Take a look inside RFEC-Atlantic
February 22, 2011
- This organization helps connect foreign scientists, engineers, and educators from more than 100 nations
- Staff scientists and engineers interact with international researchers at their home institutions
- Promotes common standards for test and evaluation and leverages the best science and technology from all sources
LONDON - The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Forward Element - Atlantic (RFEC-A) serves as a resource for emerging global technology and cutting-edge research in Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa.
Headquartered in London, RFEC-A helps connect foreign scientists, engineers, and educators from more than 100 nations to the research interests of the U.S. Army. RFEC-A is comprised of two components: the U.S. Army International Technology Center-Atlantic (USAITC-A), and the Field Assistance in Science and Technology team (FAST).
The USAITC-A is a forward team of engineers and scientists who help international partners work with U.S. research organizations to the benefit of the broader science and technology community.
"Through USAITC-A, international researchers have local or regional access to the U.S. Army, and the opportunity to present ideas in the form of research proposals to the Army labs and centers for consideration and potential collaboration," said Dr. Michael Sennett, Chief Scientist, USAITC-A.
Due to location, the staff scientists and engineers are able to interact with international researchers at their home institutions, observing and evaluating science and technology developments at the source, said Sennett.
Fostering and maintaining relationships with the international science and technology community is a vital part of the USAITC-A mission, and a critical bridge transferring current research back and forth across the Atlantic.
"The cooperative research projects that [USAITC-A] supports help to promote common standards for test and evaluation and to leverage the best science and technology from all sources for the mutual benefit of the U.S. and our allies," Sennett said. Historically, it was this kind of partnering that led to the development of the United Kingdom's advantageous radar in World War II.
"All of the ITCA-supported basic research efforts have the potential to deliver the same kind of success," Sennett said, "as all these projects are endorsed and validated by RDECOM subject matter experts as addressing bona-fide requirements of the Army Research Labs and Research, Development and Engineering Commands' programs which ultimately underpin the development of next-generation Army technologies.
"More recently," Sennett continued, "the US and our allies have benefited from developments in mine-resistant vehicle design in South Africa. Research continues in this area of vehicle design for blast survivability," he said.
The FAST teams work under the RFEC to provide scientific support to Army commanders to unburden their staffs and provide current technologies to the servicemember.
"The science advisors provide technology demonstrations and material solutions for the commanders in U.S. Army Europe/7th Army, U.S. Army Africa, European Command, Africa Command, the Joint Multinational Training Command and Joint Multinational Readiness Center," said Lt. Col. Joseph Dupont, commander of FAST-Atlantic.
Useful tools such as self-reporting automated identification technology could make inventories run faster and more efficiently. Individually portable water purification systems are being tested by FAST for future use in remote locations, benefitting humanitarian relief efforts for both civil and military aid organizations.
"This is a real immediate need of the Soldier," said Dupont. Serving as "the link into RDECOM centers and labs," FAST is able to help protect our Soldiers by expediting technology solutions, like these, directly to the front, he said.
In 2003, the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Standardization Group, an organization assembled after WWII, was restructured to become the present-day USAITC-A. Other changes happened later to move the regional FAST teams under the ITC commander who became the RDECOM Forward Element - Atlantic commander due to the merger.
The growing need for technology solutions and the structural changes of the organization created a series of challenges for RFEC-A. Changes in funding and personnel requirements, along with international security risks all played a role in both limiting results and expanding opportunities.
The opportunity to partner more with similar commands under the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, both of which are co-located with RFEC-A, provides solutions otherwise not explored without these challenges, Sennett explained. Even with all of the changes and advances in communication, the spirit of scientific knowledge sharing has not been lost. Email and internet still seem to come in second behind handshakes and live workshops.
The people at RFEC-A speak enthusiastically about advancements in basic science, and glow when discussing how a project in Denmark is linking with a University in Texas project, or how a technology found in Africa is now saving lives in Afghanistan.
"Although it may take years or even decades for these initial research efforts to yield functional technology, throughout that time the less easily quantified benefits of promoting cooperation, interoperability and trust with our international partners continues to accrue to the Army's and the nation's benefit," Sennett said.