14 May 15. Robots, medical advances, high-tech versions of warfighter tools and more were on display today at the Pentagon during the Defense Department’s first “Lab Day.”
Some of the department’s top officials also were there, including Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, who hosted the event.
The event began this morning, with dozens of booths lining the roads and sidewalks in the Pentagon’s center courtyard and the south parking area. The booths held exhibits highlighting the research and development work of Army, Navy and Air Force laboratories and medical scientists.
Kendall said today’s Lab Day is the first in an ongoing outreach campaign that ties together science and technology efforts across the defense research and engineering enterprise.
Three Big Reasons
“We’re gathered here today for three big reasons,” Kendall told an audience that included service members, DoD employees, members of Congress, local science and technology high-school students, media and special guests.
“We wanted to show the groundbreaking work going on at DoD labs, recognize the best of the best, and showcase the specific projects and demonstrations that we’re working on in the world of science and technology,” he said.
Kendall said the department has thousands of scientists working at DoD labs in 22 states, producing things such as the Internet, the Global Positioning System, car and truck back-up sensors, Ebola virus disease containment, a mobile capability for destroying chemical material stockpiles, night-vision goggles, emergency-room best practices, and more.
“What we see today is innovation in the foreground,” Kendall said.
Depending on Technology
The department and its warfighters depend on so many different technology areas, and in those areas the United States must be stay ahead of everyone else, he added.
In Kendall’s tour of the exhibits, he saw aerospace technology, safer helmets and other personal protection gear, and advances in autonomy such as the Navy’s unmanned jet ski; the Marine Corps’ semi-autonomous robots for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition; and the Air Force’s remotely piloted “Vigilant Spirit.”
“All these things and many more allow our warfighters to have the cutting-edge capabilities they really need,” Kendall said, “and laboratory innovation is at the forefront of that.”
In his remarks, Work welcomed Lab Day participants on behalf of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who is at Camp David, Maryland, today meeting with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“He wanted me to extend his personal thanks for all of you for coming out today, and his personal thanks for everything that you do,” Work said, adding a special welcome for the local high-school STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — students.
“You represent the next generation of scientists and engineers,” Work told them. “You’re going to help out the country no matter what, but we hope that after seeing some of the things here today you might at least contemplate coming into the Department of Defense and helping us solve many of the problems we’re facing.”
Even more exciting than the advanced technology he saw today were the young people who demonstrated and explained the technology, Work said.
“They represent the best that our country has to offer,” the deputy secretary added. “They help give our service members a warfighting edge and they help keep our country and all of our citizens safe.”
During his tour of the exhibits, Work said he saw advanced armor, new night-vision devices and lifesaving medical instruments, all demonstrating the leading edge of technology.
“You represent the best of about 38,000 scientists and engineers in more than 60 DoD labs across the country, he added, noting that the scientists “work hard every day to ensure that we retain our technological superiority, to prepare us for an uncertain future and accelerate capabilities that we need to get into the hands of our warfighters.”
Work added, “I firmly believe as does Secretary Carter that we must continue to innovate to protect our country.”
Scalable Quantum Network
Work recognized a combined team of scientists and engineers from the Army, Air Force and Navy research labs, who won a $45 million award to the Joint U.S. Service Laboratories to develop the first U.S prototype of a scalable quantum network with memory.
The three-year award is funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s Applied Research for the Advancement of S&T Priorities, or ARAP, program.
Quantum-physics-based computing could increase by a billion-fold computing capability critical to accelerating the building-blocks for game-changing capabilities in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, called C4ISR, according to the award document.
The service research labs are collaborating to demonstrate the feasibility of the fully integrated quantum-memory technology.
Focus on Emerging Technologies
“One hundred years ago quantum mechanics was discovered and our understanding of it has developed over the last decade,” Work explained. “It’s the foundation of almost all of our modern technology, and this team is trying to figure out how to encrypt and then transmit information across long-range military networks for the warfighter in a provably secure and robust fashion.”
Kendall, who announced the winners of the award during his comments, said that under the ARAP program, the department focuses on emerging technologies that could impact future operational capabilities.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)