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$1.9 billion in research to focus on protecting Soldiers

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 25, 2010) -- The Army's fiscal 2011 science and technology budget that recently went forward for approval tops out at $1.9 billion and includes funding for advanced medical and force-protection research efforts.

Dr. Thomas H. Killion, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, spoke Feb. 24 at the 2010 Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition, here.

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Before an audience of Soldiers, Army civilians and defense industry professionals, Killion stressed how important it is to develop technology "as fast as we can and put it in the hands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. We ask them to do a hard job every day and we need to give them the tools to do it."

The current vision of Army science and technology, Killion said, is focused on both the future and the current fight.

"We have to be about the current fight," he said. "We have to look at how do we take advantage of the great technology that is available today and bring that to bear rapidly and provide it to the Soldiers."

Killion is responsible for management of science and technology investments for the Army. In order to bring technology to the field -- to put it in the hands of Soldiers -- he hands responsibility off to several entities, including partners in industry.

"We work with you to help develop and demonstrate the technology and then you can bring that to bear with your industrial capability and manufacturing capability when you offer that back to the Army, to those that go and buy the technology," Killion said, addressing defense industry professionals in the audience. "It's a critical partnership."

Killion also addressed the Army's budget for research. About $1.9 billion has been requested for Army research and development next year.

"Our job is to try and take that, with your cooperation, and focus it on areas that really matter for the Army. That is our challenge," he said.

"The good news is the science and technology budget over the last several cycles of our budget plan, has increased," he said. "And there has been a real push from DoD ... to increase our investment in basic and applied research."

Killion said the Army must maintain important science and technology development and research if it is to have the fruits of that kind of research available for Soldiers to use in the future.

"We have to have the technology on the shelf if we are going to take it off the shelf when the time comes," he said.

Areas of investment the budget addresses include deployable force protection, medical research and infrared technology, for instance.

"We have had the luxury of being ahead of the game, with regard to the rest of the world, in IR technology," he said. "We need to invest to stay ahead of the game. We own the night, but there are lots of competitors out there."

Included in the $1.9 billion for research is more than $400 million that is focused on force protection -- Soldier armor, for instance. Also, some $136 million for command, control, computers and communications research. And about $129 million to develop better intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. As much as $407 million is marked for basic research.

Also included, $174 million for medical research, that includes Army efforts in regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine involves such things as building new body parts using tissue from a patient. The Army is working on building new muscles for Soldiers, for instance, new skin for burn patients, and growing body parts like ears and fingers.

"This is absolutely phenomenal technology," Killion said "They've actually grown a functional bladder and inserted it into a human subject. It's the kind of technology that will make a difference for not only our own Soldiers, but for the general civilian population."

Killion also addressed cancellation of the Future Combat Systems program, saying that while the program is no more, research from the program continues to provide value to the Army.

"The work they did in materials characterization, in design of new tools for modeling, penetration dynamics, blast protection, etc., allowed us to develop new classes of material and rapidly bring them to bear to enhance the protection capability on the MRAP," he said. "So one set of investments led to improvements on current capabilities."

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