85 Years of Innovation
The Naval Research Laboratory celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2008. The world is quite different today than it was 85 years ago, but NRL's early 20th century founders knew, as we do today, the importance of science and technology in maintaining naval power and preserving national security. NRL began operations in 1923 as the United States Navy's first modern research institution and it continues today as one of the Navy's premier R&D resources.
During the years since World War II, the Laboratory has conducted basic and applied research pertaining to the Navy's environments of Earth, sea, sky, space, and cyberspace. Investigations have ranged widely-from monitoring the Sun's behavior, to analyzing marine atmospheric conditions, to measuring parameters of the deep oceans. Detection and communication capabilities have benefitted by research that has exploited new portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, extended ranges to outer space, and provided a means of transferring information reliably and securely, even through massive jamming.
Submarine habitability, lubricants, shipbuilding materials, firefighting, and the study of sound in the sea have remained steadfast concerns, to which have been added recent explorations within the fields of virtual reality, superconductivity, biomolecular science and engineering, and nanotechnology.
The Laboratory has pioneered naval research into space-from atmospheric probes with captured V-2 rockets, through direction of the Vanguard project (America's first satellite program), to inventing and developing the first satellite prototypes of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Today, NRL is the Navy's lead laboratory in space systems research, as well as in fire research, tactical electronic warfare, microelectronic devices, and artificial intelligence.
The Laboratory is now focusing its research efforts on new Navy strategic interests in the 21st century, a period marked by global terrorism, shifting power balances, and irregular and asymmetric warfare. NRL scientists and engineers are working to give the Navy the special knowledge, capabilities, and flexibility to succeed in this dynamic environment. While continuing its programs of basic research that help the Navy anticipate and meet future needs, NRL also moves technology rapidly from concept to operational use when high-priority, short term needs arise-for pathogen detection, lightweight body armor, contaminant transport modeling, and communications interoperability, for example. The interdisciplinary and wide-ranging nature of NRL's work keeps this "great research laboratory" at the forefront of discovery and innovation, solving naval challenges and benefiting the nation as a whole.