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research and development

U.S. Government Bets Big on Data

January 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

A multi-agency big data initiative offers an array of national advantages.

U.S. government agencies will award a flurry of contracts in the coming months under the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, a massive undertaking involving multiple agencies and $200 million in commitments. The initiative is designed to unleash the power of the extensive amounts of data generated on a daily basis. The ultimate benefit, experts say, could transform scientific research, lead to the development of new commercial technologies, boost the economy and improve education, all of which makes the United States more competitive with other nations and enhances national security.

Big data is defined as datasets too large for typical database software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze. Experts estimate that in 2013, 3.6 zettabytes of data will be created, and the amount doubles every two years. A zettabyte is equal to 1 billion terabytes, and a terabyte is equal to 1 trillion bytes.

When the initiative was announced March 29, 2012, John Holdren, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, compared it to government investments in information technology that led to advances in supercomputing and the creation of the Internet. The initiative promises to transform the ability to use big data for scientific discovery, environmental and biomedical research, education and national security, Holdren says.

Currently, much of generated data is available only to a select few. “Data are sitting out there in labs—in tens of thousands of labs across the country, and only the person who developed the database in that lab can actually access the data,” says Suzanne Iacono, deputy assistant director for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

Laboratory Research
 Twists Antenna Technology

December 1, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

Scientists bend, not break, the laws of physics.

Faced with limitations imposed by physics, laboratory researchers are generating antenna innovations by tweaking constructs to change the rules of the antenna game. Their efforts do not seek to violate long-held mathematical theorems or laws of physics. Instead, they are working to find lawful ways of working around limitations that long have inhibited the development of antennas that would suit user needs with fewer tradeoffs.

Currently, many types of antennas can be made small enough to fit in a tight area. Yet, they suffer performance drawbacks or are extremely limited in their application. Conversely, the type of antenna suitable for high-bandwidth links may prove detrimental to a use that requires low observability.

Laboratories in industry and academia are pursuing different approaches for future antenna technology breakthroughs. These efforts involve materials, architectures and network topologies. If successful, this research could lead to unobtrusive panels that replace large antennas as well as new capabilities for antenna-bearing platforms.

Howard Stuart, technical staff member at LGS Innovations, explains that the art of building smaller antennas comes up against the laws of physics. The issue is not one of miniaturization but of signal performance when antennas are built below a certain size.

“You can’t keep making antennas smaller and smaller,” Stuart points out. “There are fundamental physical limitations, and beyond that, [the antenna] is just not going to work anymore. Or, you’re going to have to give up something, such as gain.”

Technologies
 Advance the Art of Antenna Science

December 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force researchers use 3-D printers and
 other cutting-edge concepts 
to create
 the next 
innovations.

There is no Moore’s Law for antennas because size reduction and performance improvement will always be subject to the limitations imposed by electromagnetic physics and material properties. But steady advances in computer technologies, such as electromagnetic modeling and simulation and 3-D printing, enable antenna technology researchers to push the limits of possibility on behalf of the warfighters.

Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Antenna Technology Branch, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are taking advantage of these technological advances to develop next-generation antennas. Experts say metamaterials show great promise for military antennas, but the technology is not yet at a point where it is being manufactured widely. To help overcome that challenge, Air Force researchers use a 3-D printer to prototype antenna metamaterials that potentially could advance technology beyond the more conventional microstrip antenna. Small, lightweight, low-cost microstrip antennas, which were invented about four decades ago, are used in military aircraft, missiles, rockets and satellite communications as well as in the commercial sector.

“It allows us a capability in rapid prototyping that we didn’t have before,” says David Curtis, the AFRL’s Antenna Technology Branch chief. “It’s yielding some interesting things. It’s creating new ground planes for antenna elements.”

DHS Awards 34 Cyber Research and Development Contracts

October 29, 2012
George I. Seffers

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) has awarded 34 contracts to 29 academic and research organizations for research and development of solutions to cyber security challenges. The contracts were awarded by the DHS S&T Cyber Security Division (CSD) under Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) 11-02 which solicited proposals in 14 technical topic areas aimed at improving security in federal networks and across the Internet while developing new and enhanced technologies for detecting, preventing and responding to cyber attacks on the nation’s critical information infrastructure. Four of these contracts include co-funding from international partners ­ two from the United Kingdom and two from Australia. Negotiations are currently underway for additional international co-funding from partner agencies in Canada, Sweden and The Netherlands.

Managing Change in the
 Intelligence Community

October 1, 2012
By Max Cacas

A new computing architecture emphasizes shared resources.

The nation’s intelligence community has embarked on a path toward a common computer desktop and a cloud computing environment designed to facilitate both timely sharing of information and cost savings. The implementation could result in budget savings of 20 to 25 percent over existing information technology spending within six years, but the ramifications could include large cultural changes that result both in lost jobs and business for industry partners.

Al Tarasiuk, chief intelligence officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), explains that the changes will be difficult. Agency employees, and the vendors who help operate and manage information technology for the 17 agencies composing the nation’s intelligence apparatus, will feel the effects of the cost cuts.

“Right now, technology is not our biggest risk. The culture change is our biggest risk, and that extends to our industry partners. We have a lot of industry employed in the community through service contracts and other things. They could help, or they could choose not to help,” Tarasiuk emphasizes, candidly describing the pivotal role of these firms in a transition that could spell the loss of both business and jobs. “They know, and I’ve been very open with them, that we’re not going to need the pool of resources of people that we have today to manage what we have in the future.”

Writing
 a New Spy School
 Syllabus

October 1, 2012
By Max Cacas

The National Intelligence University prepares for its fifth decade with a shift in focus and a change in venue.

The National Intelligence University, which provides advanced training to U.S. intelligence professionals, is transitioning from an institution primarily focused on the U.S. Defense Department to one serving the entire intelligence community. This reflects the new emphasis toward sharing and collaboration within the nation's intelligence apparatus.

To make the change a reality, National Intelligence University (NIU) leaders are rethinking and expanding the educational programs the institution offers. Plans also are underway to relocate the university to its own new campus in the very near future—in part to bolster its perception as an intelligence community strategic resource.

Dr. David R. Ellison, president of the NIU, says that the change began with the appointment of James Clapper as the director of National Intelligence in 2010. “Director Clapper recognized that if we were going to have a National Intelligence University in the intelligence community, the best place to start was with an accredited institution that had already achieved success in an academic area,” Ellison explains. He adds that Clapper went on to draft a memorandum to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, defining education as a force multiplier and a tool that must be used to the advantage of the entire intelligence community.

“What he envisioned was that the then-National Intelligence College would become the National Intelligence University, and it would provide accredited education, academic research and academic outreach to the intelligence community as a whole,” Ellison points out.

The Outlook for CBRN Defense

September 21, 2012
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Defense Department has some hard decisions to make regarding where and how to optimize future research to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. A new report outlines the challenges that military officials must tackle with department and other partners, warning that the amorphous nature of threats limits the ability to identify or mitigate them all individually.

Excet to Research and Develop Chemical Detection Technology

July 27, 2012
By George Seffers

Excet Incorporated, Springfield, Virginia, was awarded a $7,793,502 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the research and development services in support of technology that detect chemical and biological agents. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

Two Firms to Compete for Research and Development Task Orders

July 2, 2012
By George Seffers

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Advanced Technology International, Anderson, South Carolina, are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award contract for engineering services located worldwide. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and two option years, for all contracts combined is $45 million. The work to be performed provides for engineering services such as research, development, test and evaluation support, development of designs and concepts and prototypes, development of test plans, test data collection and analysis, project/program planning, project management, development and prototype of equipment/components with performance specifications and metrics for acquisition, preparation of technical reports and manuals, users training, requirement and acquisition documentation, administrative support, and assessment and analytical services. SAIC is being awarded task order 0001 at $184,256 for project support and operational assessment related tasks for the collaborative coalition collection environment joint capability technology demonstration at Camp Smith, Hawaii. These two contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, California, is the contracting activity.

DARPA Awards $85 Million to Johns Hopkins University

February 7, 2012
By George Seffers

Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Maryland, is being awarded an up to $85 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, task order contract to provide for advanced research, development, and engineering support technology programs for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the contracting activity.

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