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Investing in Technology

Anita K. Jones

June 9, 1994 – First Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, Loews L’Efant Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC


Thank you Dr. Borg. It is indeed a pleasure and an honor to be the keynote speaker at the 1st Grace Hopper Conference celebrating not only women in computing, but honoring in my opinion the greatest woman in the computer field, and one of the top people in the field to date: Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

Grace Hopper was an American mathematician, naval officer, computer pioneer and hero to many. Born in New York on December 17, 1906, her work in computer technology spanned involvement on the first automated sequenced digital computer, the Mark I, to working on the Mark II and III computers, to being involved with the building of the first UNIVAC, to leading the Navy efforts to standardize the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL).

Grace Hopper had many stories. One of my favorites occurred while she was working on the Mark II when the computer suddenly stopped. She said during an interview to Voice of America: “We finally located the failing relay and, inside the relay, beaten to death by the relay contact, was a moth about three inches long. So the operator got a pair of tweezers and carefully fished the bug out of the relay and put it in the log book. He put scotch tape over it and wrote: “First actual bug found.” And the bug is still in the log book under the scotch tape and it is in the Museum of the Naval Surface Weapons Center at Dahlgren, Virginia.

Dr. Hopper received honors too numerous to detail. She was awarded approximately 40 honorary degrees, and numerous Navy and Department of Defense (DoD) medals, including the DoD Distinguished Service Medal. Regardless of the honor bestowed her, she always said “I have already received the highest possible award, the privilege and responsibility of serving in the United States Navy.” Her contributions to this country are goals to which all of us can strive to achieve.

Today’s Policy Challenge

I, like Dr. Hopper had, now have the privilege and responsibility of serving with many great men and women in the DoD as the Director of Defense Research and Engineering.

To the Nation, investing in technology is investing in America’s future: a growing economy with higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs for American workers; a cleaner environment where energy efficiency increases profits and reduces pollution; a stronger, more competitive private sector able to maintain U.S. leadership in critical world markets; an educational system where every student is challenged; and an inspired scientific and technological research community focused on ensuring not just our national security but our very quality of life. The writer Graham Greene said that “from time to time, a door opens and lets the future in.” Over the last several decades, the electronics, software, and communications industries have opened a door to a future that will include things such as the National Information Infrastructure (NII), automated manufacturing, and the burgeoning marketplace of information products.

Dramatic changes that have opened a door to an information technology future have also affected our national security posture. With the end of the Cold War have come heightened threats of regional conflicts, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and increased demand for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. At the same time, force structure has been reduced, and development and production of new weapon systems has been sharply curtailed.

In addition, our national economic security is challenged. Shrinking defense budgets dictate that we can no longer afford defense-funded, defense-unique solutions to our requirements. Furthermore, for an increasing number of defense-critical technologies, commercial demand, not defense demand, drives technical progress.

Currently, there is a debate about the principles that should guide government investment in science and technology. Congress, government leaders and science community leaders repeat their arguments not in discourse, but in a stand-off. Themes like “no more blank checks”. “universities should contribute to economic competitiveness” and “only scientists can determine the right problems to work on” have not proven to be a basis for honest engagement.

Barbara Mikulski, a member of Congress, has called for strategic research. That is research that is guided by goals and priorities of the nation. The DoD has had a strategic research program for decades. It is a worthwhile model to consider as the nation sorts out the rationale for future societal support of research in the broader national context.

The DoD mission is to assure national security. While the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union is no longer the primary focus of our technology development, we still face many potential adversaries who have technologically advanced weapon systems which could threaten the U.S. and our allies. To the DoD, investing in technology to maintain technical superiority continues to be critical.

It is this need that is the basis for prioritization in the DoD Science and Technology program. The objective of our program is to produce and to demonstrate technology options that offer the opportunity for future, technologically-based military superiority. These options must be demonstrated so that the Services can make informed decisions about which capabilities to add to our arsenals.

Strategic defense research not only guides investment, it offers a basis for evaluation. The contribution to priority goals must be demonstrated over time. This is a stronger metric than that of understanding new ideas for their own sake. While strategic research forces choices, it also offers a basis for attracting supporters among those who value the goals.

Strategic Defense Research

National security requires more than assured purchase of parts or materials.

It depends upon the presence of industry that exploits the leading edge of the ripe, new technologies. Only a leading edge corporation has the capability of design, to experiment, and to tailor technology. It requires knowledge of the technology, as well as what has been engineered in the past.

It depends upon the presence of universities that are leading technology creation and are on the cutting edge of excellence in student education so that there is a progression of scientists familiar with DoD needs.

Again, assured purchase of parts is insufficient. Technological superiority implies harnessing technology to military needs as it becomes available. To do so involves adaptation and experimentation. A nation can’t buy off-the-shelf or out-of-the-catalog and maintain technological superiority. For example, a high performance computer may need to be repackaged to make it fit in the cockpit of a fighter. Communication electronics may need to be radiation-hardened to be used in a surveillance satellite. High temperature material alloys may have to be adapted for use in a high performance aircraft engine. In each case, the military needs not only the technical products, but the industrial capacity to tailor those products to the military application. Military advantage lies in riding the technology curve. This will only be assured if the universities and industries that are riding the curve are available to work with the military and directly service the war fighter’s needs.

The DoD has a history of making an investment in technology and sustaining it. The challenge that continues to face us is to ensure that new technologies that make a difference to national security are developed early so that industry masters application of the technology early. It is thus available for defense applications. In addition, it can be the basis for early, competitive, commercial market entry. In 1965, the DoD purchased more than 60% of the semiconductors built in the U.S. Today, it purchases closer to 1% of all semiconductors produced. In the interim, the DoD made a large, sustained investment in semiconductor technology. The defense market has grown in absolute size; however, percentage decline of the defense portion of the market is a symptom of the strength of the industry and the size of its mature, commercial markets.

This story is hopefully repeating itself with another technology, called multi-chip modules. Today, the DoD buys about 40% of the U.S. multi-chip module products on the open market. That is down from a few years ago when the DoD bought nearly 100% of the marketed products. As with semiconductors, the DoD is making a sustained research and development investment in the several competing technologies for bonding the multiple chips to a substrate, as well as in the several competing technologies for creating the communications substrate for multi-chip modules. Which technologies are ultimately successful for which purposes will be determined by the results of technology exploration and industrial business decisions. Whatever the technology outcome, we look forward to the DoD becoming a small consumer in a vastly larger commercial market. Economies of manufacturing scale will reduce item cost as market size grows. Availability of other sources of research and development investment will also grow with market potential.

As the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, I am working with the military Departments and Defense Agencies to develop a Science and Technology Strategy that will be used as a guide to achieve the our national and economic security goals. Some of the fundamental factors that form the foundations of this Strategy are:

Invest in basic research to continue our understanding of fundamental physics, chemistry and related sciences and to cultivate the scientific and engineering talent needed to maintain our leadership.

Accelerate the transition of technology from the laboratory to the user.

Enhance our economic security through closer cooperation and integration of University, Industry and Government performers.

Reduce the cost of development and acquire new systems and to sustain them while in service.

Basic Research

It is essential to recognize that technical advances depend on basic research in science, mathematics, and engineering. Scientific advances are the wellspring of the technical innovations whose benefits are seen in economic growth, improved health care, and many other areas. The federal government has invested heavily in basic research since the Second World War and this support has paid enormous dividends. Our research universities are the best in the world; our national laboratories and the research facilities they house attract scientists and engineers from around the globe. In almost every field, United States researchers lead their foreign colleagues in scientific citations, in Nobel Prizes, and most other measures of scientific excellence.

Our basic research effort, which is funded at about 1/2% of the total DoD budget, covers the range of militarily relevant sciences from solid state physics to sound propagation in land, and sea environments. The majority of this work is performed in academia, where it not only improves our understanding of natural phenomena but also provides a major U.S. government investment in the university research infrastructure and in our future scientists and engineers. Our university programs are broad based, funding 250 of the 480 U.S. research universities. Ten percent of our university research institutions are Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Minority Institutions. They have been selected through merit based competitions that were structured to reward excellence among emerging organizations.

The accomplishments of our basic research activities do not draw the same media attention as a cruise missile traveling down the streets of Baghdad but, it is the output of our investment in research that gives the cruise missile its capability. There are many other examples where military capability can be traced back to research results:

The neural net computation model has given rise to new automatic target recognition techniques.

The extremely precise cesium and rubidium clocks — atomic clocks that are the heart of the Global Positioning System (GPS) is another product of our research. In addition to being a critical element of our current and future war fighting capability; GPS is now being used in commercial aircraft, recreational boating and may become standard equipment on automobiles in the near future.

Electro-optics that permit us to “own the night” is another research capability that was vividly demonstrated during Desert Storm. During the recent Olympics the news media displayed pictures from their night vision cameras using the same technology developed by the DoD.

The laser, another product of Defense sponsored research, is used to guide “smart” bombs with great precision; to alter the shape of the cornea to correct impaired vision, and to produce high quality sound from a compact disc player.

One of the next breakthroughs we seek is artificial blood. If successfully developed, artificial blood could dramatically impact both civilian and military trauma care, providing a rapid and safe source of red cells, and reducing the dependency on donor blood. Our bioengineers are working to understand and control the formation of the chemical “sack” in which oxygen carrying substances can be packaged. This will permit us to produce an artificial blood that could dramatically impact both civilian and military trauma care by providing a readily available and safe means for delivering oxygen to vital organs or damaged tissue. It would reduce the dependency on donor blood.

Accelerate Transition from the Laboratory to Fieldable Capabilities

Where our basic research provides the knowledge and understanding of science, our exploratory and advanced development efforts seek to determine how these scientific discoveries perform in military environments and to evaluate their utility and effectiveness in this domain. While most of our basic research is performed in academia, the Defense laboratories and industry play a major role in exploratory and advanced development. It is during these phases that we begin to understand military potential and to involve the military user. Many technologies transition from advanced development directly to the field as upgrades, and improvements to existing systems. Others are combined to demonstrate a totally new concept or capability.

Led by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology we have defined the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) to accelerate the transition of technology to actual systems. The ACTDs are more sharply focused and tailored to permit an evaluation of utility and effectiveness, by the military use, in an operational environment. The ACTD is based on mature technology(s) at a scale size adequate to demonstrate operational utility.

Economic Security and Dual Use Technology

Technology is the engineer of economic growth. In the U.S., technological advance has been responsible for as much as two-thirds of productivity growth since the Depression. Breakthroughs such as the transistor, computers, recombinant DNA and synthetic materials have created new industries and millions of high-paying jobs.

Economic security is a major concern of the Administration and the DoD. The Department’s Science and Technology programs have long contributed to economic growth and international competitiveness. Our goal is to augment this contribution through an aggressive dual use technology program that includes “spin off” and “spin on” technologies.

Our investment strategy for dual use technology spans the spectrum from basic research to late stage development of technology. It is crucial that the Department take a balanced approach, with multiple programs to span this spectrum, in order to have the strongest possible S&T Program.

Another example of the military need for superiority leading the commercial demand is in radar transmit-receive modules. Since the 1960’s, there have been three generations of phased array radar technology funded by the military services. Commercial production of transmit-receive modules is now starting in the auto industry, with school bus radar sensors booking a few hundred deliveries to date. Although military demand will continue to outstrip commercial demand for the balance of the decade, we are now at a point where cost-shared investments in dual use production capabilities make good business sense.

Looking further ahead we have programs in micro-electrical-mechanical devices. Here, computation power is mated with sensors and actuators to create a miniature device that can sense its environment, perform computation and initiate a reaction to that which it detected. It is not possible to list all the applications – defense and commercial – that may arise from micro-electrical-mechanical devices. But, I am convinced that they will be important to the military in the future.

Similarly, we are investing in nano-technology, 1000 times smaller than micro technology. Individual atoms are the building block. These nano-devices could reduce the weight of space and aircraft payloads, permit incorporation of such smart devices in small spaces in a larger operational system and equip the individual to amplify their senses and intellectual grasp of situations.

The Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP) is perhaps our most visible dual use effort. The ARPA led, multi-agency late stage technology development program is structured to augment economic security. To date we have selected 212 proposals, valued at $605M for award under the TRP. It is too early to determine success, but strong involvement by universities, states, industry–both defense and commercial, and also small business (50 percent of proposals selected for award involved at least one small business) provide a high level of confidence that we will achieve our goals.

An example of research under the TRP is at the University of California at San Diego. This consortia is adapting polymer matrix composite materials for bridge construction and rehabilitation. Fibers woven together and coated with plastic resin, originally developed for aircraft and missiles systems, are durable, light weight and provide a greater strength to weight ratio than current materials. This technology will provide for smaller and lighter foundations, superior corrosion resistance, and reduced cost and time in construction.

From the military point of view, the Army Corps of Engineers is always interested in mobile, light-weight bridges–both for the battle theater and in disaster relief. This work at UCSD is funded by the university, a bridge designing company, several manufacturers of composites materials, and the DoD.

Reducing Cost of Acquisition and Ownership

Technology can reduce cost as well as it enhances performance. Today’s reduced defense budget requires that we exploit technology so that DoD can buy more capability for less. There is no single sweeping elegant technology or technological approach that yields the desired cost reductions. We pursue cost reduction in many ways. For example, in the environmental area we seek technology replacements. One example is environmentally benign substitutes for ozone depleting substances currently used in weapon systems. A second example are new methods to eliminate propellants in an environmentally responsible way, so that no clean-up of residue is required.

In other cases we seek technology to reduce the cost of an activity. One such example would be chemical and biological remediators that decontaminate soil or water less expensively than current techniques. Another example are sensors or other diagnostics to perform real time detection and analysis of energetics and propellant contaminants, thus reducing the control contamination analysis. Or using computer technology, we have structured digitized descriptions of products and manufacturing production processes. Product production is simulated and analyzed so that both the process and attributes of the product can be adapted to yield a product/process combination that is less costly, faster and has less risk of failure or rework.

Information Technology

The Department has a long history of funding development of advanced computer hardware from Whirlwind in the late 1940’s which was used to compute ballistic tables to Illiac IV which explored parallel computation for numeric problems, to IWARP, a symbolic array machine, to special purpose neural net computers that will be applied to automatic target reorganization.

Although the Department has been a major contributor in the development of information technology for over thirty years, it is only recently that the world has realized the criticality of this important technology in both the defense and private sectors. Today, the Advanced Reserach Projects Agency (ARPA) is known as a world leader in advanced information technology and has had an enormous impact on today’s NII, the Defense Data Net, the commercial Value Added Networks, and the world spanning INTERNET. The DoD continues with major initiatives in artificial intelligence, speech recognition, signal processing, integrated circuit design, computer graphics, machine vision, and high performance computing.

The DoD High Performance Computer (HPC) Modernization program is structured to modernize the total high performance computational capability of the DoD to a level comparable to that available in the foremost civilian and other Government agency research and developments environments. It is multifaceted. It involves upgrading HPC hardware in the DoD labs, adaptation of existing and development of new scalable algorithms, and education of the users as new architecture’s and concepts evolve. The program will have proper interaction to the civilian high performance computing community and other government agencies (NASA, DOE, NSF, etc.) so that we can all share each others’ knowledge, tools and expertise.

The Department will depend heavily on networking technology in its quest to deter and suppress global hostilities. Networking technology will be used to support simulation training, distributed planning, image exploitation and other intelligence gathering, and command and control to name a few. As one of the world’s largest application users in areas such as crises management, health care, training and manufacturing, we must increase our investment in applications if we are to reap the benefits of increased efficiency, improved reliability, shortened time, and reduced manpower requirements to deliver these services.

We have made excellent progress in interactively linking service simulators to permit joint training and exercises. The acceptance of interactive models as an effective and credible training, testing and evaluating tool will result in significant future savings. We are focusing on developing and implementing the standards, protocols and management techniques to expand the use of this technology to evaluating the potential of new technology initiatives and to augmenting our logistics support and test and evaluation process.


Dr. Hopper added the following during her interview with Voice of America which I will use in closing.

“I think we all too often forget our obligation, if you will, to the young people. I think, too, we do not make this distinction between the adventurer and the venturer. The adventurer is the man with the sword who came in armor with armed men – and he took. He took everything. Behind him, he left an impoverished peasantry, ruin, devastation. Then there was the venturer. The venturer, with his family, with a small ship, sailed three months across the North Atlantic, leaving everything he owned behind him for a chance to make a home in a new world. He helped build a town, he cleared the land, he built a log cabin, he build a church, he built a school for the education of his children, he went to town meetings regularly, he voted on the affairs of the town. He joined the militia, he protected the cattle in the common at night. A day finally came when a bell rang and (he was 42 years old by then and 42 years was an old man in 1775!) he picked up his musket and marched to Concord Bridge and stood up to the British Army, the greatest army in the world at that time. Later he found there were 300 families in his town of Newberry, and he decided things were getting a bit crowded. So, again, he put his family on a wagon, and he went north, and he helped to found the town of Boscawen. He was a venturer. He didn’t come to take. He came to build and he put himself into everything he did. It is a very good idea to look in the dictionary at the definition of those two words and to recognize the difference between “adventure” and “venture”. That man happened to be one of my ancestors.”

How can one argue with such wisdom? I again would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. May each of us strive to have the wisdom, courage, dedication, and devotion to our country that this great lady we are honoring with this conference had.