For Immediate Release: Nov. 9, 2010
By Geoff Fein, ONR Corporate Strategic Communications
ARLINGTON, Va.-- Making science and technology a major priority, the White House is looking for ways the naval research community can partner on efforts, such as advanced training for sailors, a top administration official said Nov. 9 at the 2010 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Partnership Conference.
Science, technology and innovation are presidential priorities, said Thomas Kalil, deputy director for policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Kalil's keynote address kicked off day two of the collaboration event.
More than 1,500 people from the defense industry, military and academic communities gathered at the Hyatt Regency to discuss partnership opportunities in science, technology and engineering.
"[S&T] is critical for every goal we face as a nation," Kalil said. "Even in the tight budget, we made investments in research and development. The Department of Defense and the Navy have a long and distinguished record of making investments in science and technology, which have a huge impact on national security and the economy, Kalil added.
The administration, for example, is working on a research initiative between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy called "Education Dominance." Kalil said the program could have dramatic implications not only for the Navy but also for the country.
"Researchers have postulated that if we could give everyone a personal tutor we could have a dramatic improvement in student performance," he said. But there is one catch-it would be expensive to have a 'classroom of one.'"
"So the question is whether computers and artificial intelligence have advanced to the point where we could create software that approaches the effectiveness of a personal tutor," Kalil said.
Reducing the time required to gain new skills would be significant for DoD, given the importance of training for military missions and economic competitiveness, Kalil said.
Dr. Ali T-Raissi said lunchtime keynote speaker Lt. Gen. George Flynn, commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, kept the audience engaged.
Flynn gave an outstanding talk," said T-Raissi, director of Advanced Energy Research Division for Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. "It was very important; and he gave it without [using] PowerPoint. It was a good overview of the problems the Marine Corps are facing and what the solutions may be."
Science and technology will also help the Marine Corps face a barrage of challenges, including an enemy that continues to take advantage of the service's vulnerabilities, Flynn said.
"The improvised explosive device fight is the biggest killer on the battlefield," Flynn said. "We are losing Sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines everyday on the battlefield because of IEDs, and we still haven't learned to break the code, even though we have put so many resources against it and it is something we still need to do."
Flynn said when he first came to the Marine Corps, a research and development product could provide 10 years of technological advantage. Now, the Corps may be lucky to get six months to two years advantage because technology is so much more prevalent, he added.
ONR and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory have provided aid to the Marines through a program to train Labrador retrievers to find IEDs. The program has made a significant difference, Flynn said.
"They have the best sensor out there right now that we know of to find home-made explosives," he said. "We are also looking at other hand-held devices to find those very low metallic content pressure plates .We are still looking at how you can help me defeat the device, pre-detonate the device before another soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine loses a leg or loses their life.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.