News 1998 Army Science and Technology Master Plan

10. Medical Research

a. Strategy

Military biomedical research is concerned with sustaining warfighter capabilities in the face of extraordinary battle and nonbattle threats through the preservation of combatants’ health and optimal mission capabilities. Basic biomedical research focuses on health threats of military importance, supporting the DoD mission to provide health support and services to U.S. armed forces. The Army mission differs from that of other large national and international medical research programs, as well as that of the private sector. The National Institutes of Health, for example, focus primarily on diseases affecting the U.S. civilian population. Similarly, private industry is driven by civilian disease demographics and profit incentives. In contrast, military research is oriented to the unique health threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, and by the unusual geographic, environmental, and operational environments in which the Army must function. Recognizing the large investment in basic biomedical sciences within the civilian sector, the Army positions its biomedical basic research programs to exploit, rather than sustain, the medical technology base. A variety of cooperative agreements with industry and other government agencies play an integral role in this strategy (Chapter VII). Efforts are intensively managed to push technologies toward transition. Joint coordination and cooperation within and among various functional areas prevent duplication of effort and are accomplished through the Armed Services Biomedical Research Evaluation and Management (ASBREM) Committee and its subordinate joint technology coordinating groups.

b. Major Research Areas

Medical basic research programs ensure that cutting–edge scientific advances are fully and effectively integrated into resolution of military–unique challenges with the four functional areas of medical capability most critical to maintaining effective medical technological superiority: (1) infectious diseases of military importance; (2) combat casualty care; (3) Army operational medicine; and (4) medical CB defense. This functionally aligned research investment ensures against technological surprises, manmade or evolutionary, that could overwhelm medical countermeasures to threats to the health and performance of our armed forces.

Basic research in infectious diseases of military importance concentrates on prevention, diagnosis, control, and treatment of infectious diseases affecting readiness or deployment. Molecular biology will facilitate rational design and discovery of vaccines and prophylactic drugs to prevent illness, new vaccine delivery systems, and rapid diagnostic tests based on genetic probes. Special emphasis will be placed on sequencing the genomes of disease–causing organisms, characterizing interactions between pathogenic organisms and their hosts, and on DNA–based vaccine strategies that offer potential for addressing multiple threat agents.

Basic research in combat casualty care focuses on the biological responses to traumatic conditions, especially such conditions as low blood flow and poor oxygen delivery that occur following heavy blood loss. These studies identify potential diagnostic and prognostic indicators and sites for medical intervention and contribute to the development of suitable models of injury that can be used to evaluate drugs, biologicals, devices, and medical techniques that may be beneficial in immediate treatment, resuscitative surgery, or critical care during sustained evacuation. Emphasis is also placed on developing signal–processing techniques and models of physiological response that can be integrated into intelligent life–support systems.

Basic research within the Army operational medicine functional area provides an understanding of the pathophysiology of environmental and occupational threats affecting soldier health and performance. These threats include extreme climatic or terrestrial environments, the rigors of military operations themselves (e.g., continuous operations, deployment stress), and system–associated health hazards (e.g., electromagnetic or nonionizing radiation, noise, vibration, blasts, and toxic chemical byproducts). Most products in this functional area are informational and serve as guidelines for materiel and combat developers (e.g., exposure standards for noise or vibration, work–rest cycles), but advances in neurosciences and molecular biology may lead to medical products that reduce susceptibility to fatigue or injury. Basic research must keep pace with the hazards of future weapons systems and doctrinal solutions as they are developed. Research will include the analysis of changes in visual performance in response to operational stressors to improve the design of displays and operator selection criteria, investigation of biomarkers that can indicate exposure to hazardous (nonthreat) chemicals, and identification of nutritional and pharmacological strategies that may reduce the incidence and severity of altitude–related injuries.

Medical CB defense focuses on military threat agents of biological or chemical origin. Medical biological defense basic research focuses on biochemical, immunological, or microbiological characterization of biological warfare threat agents and toxins; understanding of disease processes caused by them; identification of the mechanisms of protective immunity; and discovery and characterization of suitable model systems. Basic research in medical chemical defense provides an understanding of the pathophysiology of threat agents and elucidates threat agent mechanisms of toxicity so that rational countermeasure strategies directed against those threats can be designed. Research is ongoing to identify methods of stimulating host immunologic protection against a broad spectrum of biological warfare agents, rather than protection against specific agents. Also under investigation are medical diagnostics based on DNA analysis, bioengineered vaccines with multiple immunogenic properties, and approaches to block the actions of biological threat agents on target receptor sites. Reduction of incapacitating effects caused by chemical warfare agents remains a high priority research area, drawing on advances in molecular biology to develop more effective and less debilitating medical countermeasures. Although present approaches are showing promise for prevention of nerve agent toxicity, molecular biological approaches may also provide safe and effective prophylaxes and treatments for the effects of blister agents.

c. Potential Military Benefits

These basic research programs provide the foundation for medical technological superiority in support of the National Military Strategy. Figure V–16 illustrates the impact that biomedical research can have on warfighting capability. In peace, medical technological superiority is a critical element of deterrence, bolsters confidence of our coalition partners, and is the foundation of soldier readiness. In crisis, medical technological superiority ensures that threats to the health of the force are not a limiting factor on military options normally available to the National Command Authority. Military health care delivery also enables superior performance in a variety of operations other than war, providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and nation building, which contributes to national and regional stability. In war, it amplifies individual combat effectiveness, minimizes casualties, and diminishes death and disability rates among those who become casualties.

Figure V-16. Basic Research in Military Medicine
Figure V-16. Basic Research in Military Medicine
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11. Biological Sciences

a. Strategy

Basic research in the biosciences greatly increases our ability to understand and manipulate those aspects of the biological world that impact soldier sustainment and survival, and to identify and characterize biological materials and processes for future exploitation in materiel systems. In order to plan and execute high quality research relevant to Army needs in the biological sciences, an ARO Life Sciences Program Coordination and Planning Group including scientists from ARO, ARL, Army RDECs, Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC), and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) was established. Functioning as an advanced planning process team, this group developed a strategy for focusing research program activity in the biosciences to emphasize an appropriate balance between (1) capture of breakthrough scientific opportunities from the biological sciences research community, and (2) alignment with Army and DoD science and technology objectives, and support of Army current and future demonstrations and fielded items where applicable. While aimed at enabling novel capabilities, program efforts focus on providing the means to increase economic and environmental affordability in Army materiel production, on lessening the logistics burden, and on preventing the deleterious effects of chemical, biological, and physical agents from interfering with Army operations. Implementation of this strategy involves support of basic research in a number of subdisciplines including, but not limited to biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and genetics, cell biology, microbiology, physiology and pharmacology, encompassing studies at the molecular, cellular, and systems level.

b. Major Research Areas

Basic Research in Biotechnology

Basic research in biotechnology is directed toward fundamental studies that have as their goal the generation of new knowledge relevant to application of cell derived tools to biological production processes. These studies seek to expand our understanding of biological macromolecular interactions. They provide information on gene expression and its regulation, on enzyme mechanisms and on the general nature of biological catalysis and metabolic pathways, and on other forms of subcellular chemical processing.

Optimization of Physical Principles

Optimization of physical principles in biological systems has as its main objective the discovery and description of novel theoretical principles and mechanisms, or materials with extraordinary properties, from biological sources (i.e., lessons from nature). The aim is to identify and characterize, as completely as possible, those biological processes and structures that might be used directly in, or provide conceptual models for, development of engineered systems with potential for military application.

Physiology and Performance

Physiology and performance provides for basic research on biological response and adaptation to environmental signals, and strategies that organisms use to survive adversity. Research efforts seek to uncover strategies for limiting performance degradation during military operations, some of which place unprecedented physiological demands on the soldier. Research issues concerning improvements in soldier sustainment are addressed here as well, including those dealing with innovative technology for rations.


Biodegradation addresses the identification and characterization of cells and cell systems capable of breaking down materials relevant to Army activities. It includes attempts at better understanding the mechanisms underlying biodegradative processes in normal, extreme, and engineered environments, and the properties of materials that make them susceptible or resistant to biological attack. Knowledge gained applies to bioremediation of toxic wastes at military sites as well as to protection of military materiel from biodeterioration.

Defense Against Chemical and Biological Agents

Defense against chemical and biological agents focuses on basic biosciences research on (1) mechanisms of enzymatic or enzyme–mimetic catalysis for detoxification of threat agents, (2) the modes of action of potential agents on physiological targets, with implications both for biologically based concepts for detection of threat agents and for protection based on a better understanding of agent–target interaction, and (3) rapid identification of biologicals using novel analytical techniques.

c. Potential Military Benefits

The potential for use of cellular genetic and biochemical manipulation in biotechnology for economically favorable and environmentally benign manufacturing processes and for bioremediative strategies is great. Biosciences research will enable metabolic engineering and bioprocessing to make significant contributions to Army and DoD missions and to the commercial sector for products and processes for off the shelf use by the military.

Research on biomolecular materials and processes enables the discovery of novel theoretical principles and of products with extraordinary properties. These provide insight into the foundations of such phenomena as self–assembly, molecular recognition, catalysis, and energy transfer. Understanding will lead to unique military, industrial, and consumer applications in such areas as sensors, smart materials, robotics, low–observable technology, and biomimetic processing for composites. Likewise, the biological world offers many examples of exquisitely integrated signal transduction and multimodal information processing. Fundamental knowledge pertaining to how biological systems accomplish this will continue to have substantial impact on the design of engineered information systems.

Attempts to better understand the genetic and biochemical mechanisms in diverse strategies of adaptation that organisms use to survive harsh environments or adverse conditions offer the hope of providing the soldier a means for coping with physiological stresses. Studies in food science provide the means to better understand nutrient conversion for cellular energy and neurotransmitter function, and to enable control of microbial growth and stabilization of structural integrity during food processing, contributing not only to improved soldier satisfaction and enhanced long–term acceptability of combat rations but also to improved soldier performance and endurance.

In general, these and other studies show great promise in terms of building a foundation for a number of emerging technologies (see Figure V–17).

Figure V-17. Technologies Emerging from Biological Sciences
Figure V-17. Technologies Emerging from Biological Sciences

12. Behavioral, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences

a. Strategy

The Army behavioral, cognitive, and neural sciences (BCNS) program centers on soldiers in units, and seeks a scientific understanding of the factors that can enhance or diminish human performance. The research program is executed by two agencies, the ARI for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Human Research and Engineering Directorate (HRED) of the ARL. Duplication of research is prevented through frequent meeting of the two agencies. Interservice coordination is effected through Reliance agreements. The research program is evaluated in the TARA review.

b. Major Research Areas

Basic BCNS research addresses the following major topic areas:

Training research (e.g., learning, memory, skill transfer, simulation, mental models)
Personnel research (e.g., recruitment, classification, assignment, societal issues)
Leadership research (e.g., development, skills, social structures)
Visual processes
Auditory processes
Stress and cognitive processes (e.g., stress, psychophysiology, endurance)
Soldier interface research (e.g., human computer interaction).

The training research program provides data, models, and theories to better understand how individuals learn and process information. An understanding of cognitive processes is essential to the optimal design of training programs and, ultimately, the human–systems interface. Several controllable factors influence the speed at which an individual learns. Other factors can influence the rate at which trained skills are forgotten. Yet another set of factors significantly influence the ability of the individual to transfer skills learned under one set of conditions, such as in a simulator, to slightly different conditions, such as in using real equipment. Results from this research are used to develop effective technologies for training soldiers. Effective training is defined by its cost, the permanence of the training, and its ability to transfer to real equipment under realistic job conditions.

The goal of the personnel research program is to provide an understanding of the principles that underlie successful applied personnel research. The formation and maintenance of attitudes underlie recruitment, family opinion of the Army, and personal opinions and behavior relevant to diversity issues. Aptitudes underlie issues related to selection and assignment of personnel. Results from this research are used for additional applied research and often have direct implications for policy.

Research in the elements of leadership provides knowledge both on the essentials of successful leadership performance and the ability to develop effective training of leadership skills. The history of warfare has many examples of how seemingly less effective forces have prevailed in battle as a result of more effective leadership. Effective leadership includes the ability to manage others, coordinate activities, inspire a group, train individuals and teams, and make decisions.

The goal of the research program in visual processes is to better understand visual and related processes such as divided attention, particularly as they impact on the use of head–mounted displays. There are several unique Army issues related to the use of head–mounted displays caused by the demands of task conditions and performance. This research will also support the Army’s increasing emphasis on night operations, teleoperations, and the training and battlefield control systems afforded by advances in distributed interactive simulation. A better understanding of visual processes is needed if the Army is to effectively exploit advances in optics and infrared technologies.

Research in the auditory processes provides the knowledge to protect, support, and extend soldiers’ auditory capability on the battlefield. The battlefield provides a unique challenge for audition. High noise levels and impulse noise that threaten auditory sensitivity compete with low level sound signals that provide important information to the soldier. Well–designed human–equipment interfaces must consider the characteristics of the auditory system for effective individual utilization of new technologies. The mathematical model of the ear, being considered as an international standard, allows more complete and timely exploration of these interactions (see Figure V–18).

Figure V-18. Mathematical Model of the Ear
Figure V-18. Mathematical Model of the Ear
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The stress and cognitive processes research program addresses the issue of how various types of stress affect individual functions. Stress can result from high rates of physical or mental effort, physical exhaustion, or emotional response to threat. Although stress is a common response category for different causes, the actual stress responses and consequences are different in each case. Research is designed to address each type of stress and its relation to aspects of cognitive and other soldier performance, with the eventual goal of developing effective remediation strategies (e.g., staffing, training, unit design changes) to offset the often negative consequences of stress on behavior.

The goal of the research program on soldier interfaces is to better understand the principles that enable the soldier and teams to manage the vast quantities of data that will flow across the digitized battlefield. This program, accomplished jointly with industry and universities as part of the federated laboratory project, will provide the Army with the ability to optimize the human component of battle management and utilize the information advantage provided by advanced sensors and improved communication.

c. Potential Military Benefits

The overall goal of this research is the optimization of human performance and the human–system interface. The research is guided by the requirements of the Army about 25 years from now as envisioned by the AAN, which envisions small teams working relatively independently on a dispersed battlefield. In this environment, a premium will be placed on soldier competency, initiative, and leadership. The combat effectiveness of the teams will be enhanced through an effective understanding of the battlefield and the ability to coordinate precision fire. The AAN vision can be realized through the improved personnel assignment and more effective training utilizing advanced simulation capabilities. Soldiers will operate equipment more effectively because of improved interfaces that consider their abilities and expectations. Finally, the confusion and stress of the battlefield will be controlled through more effective leadership and an improved understanding of the causes and effects of stress. The link between ARI and HRED research helps ensure that fielded systems are not just operable but cost effective.

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