Armed Forces News

David Storm, a research physicist, and Tyler Growden, a National Research Council postdoctoral researcher, at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with their molecular beam epitaxy system that develops gallium nitride-based (GaN) semiconductors, which showed high yield and performance well suited for high frequency and high power electronic devices. Navy photo by Jonathan Steffen

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is severely underfunded and beset by poor infrastructure, according to a nearly two-year-old internal Navy report that had lingered on a “do not distribute” list.

“Funding must be provided soon to correct the many serious infrastructure deficiencies that exist at NRL Washington, D.C.,” according to a report prepared by the Naval Research Advisory Committee and obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

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The lab, long a source of innovation for the Navy and technologies such as GPS that has spurred commercial development, is in significant need of “new approaches to personnel management” in order to attract and retain the finest scientists, the report stated. “Senior leadership of the Navy needs to be more interested and involved in science and technology which may be more important today than it has ever been,” it warned.

The report noted that the NRL relies upon base funding, which comes from the Office of Naval Research, to plan for future research. In 2018, when the report was written, NRL’s base funding was $200 million. The lab gets its funding by competitively proving its research is fostering scientific knowledge that directly helps the warfighter, but funding has fallen in recent years.

The report recommended that Navy senior leaders engage in “regular and persistent … discussion” regarding science and technology, increase the interface between NRL scientists and sailors at sea, and increase junior officers’ assignments at NRL. Other recommendations called for improved cooperation among NRL and its divisions and directorates, facility upgrades to repair infrastructure that is falling apart and initiatives to attract top-level talent.

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