NEWS | Jan. 7, 2013

Arthur Merat Receives Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award

By Donna McKinney

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) electronics technician Arthur Merat has received the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award. He is cited for outstanding contributions in developing and implementing the plans to have the Midway Research Center provide signal generation services for various satellite program offices around the world and provide centralized management and control of their geographically dispersed sites by networking all sites remotely via the internet.

Mr. Merat served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 1973. He then worked at HRB Singer Company before coming to work at NRL in 1974. He currently works as the head of the Antenna Research and Engineering Section in the Space Systems Development Department at NRL's Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST). In this position he manages the activities of ten technicians in the deployment and maintenance of antennas and electronic systems to ground stations around the world.

Throughout his career at NRL, Mr. Merat has supported the design, development, and deployment of satellite ground stations around the world in support of NCST programs. In 2007, NRL researchers proposed that the Midway Research Center (MRC), an NRL satellite calibration facility in Stafford, Virginia, be considered to provide calibration services to other satellite program management offices. The efficiency and cost effectiveness demonstrated at the MRC resulted in a significant increase in capabilities and requirements from several of these programs. As time went on, these programs, and others, concluded that it would save a great deal of money if management of their dedicated and disparate calibration sites be centralized under the MRC. Each of these programs had people at their sites to generate test plans to respond to tasking, to monitor the test activity, and to provide maintenance for the antennas and associated support electronics. Several of these sites are located throughout the world in order to provide coverage for satellites in various orbits. Centralized management and control of these geographically dispersed sites from the MRC provided the opportunity to take advantage of the internet to operate them remotely.

Mr. Merat was the key contributor for developing and implementing the plan to network all these sites. He made multiple survey trips to each of the four sites, documented their configurations, oversaw the development of the different interfaces necessary to control and operate the sites remotely, and developed the maintenance plans to support these sites. His efforts resulted in eliminating all full-time, on-site personnel while maintaining full calibration service to the various satellite programs. It cost a sponsor approximately $2M per site per year if the site had to be staffed full time. Operating them remotely saved approximately $1.6M per site per year over the four sites.

The cost savings generated by consolidating the activity at the MRC subsequently resulted in additional sponsors requesting similar support. The largest of these was the Galaxy Program. In order to satisfy their mission, the Galaxy Program required 32 antennas located around the earth's equator. Mr. Merat surveyed potential sites with existing antennas to determine if their capabilities would satisfy mission technical requirements. He additionally identified antennas not in use in other geographical areas as candidates to be relocated. A total of 26 of these antennas needed extensive refurbishment and modification. Mr. Merat generated detailed plans to disassemble, pack, and ship them to the NRL depot facility at Blossom Point, Maryland. He developed the plans for the necessary mechanical, electrical, and electronic modifications and upgrades.

Over a period of three years, Mr. Merat completely refurbished and deployed these antennas to the operational sites. This required that he coordinate transportation, negotiate with local officials, obtain necessary permits, perform environmental studies, and lead the NRL team that installed the antennas at their new locations. According to the Galaxy Program Management Office, his recommendation to refurbish and relocate existing antennas rather than acquiring new ones saved over $100M.

Mr. Merat was personally recognized by the program's senior acquisition official, a retired Air Force four star general, and presented with a Director's Coin, a symbol of significant achievement. In parallel with the Galaxy activity, many other programs have joined the MRC network. At present the MRC is managing the control and operation of 231 antennas worldwide, at 40 different sites in 13 countries. Mr. Merat is responsible for overseeing the maintenance and periodic upgrade of each of these. This global network of remotely capabilities has vastly improved the timeliness and accuracy of information critical to the strategic, operational and tactical operations of the military services and intelligence community.