Magazine article National Defense

Air Force Institute of Technology Aspiring to Become the Go-To Lab

Magazine article National Defense

Air Force Institute of Technology Aspiring to Become the Go-To Lab

Article excerpt

* WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - The interconnected buildings on this hilltop campus may not have the mystique of Area 51, but they arguably contain one of the Air Force's best-kept secrets.

Long known as the service's graduate-level educator, the Air Force Institute of Technology in recent years has gained notoriety - and funding - for its research efforts.

"We've had significant growth in the last 10 years in our sponsored research program," said Heidi Ries, dean for research at AFIT's graduate school of engineering and management.

This year, external funding for research projects totaled $17.9 million, compared to $13.7 million last year and only $2.6 million in 2000.

"This is evidence of the growth and relevance of what we do, and the fact that people recognize the value of what we do because they're willing to pay for it," said Ries.

From writing algorithms to control space satellites and ground robots to defending networks from would-be cyberattackers, the officer and enlisted students participate in a variety of projects that are tied to real world problems.

"We're not doing research on how many ear mites are on a sled dog in Alaska," said Brig. Gen. Walter "Waldo" Givhan, commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology. "What we are doing research on - and education - is completely focused on the Department of Defense and the nation's needs."

The school's 68 laboratories sit within a stone's throw from many facilities housing Air Force Research Laboratory programs.

"This is not just people reading books and talking about things or writing papers. This is hands-on educational research," said Givhan.

The Air Force Research Laboratory sponsors the majority of the basic science investigations underway at AFIT. But officials increasingly are being approached by companies, universities and government agencies eager to sign off on collaborative efforts. At any given time, AFIT has 10 to 15 of these so-called cooperative research and development agreements under way, said Ries. That number has been increasing.

"We're very interested in partnering with people and are open to that when opportunities arise," Ries said. "We've tried to diversify and serve the larger defense enterprise, inclusive of homeland security and the intelligence arena. So across the board, if it's part of national defense that the Air Force touches in some way, then we try to contribute to that through our research programs. …

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