The Army is the full spectrum land warfighting force of the United States. In order to maintain the overmatching capability on which the U.S. depends, the Army needs to maintain its investment in the fundamental research that is the "seed corn" for the technological discoveries and advancements on which it relies. This is the role of basic research: to foster progress and innovations in niche areas (such as armor/anti-armor) or where the commercial incentive to invest is lacking due to limited markets (e.g., in military medicine to develop vaccines for tropical diseases); and to shape research and innovations in other areas to focus on issues related to Army applications/environments. In this way, the Army is able to develop or adapt the technology it needs for the ever-increasing variety of missions it faces. The Army's dependence on technology is increasing as it evolves toward smaller, lighter, more lethal forces that must accomplish the various missions required in a post-Cold War world. The investment made in basic research today will shape the future Army by providing the technological building blocks that will allow it to address imperatives emerging from future warfighting concepts (see Chapter II).
The program is managed and performed by a network of Army laboratories and centers. The Army Research Office (ARO) manages extramural programs through the University Single Investigator program and selected Centers of Excellence. The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) conducts in-house research, manages the Federated Laboratories, and supports several Centers of Excellence. The Medical Research & Materiel Command, Corps of Engineers, and Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences conduct a mixture of in-house and extramural research in their areas of interest. Finally, primarily through the In-house Laboratory Independent Research (ILIR) program, the Army Materiel Command Research, Development and Engineering Centers (RDECs) conduct a limited amount of basic research in relevant technical domains.
Without the scientific base developed by the Army laboratories, ARO, and the RDECs since World War II, the Army would hot have in its arsenal many of the technologies that now are taken for granted and that have been effectively utilized in many recent military operations around the world. The ultimate payoff of basic research is the translation of concepts into technological applications. Examples include the concept of inverted populations of excited quantum states translated into a laser; the use of fast mathematical procedures to calculate Fourier transforms for fire support systems; the design of advanced materials from basic principles to yield required properties and improved performance; and the incorporation of small, superfast electronic devices into systems.
Senior Army management is committed to a sustained research program that supports the Army's needs. To this end, the Army has structured a coherent basic research program that integrates in-house research in critical, Army-unique areas, with extramural research that leverages the power of academe and industry, focusing their capabilities on Army issues and interests through such programs as the Federated Laboratories, the Army Centers of Excellence, and single investigators. The resulting science base provides the seeds for follow-on applied research (6.2) and, eventually, advanced technology development (6.3) programs.
In planning the Army's Basic Research programs, the Army After Next (AAN) initiative of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) provides additional focus for the overall program. AAN is an attempt to characterize the Army of twenty-five years in the future (~2020) and to begin to develop doctrinal concepts compatible with the Army of that era. AAN concepts include the types of technological capabilities that will underpin the Army's systems. Fostering the fundamental research that will enable these capabilities is a key role for the Army Basic Research program.