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PNNL helping develop U.S. military for 21st Century

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March 01, 2004 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — America's military is undergoing one of its biggest changes, or "Transformation," since World War II. Declared a priority by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Transformation was made even more urgent by September 11.

Transformation will mean profound changes in numerous ways, including the way the military develops strategy and the way it's organized. Preparing for the future will require the military to adopt innovative approaches to how it operates, to think differently and creatively.

Transformation will mean a military force that is more flexible, quicker to deploy and more integrated. People in the four major services will work much more as an integrated team. Streamlining the military infrastructure and improving management practices to reduce overhead costs will also be part of this Transformation, so that the military will be both efficient and effective.

Breakthrough technologies also will be a crucial part of Transformation. Advances in materials, information technology, sensor devices and robotics, as well as training improvements-such as using video games with realistic combat scenarios-are helping to make Transformation possible. New technologies are enabling the military to achieve the same or greater level of combat power with less equipment and less people and the ability to move forces anywhere, anytime.

Innovative science and technologies developed by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be an integral part of the U.S. military's effort to produce an information-age military that is leaner, meaner, more flexible and quicker, so that it's better able to respond to the new type of warfare this country faces today.

PNNL has played an integral role in national defense since the 1940s as the research arm of the Hanford Site. Over time, PNNL's capabilities and contributions have evolved and diversified. Our legacy of defense-related research puts us in an excellent position to address a new generation of military needs and challenges.

The Need for Transformation

America's military is still configured for Cold War threats. Most conventional weapons systems in the U.S. military, such as aircraft carriers, piloted fighter aircraft, and heavy mechanized ground forces, were designed and built in the 1970s and 1980s to fight infrequent wars against large, nation-state foes.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the world changed radically, but the U.S. military did not. When the Cold War order began crumbling worldwide, the types of threats that had shaped the U.S. military since World War II began to decline.

The new threats ushered in by the post-Cold War era are reflected in an increased incidence of "failed" states, civil violence, refugee and other humanitarian crises, and criminal and black market activity, including an increased traffic in illicit drugs and light military weapons.

The threats we face today-from terrorists to nation state foes-will require that we marshal a fighting force, based in the U.S., that is capable of going anywhere at anytime and fighting without an extensive buildup of forces.

The battlefield of the future includes our homeland, and things like the financial system, telephone system and critical infrastructure. We have to be alert to what's going on everywhere and develop better intelligence to be able to respond.

Meeting the Challenge

Military Transformation initiatives were launched in the late 1990s by the Department of Defense, and researchers at PNNL are working in many different areas to provide breakthrough technologies that will help transform our military into a leaner, more effective, and more cost-efficient defense system.

While we don't build planes and ships, we are supporting the military in important ways. Our capabilities are focused in advanced sensors and electronics for diagnostic and prognostic devices, lightweight power systems and new materials.

The laboratory's substantial portfolio of capabilities spans the scientific and technical disciplines, ranging from fundamental science research to the development of energy-efficiency strategies that will help military bases spend less money for electricity and other power sources.

The state-of-the-art William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL and the laboratory's strengths in chemistry and biology will continue to produce key scientific knowledge that can be applied to developing new chemical and biological detection technologies.

PNNL will continue to help solve emerging environmental issues. For example, we are working with the Army to ensure minimal impacts to the environment from the operations and training activities carried out at various installations throughout the country.

PNNL is applying its capabilities in fuel cells, materials and other disciplines to provide small power sources for soldiers and deliver energy-efficient applications that reduce energy consumption at military installations.

Visualization technologies developed at PNNL to sort through large amounts of data (text, images, video, sound) and find common themes and relationships, are currently being used by the military for intelligence purposes.

PNNL's strengths connect well to the nation's defense challenges. Many of the researchers at PNNL who are exploring these challenges are scientists and engineers who themselves were in the military. Our priority is to develop the next generation science that will protect our country and win our battles around the globe.


Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, National Security, EMSL, Operations, Fuel Cells, Chemistry, Biology, Data Visualization

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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