Thursday, August 11, 2005

DARPA - A Great Organization with Great People

I attended the last day of DARPATech today, and I have to say that this is one hell of an organization. These people are working on truly incredible technology with one thing in mind: helping our soldiers. When one of the anti-war crowd says they want to "help our soldiers", that really isn't true. Warfare isn't going away. Withdrawing from the world isn't an option. The only way to "help our soldiers" is to give them better weapons, better training and better battlefield information and support. And that is what DARPA is trying to do. And it works with U.S. businesses to do it.

The best part of the conference today was the keynote speech from Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee. This is one incredible guy. He just oozed leadership, charisma and knowledge. After the speech if he had asked me to pick up a rifle and follow him I would have complied.

I cannot find a transcript of his speech, but here are a few notes I jotted down:
- The "Nature of War" is not changing in that we have a thinking enemy that we must not underestimate. In Iraq it takes our enemy only 10 days to change their tactics once we develop a defense against what they are doing.

- Battlefields are still chaotic. There is no such thing as "perfect information" on the battlefield and our soldiers must be able to thrive in that environment.

- There are three areas where the U.S. has absolute supremacy which is not expected to change any time in the near future: Space, Air over 15,000 feet, and the oceans. We must work to improve our status in those areas we are not supreme: air below 15,000 feet, urban areas, and deep inside enemy territory where some of the best systems we have today cannot be brought in.

- The Marines are currently working in several areas of concentration to better engage in future conflicts: Sea Basing, Distributed Ops, and better Education and Training.

- The General's current short-term priorities for DARPA are as follows:
1. A way to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). DARPA has done some work in this area already, having quickly developed and put into the field Gun Truck, which has already saved lives in Iraq. Additional measures are needed. He mentioned low-weight, bold-on, ceramic armor as one idea.

2. A soldier carries 65 lbs. of equipment today. Lower it!

3. Better batteries and alternative fuel cells. He said the original march into Baghdad was nearly halted due to a battery shortage.

4. The soldier's helmet really hasn't changed in 37 years. He would like to see a Head's Up Display (HUD) giving the soldier information, communication, etc. in the field

5. Currently soldiers carry two scopes for their rifle - one for day, one for night. How about one that can do both, giving them less to carry and worry about.

He said he had another few dozen, but those were the first five.

Even if I never directly participate or do any business with DARPA, going to the conference was worth it just for the information and educational aspects. They had on display some very incredible things in development including biomagnetics, thermal electric conversion, scramjets, and other things practically out of science fiction. Anyone who is interested should check out their website.

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