Lieutenant Colonel Jessica Critcher, USAF, and Major Michal McCracken, USAF, arrived at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) in July, 2021, with one task from the Pentagon: scour ORNL’s research for applicable solutions to Department of Defense (DoD) challenges. Of the 70 priorities of the Pentagon, they are to find current ORNL research that could be used as is or with further development. Their time at ORNL is part of the Military Fellows program that promotes applying scientific research to the Department of Defense’s challenges.
Lt. Col. Critcher has already learned about how adversaries are using artificial intelligence to corrupt cyber systems. The more she can learn how the military can incorporate artificial intelligence smartly and where it makes sense, the better the DoD will be at preventing intruders to their networks in the future.
Maj. McCracken toured the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) to see how ORNL is on the leading edge of the different technologies applicable to the military. Researchers at the MDF are finding stronger materials better able to withstand extreme situations in combat, making body armor, vehicles, and other tools last longer and have replacement parts easier to source.
Air Force fellows are given latitude to use their time exploring and being curious to collaborate among professionals across industries. The challenges needing scientific solutions come from all walks of life, and the findings and applications of research at ORNL can often be used outside of the energy industry. Research and application find each other through short but impactful interactions that may lead to more sustained partnerships.
The Military Fellows program at ORNL has welcomed the Army, Air Force, and Navy throughout its ongoing run of 19 years.