Nrl/ONR Earn Navy Unit Commendation from Secretary Dalton


8/10/1996 - 100-96r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541


John H. Dalton, Secretary of the Navy, presented the prestigious Navy Unit Commendation jointly to the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and its parent organization, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), during a recent ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard. The Navy Unit Commendation Award was established by the Secretary of the Navy in December 1944 and is awarded by the Secretary, with the approval of the President, generally for outstanding heroism in action against the enemy or, under certain circumstances, for extremely meritorious service outside of combat in support of military operations.

RADM Mark Y.E. Pelaez, former Chief of Naval Research (CNR), accepted the award from Secretary Dalton on behalf of ONR and NRL. In a separate ceremony held at NRL on August 29, current CNR, RADM Paul G. Gaffney, II, formally presented the award to NRL. Navy Unit Commendation recipients may display the award by wearing either a ribbon (military) or a pin (civilians).

A highly unusual distinction for an acquisition activity, NRL and ONR military and civilian personnel were cited for "unparalleled research and development that significantly contributed to the technological capabilities of current and future Naval forces" during the period January 1992 through July 1996. Honoring ONR and NRL's approximately 450 service members and 4,500 civilians at headquarter and field site activities, the citation noted that "they have developed programs that have shaped every aspect of our Naval forces today, and are defining the Navy and Marine Corps of the future" and "consistently ensured that the Department of the Navy is at the forefront of scientific knowledge, technology development and application."

Among the noteworthy accomplishments mentioned in the award nomination, was the development of the Clementine I spacecraft, which provided significant advances in lightweight satellite technology and represents a new class of small and capable spacecraft that will enable long duration, deep-space missions at low cost. Clementine was developed in just 22 months, less than half the time usually required to build a spacecraft, and for a cost of $75 million, which is about one-fifth the usual cost. Along with its primary military mission to qualify lightweight technology, Clementine returned a collection of 1.8 million lunar images, the first high-resolution images of the moon since the Apollo lunar landing in 1972. The nomination credited Clementine's phenomenal success with profoundly changing the national space program and becoming the new paradigm for NASA satellite programs.

NRL scientific efforts funded by ONR, and of direct value to the Fleet, include the pioneering development of a storable, universal donor, blood surrogate to meet combat casualty care needs. Formally known as Liposome Encapsulated Hemoglobin (LEH), artificial blood can be stored up to 10 times longer than regular blood and used in emergency situations where no blood bank is available. Preclinical studies conducted in 1993 demonstrated the safety of LEH and in the fall of 1994, an external review conducted by the FDA, NIH, major blood centers, academia and industry encouraged further development for human use.

ONR-sponsored and NRL-developed technology in the area of tactical electronic warfare (TEW) to improve Navy surveillance capability was demonstrated for threat platform identification in operational environments. EW technology that uniquely characterizes the signature of each emitter encountered is currently supporting operations onboard surface ships and aircraft, and provides an all-weather, long-range capability for tracking shipments of U.S. National interest. Another EW program tests all shipboard equipment and systems that are designed to detect, track, communicate, process, evaluate, and control the engagement of enemy forces, either actively or passively. Benefits to the Fleet include the assessment of shipboard equipment performance under replicated battle conditions.

Advances in shipboard firefighting methods led by NRL's Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability and conducted on the ex-USS Shadwell in Mobile, Alabama, have effected change in over 40% of the Navy's firefighting reference manual. New techniques like the "Offensive Fog" attack permits entry into a burning compartment that is approaching flashover, cooling the fire with short bursts of 60 degree wide fog. Such maneuvers can save hours of firefighting and prevent the ship's crew from fighting "hurt."

As the global environment has become increasingly important, NRL has focused
on gaining a better understanding of environmental needs, improving cleanup techniques, and predicting and preventing further pollution. Some of these environmental developments include:

  • an airborne platform using radars, lasers, millimeter images and hyperspectral images to monitor the surface and the top fifty meters of the ocean and improve our ability to detect and track natural and man-made phenomena;
  • the antibody-based, fiber-optic biosensor, originally developed to detect drugs of abuse and explosives at the parts-per-billion level, has been adapted for use as an ultrasensitive analysis system for the continuous, on-line detection of environmental pollutants;
  • circulation models to simulate the dispersion of radioactive waste within the region of the Kara and Barents Seas, where the former Soviet Union disposed over 6,000 containers of solid radioactive waste and 17 nuclear reactors. Resultant scientific information will broaden our knowledge of Arctic Ocean circulation and kinetics and provide pollution risk assessment;
  • a chemically resistant, nontoxic, epoxy lining to prevent lead-leaching and extend the life of potable water systems;
  • a surface modification and high-resolution metal patterning process that eliminates the use of environmentally harmful chromium chemicals used in large quantities by the commercial plastic metallization industry;
  • new antifouling, silicone-base antiadhesive underwater hull coatings that displace toxic materials found in antifouling paints that are harmful to marine organisms. Coatings are self-cleaning, which will result in cost savings and reduce occupational hazards associated with removal or replacement of ship bottom paints;
  • an array of magnetometers that can detect, characterize, map and analyze magnetic anomaly images to determine depth, size and location of buried ordnance;
  • Halon-alternative fire extinguishing methods, such as fine water mists, and simulants like sulfur hexafluoride;
  • a shuttle-based microwave radiometer system that scans the Earth's limb to study the global distribution of trace elements in the middle atmosphere; and
  • measurement of trace atmospheric constiuents in the middle and upper atmospheres to monitor space weather and help predict changing environmental conditions.

Many highly significant initiatives have reached beyond NRL and ONR's defense-oriented missions. Exceptional contributions have been facilitated by cooperative research efforts and licensing agreements. Since 1988 when the CNR signed the first Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), over 400 CRADAs with federal and state government agencies, companies and universities in the fields of ecology, environment, transportation, health and education have been signed. NRL developed and completed over 75 of those CRADAs within the award period. A sampling of NRL's CRADA technology includes:

  • a detector that finds explosives or narcotics in luggage, small cargo containers or on a person;
  • an optical-imaging apparatus that can detect and identify submerged objects at longer range than previously possible;
  • a licensed, portable hand-held sensor that can identify drugs of abuse;
  • sensor arrays that are especially useful for "smart" structures to monitor the condition of aircraft in flight and structures such as bridge or buildings; and
  • a fluoropolymer lining for use in petroleum fuel tanks that can prevent corrosion in steel tanks, help keep the fuel clean and seal minor leaks.

Major outside recognitions during the award period also contributed to the strength of the NRL/ONR nomination:

  • the Robert J. Collier Award - as a joint recipient of the country's most distinguished aviation award, from the National Aeronautics Association in 1993, NRL was honored for its seminal role in the development of the Global Positioning System;
  • the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science - Dr. Isabella Karle received this award from the Franklin Institute for pioneering work in developing electron and X-ray diffraction techniques that former Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Les Aspin, termed as having "enormous implications for the advancement of chemistry, biology and medicine;"
  • the Ettore Majorana - Erice - Science for Peace Prize - Dr. Jerome Karle was named corecipient of this Italian prize for his discoveries relative to the structure of materials and for promoting international scientific collaboration above any ideological-political-racial barriers; and
  • the Naval District Washington's Personal Excellence Partnership of Year Award - for the four consecutive years, 1991-1994, NRL has received this award in the collaborative category for the accomplishments of the Community Outreach Program. This program provides tutors, mentors, tours, speakers, Toastmaster Youth Leadership training and a surplus equipment transfer program to benefit students in four District of Columbia and three Aberdeen, Maryland, schools.

The award nomination also cited specific accomplishments of NRL's Flight Support Detachment, noting their direct support of ONR and the Naval Oceanographic Office. (See NRL Press Release 101-96R.)



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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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