Cindy Bither
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Cadets Urged to Think Outside the Technology Box

FullTextImage/img/@altRear Adm. Matthew Klunder addresses cadets in Gillis Theater. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.



LEXINGTON, Va., Feb. 18, 2013 – Rear Adm. Matthew Klunderinvited cadets to “stand up and make a difference” by contributing to thefuturistic yet realistic world of unmanned military technologies in a speechgiven at VMI earlier today.

Klunder’s talk, entitled “Enabling Our Autonomous Future,”was part of the H.B. Johnson Jr. ’26 Distinguished Lecture Series.

Klunder, who is chief of naval research at the Office ofNaval Research in Arlington, Va., began his remarks by eschewing the podium forcloser contact with his cadet audience.

Walking up the aisles of Gillis Theater, Klunder warmed tohis topic as he enthusiastically shared with the cadets the questions he onceasked midshipmen when he was commandant at the U.S. Naval Academy – “What isgoing to happen today? If you’re called upon, are you going to show leadership?Are you going to stand up and show honor? Are you going to stand up and make adifference?”

Now, Klunder explained, he asks those same questions of theresearchers and scientists he supervises at the Office of Naval Research, anarm of the Department of Defense which conducts science and technology researchto benefit the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The 1982 U.S. Naval Academy graduate noted that thoseefforts to make a difference are desperately needed in a world in which IEDs –improvised explosive devices – and WMDs – weapons of mass destruction – havebecome part of the layman’s vocabulary. “The bad guys are getting pretty goodat their stuff and I hope you know that,” he remarked.

Weapons that deliver the maximum punch for the lowest cost,and with the least risk of human life, are the wave of a future that is alreadyhere, said Klunder.

As examples, Klunder showed a montage of images frommodern-day weaponry, ranging from Jeeps and Humvees operated by robots tounmanned submarines used for mine sweeping to unmanned helicopters, and even adrone which is scheduled to launch from an aircraft carrier for the first timein May.

Those technologies, the rear admiral noted, stem frominnovative thinking.  “When we putsoldiers, sailors, airmen out there in the field, we’ve got to make surethey’re prepared. We’ve got to make sure they’ve got the best technology theycan, the most affordable technology they can use and it’s got to work reallywell,” Klunder said.

As an example of outside the box thinking, Klunder spoke ofplanes currently under development that can operate without access to a globalpositioning system.

“I don’t want you coloring inside the lines all the time,” continuedKlunder, who has flown 45 different types of aircraft and attained 21 worldflying-records. His awards include the 1988 Hawkeye of the Year, the 1991 TestPilot of the Year and the 2002 George C. Marshall Statesman Award.

Klunder concluded his remarks with an appeal to cadets tocome and join the Office of Naval Research’s initiative to “color outside thelines” in support of the nation’s military.

“I need great innovative thinkers like you. I need young peoplethat want to make a difference. If you are interested, I’ve got places withinternships doing really cool stuff,” he commented.

“If you can save one life – one Marine, one airman, onesoldier – you have made a difference.”

–Mary Price