Laboratory Research

As the Department of Navy’s (DoN's) Corporate Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) conducts a broadly-based in-house Science and Technology (S&T) Program. Under the auspices of the Office of Naval Research, NRL conducts a Base Program, which is an integrated effort comprising both 6.1 Basic Research and 6.2 Applied Research. The Basic Research focuses on scientific study and experimentation directed towards increasing knowledge and understanding in broad fields directly related to long-term DoN needs. The Applied Research efforts are directed towards the solution of specific Naval problems, short of major development projects.

The program's role is to ensure that, as technological advances appear, they are investigated for possible development/exploration to determine application to future Naval Programs.

The NRL Base Program is organized into seven Focus Areas. These Focus Areas are defined such that one would expect long-term stable investments when viewed at the aggregate focus area level. A coordinator has been assigned to each focus area and given the task of developing a proposed program for review by NRL management.

The NRL Base Program focus areas are:

Battlespace Environments

The Battlespace Environments Focus Area seeks to maximize the capability of Naval and Joint Forces to project power anywhere/anytime by the application of relevant operational battlespace environmental knowledge across the full spectrum of warfare missions. Through superior understanding/mastery of the environment, U.S. Forces may gain tactical advantage in the ocean, air, littoral and riverine environments. This area encompasses the measurement, analysis, modeling, prediction and simulation from the ocean to upper atmosphere and near space environments, including the ocean bottom and subbottom, for the purposes of understanding and exploiting their impact on Naval personnel, platforms, sensors, weapon systems, tactics and doctrine.


The Electronics Focus Area seeks to supply to the Navy new, affordable and highly innovative electronic technologies, not creatable by any other means, that will enable superior performance of electronic systems necessary to meet traditional, irregular, catastrophic and disruptive challenges for the warfighter. To avoid technology surprise and to respond to current critical needs.

Electromagnetic Warfare

The Electromagnetic Warfare (EW) Focus Area's purpose is to conduct scientific research and new technology development for radar, EW and optics that enables DoN to exploit the use of the electromagnetic spectrum and gain the knowledge to defeat the enemy, while denying the enemy the effective use of the spectrum. The research objectives are: control the spectrum, see without being seen and engage without being engaged.

Information Technology

The Information Technology Focus Area conducts research in computer science, networking and communications to develop those technologies necessary to implement DoN’s S&T Strategic Plan with particular emphasis on the requirements of FORCENet, as articulated in Sea Power 2, and Distributed and Networked Operations (DNO), as articulated in the Navy’s Strategic Plan. By providing flexibility, affordability, information superiority and distributed networked force capabilities, IT is a pervasive technology that underlies all three Navy warfare missions: Global War on Terrorism/irregular warfare, homeland defense and conventional campaign.

Materials and Chemistry

The Materials and Chemistry Focus Area conducts basic and applied research to generate new and improved materials with emphases on affordability, performance, survivability, warfighter protection, chemical, biological and radiological element detection, and life extension, consistent with the principal focus areas of the Naval S&T Strategic Plan and naval capabilities. Design of advanced devices and systems critically depends on the development of improved materials.

Space Research and Space Technology

The Space Research and Space Technology Focus Area's purpose is to advance understanding and predictive capability of the space domain in order to exploit the extended operational environment and its impact on Navy and Department of Defense activities, and to develop advanced space technologies. The Space Research and Space Technology S&T is important to command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision navigation and timing, orbital tracking, space situational awareness, maritime domain awareness, and the fundamental understanding of geophysical phenomena and natural radiation sources as pertain to space-based and complementary terrestrial systems.

Undersea Warfare

The Undersea Warfare Focus Area conducts an integrated S&T program to enable Naval forces to exploit acoustics, non-acoustics and environmental knowledge in the design, development, improvement and operation of undersea warfare systems for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Mine Warfare (MIW).

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