Schmidt addresses U.S. defense research at Capitol Hill briefing

Douglas C. Schmidt, professor of computer science and associate chair of computer science and engineering, discussed the impact of ultra-large scale systems on Department of Defense operations at a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by the congressional R&D Caucus in Washington Jan. 19.

The briefing, “Defense Basic Research: Critical to National Security and Economic Security,” was held in conjunction with the Coalition for National Security Research, in which Vanderbilt’s Office of Federal Relations participates.

Schmidt, also a senior research scientist at Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems, said DoD large-scale systems (ULS), which are ecosystems comprised of software-intensive systems, people, policies, cultures, and economics, have unprecedented scale in the following dimensions: lines of software code, the amount of data stored, accessed and manipulated, and the sheer number of hardware and computational elements, of connections and interdependencies, of people involved and policy domains, as well as purposes and user perception of purposes.

“There are very serious technical challenges, some obvious and some to be discovered, and the challenge of too many vendors, too many technologies and too many systems,” said Schmidt, a former deputy director for information technology at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Schmidt suggested that complex integration issues could be addressed by a program dubbed SPRUCE, with an Internet portal that provides collaborative capabilities to support interaction across researchers, developers, domain experts and acquisition program offices.  SPRUCE’s goal is to enable more effective technology transitions.

Much more research and development funding will be needed to address DoD ULS systems challenges, Schmidt concluded.

The briefing featured three researchers who have successfully navigated the defense R&D continuum from basic research through commercialization and the role these technologies play in ensuring a strong national defense and economic growth. Other panelists were W. Lewis Johnson, co-founder, president and chief scientist of Alelo, Inc.; and Lisa McCauley, vice president and manager, Chemical Environmental and Materials Operations, National Security Global Business at Battelle.

CNSR is a broadly based coalition united by a commitment to a stronger defense science and technology base.  Its members include scientific, engineering, mathematical and behavioral societies, academic institutions, and industrial associations.

Some of the most significant and historic technological breakthroughs have begun through defense related basic research proposals.  The internet, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), radar and laser technology were all cultivated by defense basic research.  Technologies born out of defense basic research also play a critical role in the nation’s economic vitality through the commercialization process.

Read more:  U.S. Defense IT Research in Decline: Former DARPA official (Defense News, Jan. 20, 2010)