Pentagon official says nanotechnology a high priority

The U.S. military expects advances in nanotechnology to impact every major weapons system and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually on various research programs, a senior military science adviser said Thursday at a meeting of nanotechnology specialists.

"Nanotechnology is one of the highest priority science and technology programs in the Defense Department," said Clifford Lau, the senior science adviser in the Pentagon's office of basic research. Lau, who also serves as president of the nanotechnology council at the engineering group IEEE, said research is being coordinated across the military branches, and plans are in place to transition the technology from basic research to deployment.

Lau said the Pentagon spent $315 million in fiscal 2004 on all nanotechnology research. The president's budget request for fiscal 2005 calls for $276 million for nanotechnology, but Lau said congressional appropriators likely will boost that number higher than the fiscal 2004 level.

Pentagon interest in nanotechnology dates to the 1980s, Lau said. Today, Defense-funded basic research programs include 16 multimillion-dollar annual grants to university researchers as part of the defense university-research initiatives in nanotechnology and some 25 grants under the multidisciplinary university-research initiative.

In addition, service branches recently have opened sophisticated facilities for nanotech research, including the Army Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies and the Naval Research Laboratory's nanotech institute, a windowless, controlled environment capable of the most advanced research.

Lau also touted nanotech applications already in use by the military services. The Navy, for instance, uses nanotech coatings on submarines to eliminate barnacle buildup and protect bearings against corrosion on surface ships. And the Air Force is using lightweight, radar-resistant nano-composite materials in the airframes of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Advanced development also is underway to use nanotechnology to improve the detection of and defense against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, he said, and stronger, lighter nano-composites will be inserted in advanced body armor.

In addition, the Pentagon is funding nearly $100 million in nanotech research for information technology. It is intended for advanced sensors, computer processors and communication devices.

"Nanotechnology is a 'force multiplier,' " Lau said. "It will make us faster and stronger on the battlefield."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.