Two departments join forces for major
Army communications research alliance

Principal investigators in UD's Collaborative Technology Alliance research effort are (from left) Gonzalo Arce, Paul Amer, Errol Lloyd, Adarsh Sethi and Charles Boncelet.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has named the University of Delaware departments of Computer and Information Sciences and Electrical and Computer Engineering part of a new multimillion dollar Collaborative Technology Alliance in communications and networking.

The Army has allocated $76.3 million for the communications and networking alliance, which will be funded for between five and eight years, with $44.3 million allocated for the first five years and $32 million for an optional three additional years.

Of those totals, the University of Delaware will receive a projected $4 million for the first five years and a total of $7 million if the Army exercises the optional three-year period, which is intended to promote technology transfer and to advance research ideas to prototype implementations.

Funds will be equally divided between the two UD departments and will support approximately 15 graduate research assistants each year.

The communications and networking alliance brings together 17 university and industrial partners to collaborate in four general research areas: survivable wireless mobile networks, signal processing for communications on the move, secure jam-resistant communications and tactical information protection.

Principal investigators directing UD's research effort are professors Paul Amer, Errol Lloyd and Adarsh Sethi, all computer and information sciences; and Gonzalo Arce and Charles Boncelet, both in electrical and computer engineering.

Additional participating faculty members are Constantinos Dovrolis, Lori Pollock and Chien-Chung Shen, all in computer and information sciences; and Javier Garcia-Frias, David Mills and Xiang Gen Xia, all in electrical and computer engineering.

"The CTA grant is a major step forward in the networking research programs and ongoing strong collaboration of the computer and information sciences and electrical and computer engineering departments," Amer said.

To take advantage of commercial technology and expertise, the Army Research Laboratory is establishing industrial-academic consortia that will work closely with ARL scientists and engineers to help fulfill critical Army modernization objectives.

UD is one of seven primary alliance members. The others are City College of New York and the University of Maryland, and industrial partners Telcordia, BAE Systems, Motorola and Network Associates.

Associate member organizations are BBN Technologies, Princeton University, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, Cornell University and Temple University also will participate as nonmember subcontractors.

The communications and networking alliance is one of five created by the Army–the others involve advanced sensors, advanced decision architecture, robotics and energy–to respond to changing needs.

"New realities demand innovative concepts to focus the talent of industry and academia on the critical technology needs of the Army," an ARL representative said. "Most particularly, the explosion in commercial technologies demands a new approach to Army laboratory operations, an approach that will allow our Army to improve the way it fights while also contributing to commercial technology advances."

The communications alliance has its roots in a "federated laboratory" begun in 1996, when ARL initiated a new strategy to focus in-house laboratory research on Army-specific business areas while establishing centers of research in areas where state-of-the-art expertise could be used to satisfy Army technology needs.

The combination of government in-house, industry and academic components striving together for excellence created a new model for Army research in the federated laboratory.

From 1996 to 2001, the UD departments shared $3.1 million as part of the ARL's first federated laboratory program, called the Advanced Telecommunications and Information Distribution Research Program.

Considered an overwhelming success, the program was widely recognized within the Department of Defense and was awarded the Hammer Award for Reinventing Government by then-Vice President Al Gore.

ARL decided to capitalize on that success by expanding and improving the concept with the creation of Collaborative Technology Alliances.

This CTA grant is significant to both UD departments and is among the largest single contracts either department has ever received.

Being part of the winning alliance proposal demonstrates how strongly and how successfully the two departments have collaborated, Amer said.

The departments have worked closely together since they received a National Science Foundation equipment grant in 1985 to establish a joint computing facility that became the starting point for what is today the complete University of Delaware networking infrastructure.

by Neil Thomas