Director’s Column: Partnerships

RDECOM Director Dale A. Ormond

RDECOM Director Dale A. Ormond

By Dale A. Ormond, RDECOM Director

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command depends on partnerships to develop world-class technology and engineering solutions. Our mission is only achievable if we continue to reach out and build partnerships across all of our core competencies.

The automotive industry, for example, is very interested in collaborating with us. Our tank and automotive research center recently signed a formal research agreement with General Motors for hydrogen fuel research.

Partnering with America’s automakers gives us tremendous opportunities to leverage their technology development while contributing to the industry knowledge base. Also, we partner with the University of Michigan and Michigan State to help develop the next generation of automotive engineers who are working on our most challenging problems. All of this gives us direct engagement with leading edge of technology.

The engineers at our aviation and missile center collaborate with NASA scientists on areas of mutual interest such as logistics, engineering, safety, quality and assurance. We face many of the same issues, and when we share best practices with each other, both organizations benefit.

RDECOM scientists also perform basic research support for many DARPA projects. The more we partner with DARPA on its visionary work at the leading edge of scientific discovery, the more we can anticipate transitions of potentially leap-ahead capabilities. So I would love to see our scientists and engineers doing even more work with DARPA to augment our S&T activities. DARPA would be able to take advantage of our knowledge and expertise of Soldier and land combat challenges. An enhanced partnership would help us better prepare to transition technologies, upgrade current programs and develop new programs.

Working with visionary partners like DARPA enables us to better support our other partners, for example in our growing partnership with the Special Operations Command. Technology plays a major role in the Army’s vision for the Soldier of the Future.

The U.S. Special Operations Command has turned to our organization to provide unique solutions in the area of lighter batteries, more flexible and stronger body armor, enhanced situational awareness, secure communications and increased lethality. We have a great partnership with SOCOM to test out new ideas, get feedback, make improvements and then look for opportunities to transition technologies. That means as we create new ideas, capabilities and technologies for special-operations forces, we can present new capabilities to the general force. We’re trying to be a better partner by making sure we’re bringing the right people, the right expertise and the right imagination to solve their materiel gaps.

The importance of these partnerships only increases as budgets decrease. We must leverage the work of others as it only makes sense to maximize our access to the intellectual capability, capacity and capital of our partners to fill the gaps. Hunkering down in our own foxhole will just make our work less effective and be more expensive.

We are even considering game-changing ideas to create a more open environment at our research centers and laboratories. What if we were to take the fence down and allow universities and civilian researchers to build laboratories and centers right next to ours? How would this accelerate collaboration and cooperation? Perhaps joint research parks would exponentially advance our efforts. Consider what NASA has done at the Ames Research Center. They have expanded public and private partnerships by inviting researchers to co-locate and collaborate. This has resulted in an increase in innovative, high-performance, and reliable space exploration technologies. We can learn from this.

We are exploring new ideas to get more people with ideas together to come up with more innovative solutions.

Our Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, has called for a globally responsive and regionally engaged Army that is ready and modern. The vision is for smaller brigade combat teams by 2025 with the same or increased lethality. The chief is relying on the S&T community to provide technologies that can be developed and fielded to meet that time line. We are an integral team member.

I have every confidence that our proactive approach to partnering combined with the creative RDECOM workforce, we can do what the Army needs us to do — with fewer resources. That’s what we’re all about: enabling Soldiers to execute their mission in an increasingly complex and contested battlefield.

To be a ready and modern Army, the Army research and development community will step up, innovate and deliver ground-breaking solutions. I am confident that RDECOM, with our partners, will accomplish this task.

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