by Dr. Andrei Cernasov
Agap is developing between the type and volume of innovations the Army needs and what the private sector is likely to provide, at least in the foreseeablefuture.
After reaching its peak in 2008-10, U.S. defense spending dropped for three consecutive years, a trend likely to continue as long as federal budgets remain under pressure. The defense market has responded with the current wave of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and commercial spinoffs. Combined with the globalization of research and development, this consolidation and migration intocommercial markets will likely result in fewer suppliers of innovative, defense-specific products. This poses an unacceptable risk to the Army, a force heavily reliant on technological superiority.
The IDEA program (short for Innovative Developments Everyday at ARDEC, the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center) was created so that ARDEC employees could contribute more to closing this gap. Now, well into its fifth year and still evolving, the program is producing strong preliminary results. IDEA successfully identified and promoted a subculture of innovation that is now expanding through theorganization. It also created a support network whereby both inventors and managers could grow ideas from their early stages through development and possible deployment. (See Figure 1 on Page 88.)
SETTING UP THE PROGRAM
In 2008, Barbara J. Machak, as associate technical director for systems concepts and technology, tasked me and a team of ARDEC employees to develop a Six Sigma-compliant process for establishing an organic innovation program.
Machak recognized that new processes would encourage changes in ARDEC’s workplace toward a culture that is more
The IDEA program reaches out to USMA cadets to encourage innovation by offering help with patent applications. Here, ARDEC engineer Jeffrey Lukaszyk shows the business card he has used during visits to West Point for its annual Projects Day, when senior cadets present their research, innovations and theses to an audience of government and private industry sponsors. The cadet projects are fertile ground for new, useful and less obvious innovations with the potential to become Army intellectual property. (Photo by Timothy Rider, ARDEC)