Air Force Research Laboratory Tightening Links to Operators

By Grace V. Jean
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio —Air Force Research Laboratory officials are attempting to stay more plugged in with airmen and Defense Department commanders to ensure that the projects that scientists are pursuing here ultimately yield technologies war fighters can use on tomorrow’s battlefields.

“My challenge, as well as the rest of Air Force Research Laboratory leadership, is to do a really good job of marrying up this science with the needs of the Air Force,” said the lab’s commander, Maj. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski.

In her first year leading the organization, Pawlikowski has assigned senior members of her staff to engage frequently with their counterparts at each of the major Air Force commands. Her hope is that those interactions will provide the laboratory with better insights into technology deficiencies.  

Air Mobility Command leaders, for example, have told lab officials that they want to conduct air drop missions with better precision. “My job is to figure out what science, what technology, can help to make air drop more precise,” Pawlikowski said. That need could translate into any number of research areas at the lab. For example, if AMC commanders were seeking better parachutes, then researchers might tap materials engineers to come up with solutions. Or if the commanders wanted a better guidance system, then she might allocate scientists in the sensors directorate to investigate.

Though she and her fellow Defense Department laboratory leaders are not anticipating any budgetary cuts in the near future, they are bracing for a period of increased scrutiny from both service and Pentagon officials who are perusing areas from which to trim costs.

“There will be much more emphasis, from an Air Force perspective, to ensure that what I’m working on will really help the Air Force,” said Pawlikowski. In an interview at AFRL headquarters, she told National Defense that she applauded Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ push for efficiency in the Pentagon and is seeking to streamline her lab’s processes as well.

“I have ideas that we can’t work on, because we don’t have the money, or the time, or because scientists are doing other things. So if I can find out ways to cut out those things that those scientists are doing that are not science and technology, or find ways to give them more dollars, then that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.

Pawlikowski intends to spend more time analyzing what the scientific advisory boards and other external research watchdogs report on the lab and its endeavors to cut costs and extraneous efforts. At the same time, she is looking for opportunities to collaborate with other researchers around the globe.

“I do believe that the world is getting flatter, to quote Tom Friedman,” the New York Times columnist and author of the book, “The World Is Flat,” she said. “Diversity is critical to our success as a nation and we have to recognize that we’re not the only ones doing this.”          

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.