines."
Jones emphasized that the science advisors role across naval forces is twofold: to listen to the warfighter´s needs and to communicate to senior leadership about ONR´s research to meet those challenges.
For more on ONR´s global efforts: