DR. MARK A. TSCHOPP, REGIONAL LEAD OF ARL CENTRAL
TRACIE R. DEAN, PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPECIALIST OF ARL CENTRAL
Wait, what?!? The US Army has a research laboratory in the Midwest called ARL Central? Where is it? What are you doing there? What kind of programs do you have? How come I’ve never heard of DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory? Well, sit back, grab your popcorn, and I’ll tell you a little bit about us.
First, let’s start with the US Army. Four years ago, new leadership recognized the Army needed to modernize its’ systems and capabilities for the Soldier of today. First came the announcement of the Army Modernization Priorities that include: Long Range Precision Fire, Next Generation Combat Vehicles; Future Vertical Lift; Network/C3I; Air & Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality. In order to deliver a suite of capabilities to the Soldier, the Army needs to be hyper-focused on bringing together the S&T enterprise, the requirements writers, the test and evaluation community, and acquisition (by law, a dotted line, but suffice it to say that the ASAALT Director and AFC Commander know each other). Wow! That’s a lot of organizations and a lot of people involved! So, the U.S. Army Futures Command—a new 4-star command headquartered in Austin, TX in the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973—was created in July 2018 to deliver these near term capabilities to our Soldiers. In the first year, Army Futures Command grew from 12 to 24,000 personnel almost overnight as organizations from different commands were shifted to pursue this massive undertaking. Also notable is that Cross-Functional Teams, or CFTs, were formed with military leaders to oversee the various Lines of Effort for each of the Modernization Priorities listed, plus Assured Positioning, Navigation, & Timing and Synthetic Training Environment.
One of those organizations that moved to the newly formed Army Futures Command was a small command called RDECOM—with only 14,000 military, civilian, and contractor personnel (i.e., the majority of S&Es within the Army)—which now became the US Army Combat Capability Development Command or DEVCOM, a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command. DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more successful at winning the nation’s wars and come home safely. Within DEVCOM lies the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory and six DEVCOM (Research Development and Engineering) Centers, which were renamed to align with their role in the Army’s Modernization Priorities: Armaments, Aviation & Missile, C5ISR, Ground Vehicle Systems, Chemical and Biological, Soldier—all Centers.
One might ask “So what is the difference between the Army Research Laboratory and these Centers?” First, the Centers are largely focused on these near-term systems, working with industry and academia to bring these to fruition. Meanwhile, as the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL has a mission to operationalizing science to achieve transformational overmatch. That mission stems from, “who is looking out for the future?” The future technologies and capabilities and concepts, which turn into the future systems that the future Soldier uses in the future operational environment.
Our mission to operationalize science for transformational overmatch includes providing the underpinning scientific knowledge that enable transforming capabilities within and across the six Army Modernization Priorities—meaning that scientific discoveries in spaces like Artificial Intelligence, for instance, may impact more than one system or Modernization Priority. This mission is embodied within three primary thrusts:
So, what does the Army Research Laboratory do? At its core, it’s simple, ARL enables future capabilities for the Soldier to shoot, move, and communicate. Across the laboratory, ARL executes this research in 11 competencies—Energy Sciences; Science of Extreme Materials; Weapons Sciences; Terminal Effects; Electromagnetic Spectrum Sciences; Military Information Sciences; Network, Cyber, and Computational Sciences; to name a few—that provide the Army foundational expertise and specialized capabilities, which is grounded in scientific excellence and driven by unique Army challenges. The scientific knowledge created and exploited in the competencies is leveraged to develop new opportunities, to build programs, to align people and dollars, and to advise on future operational concepts. This includes ten flagship programs—Essential Research Programs (ERPs)—as well as both internal and external programs in the basic and applied R&D domain (6.1/6.2), all hypothesized to yield game-changing opportunities.
To win in this mission, ARL realized that we must take full advantage of partnerships across a global network—not just partnerships for partnerships’ sake, but strategically partner to bring complementary talent & expertise, innovative ideas/concepts, and unique facilities to the Army’s mission programs. This new business model for ARL, and now for the Army, was termed “Open Campus”. The idea was simple—ARL needs to bring government laboratories, academic institutions, small businesses, and industry into a global collaborative network that will engage the “best and brightest” through open campuses, shared facilities, and innovative practices. For those win-win scenarios, Open Campus would enable partners to collaboratively access our facilities and our S&Es. There is no DoD “User Facility” model, though—rather this is a twist on this model; a model where partnerships can provide access but only when it makes strategic sense for all parties.
Phew! So that brings us to the part that describes “Why ARL in the Midwest?” While ARL’s Army Research Office (ARO) has Program Managers that fund basic research around the country (and world with ARO’s international offices) and the Open Campus business model was meant to open up our laboratories to external partnerships, Open Campus could also be viewed in a different way—what if ARL stationed S&Es with our partners, at their facilities, working hand-in-hand with them on a daily basis? What would that look like? Would that enable a more innovative and entrepreneurial collaboration? Would that further strengthen our partnerships?
So, ARL opened multiple Regional Sites to strategically leverage the expertise and capabilities in local ecosystems around the country to get the best people working on Army challenges. It started with ARL West in Playa Vista, California; then ARL South opened in Austin, TX (just prior to AFC being established); and soon thereafter, ARL Central in Chicago, Illinois and ARL Northeast in Boston, Massachusetts. Each ARL Regional Site tasked with engaging within the local ecosystems, like the Midwest, to provide that voice in the conversation and that connection to ARL’s national S&T enterprise. Over the course of the last three years, ARL Central has grown the footprint of ARL within the Midwest: expanding the number of (funded and unfunded) research agreements, hiring ARL researchers at various partner locations, spawning an ARL Center for UAS Propulsion with partners across the nation, awarding a collaborative research alliance in Internet of Battlefield Things, building strategic partnerships in disruptive energetics and energetic materials, connecting multiple “spokes” with government staff for next generation polymers for protection, strengthening the connection between intramural and extramural programs, utilizing unique facilities to discover and operationalize the science, all while expanding the engagement of a network of partners. Even with all that, ARL Central is not a giant laboratory in the Midwest, there aren’t hundreds of scientists stationed here, there isn’t necessarily funding set aside for only those in the Midwest, and it’s not a separate entity from our larger ARL laboratories—think of it more as a small expeditionary S&T force for Army innovation. It is a lot of work for a 1-person operation on the south side of Chicago at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center, but the reality is that it works because of the great partnerships being forged.It works because of our great scientists and engineers, and it works because ARL’s culture is not that of 1 person on an island, but rather a connected “Team of Teams” approach where the cumulative sum of our partnerships can be focused and converged on outcomes that are important for the Army.
Now, think of another 1-person operation—the Soldier of the future, in a future multi-domain operating environment where their new teammates may not even be Soldiers, but rather autonomous robots, sensors, technology, AI/ML, and information. How do WE provide that Soldier with the capabilities and technologies to complete their mission safely and bring them home? The Army Research Laboratory has been hyper-focused on that future environment, but it’s not something that we can do alone either—we need strategic partnerships that can help us in that mission.
So, if you are serious about helping the Army mission, if you have an innovative concept/idea for future operating environments, ARL and the Army wants to engage and build a partnership that provides that future capability to the Soldier of the future.
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Dr. Mark A. Tschopp, Regional Lead, ARL Central
I am the Regional Lead for ARL Central at the US Army Research Laboratory, the corporate R&D laboratory for the Army. I have previously held positions as a materials engineer, team leader, and branch chief in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, discovering and operationalizing science for materials in soldier, vehicle, and weapon applications. In my current role, my mission is to accelerate discovery, innovation, and transition of science and technology to the Army through forging strategic partnerships.
Education. I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees in Metallurgical Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. My DoE-funded manufacturing research uncovered the mechanisms of defect formation in the lost foam casting process, garnering the Best Paper Award at the American Foundry Society conference. I later received my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. My NSF-funded research shed light on atomic-scale mechanisms and solid mechanics related to grain boundary-dislocation interactions in nanocrystalline/polycrystalline materials, recognized with the Sigma Xi Best PhD dissertation award and the top Engineering Mechanics student at Georgia Tech.
Prior Roles. Before joining ARL in 2012, I spent 4 years in manufacturing R&D at GM Powertrain, 2 years in high temperature material sustainability and mechanics at the Air Force Research Laboratory, and over 4 years as faculty in the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State University, where I received the Mississippi StatePride Faculty Award for excellence in research, teaching, and service.
Tracie R. Dean, Public Relations Specialist, ARL Central
Ms. Tracie R. Dean is a Public Affairs Specialist for the Office of Public & Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now referred to as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory. In this role, she is responsible for providing timely and accurate communication of ARL’s capabilities, achievements, programs and initiatives to both the internal and external community. Through comprehensive public affairs support, she develops, coordinates and implements public information materials that communicate the organization’s policies, programs, services and activities to inform and educate military members, veterans, media, academia, public and private partnerships.
Ms. Dean manages several key programs as part of the organization’s strategic engagement efforts to include the strategic outreach conference and technical exhibit program where she serves as the public affairs representative and lead coordinator for all technical exhibit support; she runs the organization’s speaker’s bureau to include facilitating and executing the participation of ARL subject matter experts for a variety of defense and national security-focused engagements; she is the lead coordinator for the laboratory’s social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., and ensures strategic communication efforts to maximize engagement with diverse audiences; she is the hosts of ‘What We Learned Today,’ the lab’s exploratory podcast about science and technology for the future Army.
Ms. Dean began her Public Affairs career in 2014. She holds a Master of Science in Management, with a specialization in Public Relations/ Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature/ Letters from the University of Maryland University College.