Spotlight on: Air Force Research Laboratory – Rome Research Site

This is the first in a series of in-depth profiles on federal laboratories located in the Northeast Region, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Rome Research Site traces its history to 1917, when the U.S. Army Signal Corps established a radio laboratory at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Watson Laboratories, located in nearby Red Bank, was an offshoot of the original radio laboratory, and it is from Watson Laboratories that Rome research and development evolved.

In 1950, Congress passed an act authorizing the establishment of an "Air Force Electronic Development Center at Griffiss Air Force Base, New York," with President Harry S Truman directing the transfer of personnel from Watson Laboratories to Rome. The Air Force officially established Rome Air Development Center (RADC) in 1951. Rome Laboratory was formed from elements of RADC in 1990, as the Air Force realigned 14 laboratories and research centers into four "super" laboratories. In 1997, those four laboratories were realigned into a single laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Rome Research Site operations comprise approximately 900 military and civilian employees and are the Air Force's center of expertise for research and development of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence (C4I) and related surveillance technologies. C4I is the military’s information technology for effectively managing forces worldwide. Specifically, Rome scientists and engineers plan and conduct basic research, exploratory development and advanced development on C4I programs, with limited engineering development and systems acquisitions.

Work is conducted across a broad spectrum of information technologies in areas such as information fusion, communications, collaborative engineering environments, modeling and simulation, high performance computing, distributed computing, defensive information warfare, intelligence information systems, surveillance and photonics.

Rome hosts the directorate offices of the AFRL Information Directorate, as well as four branches of the AFRL Sensors Directorate, whose directorate offices are at Wright-Patterson AFB. AFRL is responsible to the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) at Wright-Patterson.

During a nearly half-century history as an Air Force research and development site, Rome conducted research on a number of major aerospace systems, including the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, the Semi-Automated Ground Environment (SAGE) system, the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the first Air Force telephone switching facility, and the first operational Russian-to-English translator. Rome scientists and engineers helped develop the technology that resulted in the first intercontinental voice transmission sent via satellite. In 1960, a message from an RADC test site in Trinidad was bounced off NASA’s Echo I balloon satellite and received by a 30-foot antenna at the Center's Floyd test site, three miles east of today’s Griffiss Business & Technology Park.

In later years, RADC developments included a computerized cataloging system for the Military Personnel Center, improved techniques for analyzing electronic components, a system that makes computer data "readable" by man and machine, and a computer capable of understanding spoken words. Civilian spinoffs of early Rome research include the compact disk, latex paint, and microwave oven components.

Technical efforts of the Information Directorate at Rome are under the control of four mission divisions: Information Technology, Information Grid, Information & Intelligence Exploitation, and Information Systems. Four of the directorate’s branches are physically located at Wright-Patterson AFB. In addition, the Information Directorate operates three research annexes in rural areas of central New York.

The Information Directorate’s state-of-the-art Command and Control Technologies Center integrates the research of several laboratory facilities into a high technology test and demonstration environment unequaled at any other Air Force facility. Using the latest electronic and computer technology, scientists and engineers are demonstrating new ways to provide commanders with the most accurate and timely information.

Other facts about AFRL Rome:

  • Maintains more than 1,150 active contracts worth $1.8 billion.
  • Approximately 91% of the workforce makes its home in the Utica-Rome metropolitan area.
  • Annual expenditures in the Utica-Rome metropolitan area totaled $55.2 million in FY 2004. Included in this figure are local service and construction contracts or contracts requiring the use of locally supplied goods and services, as well as R&D contracts.
  • Nearly 30 % of the Rome workforce is participating in higher education each year. In addition, Rome employed more than 150 professors, graduate students, co-op students, summer engineering aides and junior fellowship students in FY 2004. The Air Force has also joined with 53 colleges and universities to form the Information Institute in Rome for information technology research and development.
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Summer 2006
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