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Summer at the Army Research Office | Dodger Eaton

The Army Research Office (ARO), located in Research Triangle Park, is the Army’s primary extramural research agency. Currently a subordinate to the Army Research Laboratory, this office is committed to funding research that will answer some of the most difficult national security questions. With roughly 100 employees, they employ experts ranging from mathematics to life sciences. The goal of the organization is to provide the Army with technological superiority during future missions.

Working with the Life Sciences Division, I evaluated research proposals, and categorized individual projects for funding. I assessed the proposals based on criteria from ARO Division Chiefs, Army Executives, and the Army Modernization Priorities. The newest proposals ranged from cybersecurity game theory to research in how to prevent future civil wars. Most proposals combined quantitative, and qualitative methods to answer some of the most complex national security policy questions. Additionally, I summarized submitted proposals for the mathematics division to prepare them for the approval process. This allowed me to understand the level of detail, and scrutiny proposals face at each level.

Not only does ARO determine funding appropriations for research, but they also participate in conferences to identify the latest scientific initiatives. The Carlucci grant allowed me to travel to the Santa Fe Institute, which specializes in complexity science to answer a wide range of questions. This conference, organized by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and ARO, allowed experts to brainstorm intersections of complexity science and national security. While hiking and enjoying local art I engaged with some of the most qualified complexity social scientists in the country. Topics ranged from ideal group sizes for decision making, to complex modeling of social interactions.

I chose to work at the Army Research Office because I was interested in the intersection of academia and national security policy. My experience at ARO allowed me to observe the entire process of research funding. In the past I have worked at the Army Test and Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. The technologies I evaluated there were the culmination of years of research and development. As explained by a senior division chief and retired Army Colonel at ARO, “if the infantryman is the tip of the spear, ARO is the butt of the shaft.” The science funded at ARO may seem far-fetched to the current service member, but their initiatives will propel the Army of 2030 and beyond.