SDL looks to get $11M in federal funds

By Kim Burgess
The Herald Journal
September 30, 2008

Congress has approved roughly $11 million in funding for national security projects housed at Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab.

The money was requested in the fiscal year 2009 Military Construction, Homeland Security and Defense Appropriations bills, which were passed Saturday and now await President Bush’s signature. He intends to look at the legislation before Congress adjourns Monday. In total, the bills promise $133.5 million for a variety of Utah projects.

With a green light from the president, SDL will receive money for the following efforts:

  • $6 million to build a reconnaissance system in conjunction with Naval Research Lab. The project is designed to help soldiers sort through massive amounts of intelligence data more efficiently. Using the technology, they will be able to find, identify and follow enemy targets in real time using geo–tracking devices.
  • $3 million for a group of universities, including USU, to continue research on cyber threats targeting finance and banking. The CyberSMART program develops computer systems that allow finance professionals to practice how they would respond to a major hacking attempt.
  • $2.4 million for a collaboration among Dugway Proving Ground, SDL and ITT, Utah, that will develop a system that detects hazardous chemicals that could be used by terrorists. USU will get one–fourth of the $2.4 million.
  • $1.6 million for Intelligence Community Academic Outreach, a program that will prepare science and engineering students for intelligence careers. The effort will provide lab courses at SDL. Participants will also go through the security clearance process while they are in the program, making them qualified to work for the government immediately after graduation. Most of the program’s students will come from USU. In addition, SDL will offer short courses for government workers who need their credentials upgraded.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R–Utah, praised the funded projects, saying they will provide U.S. troops “with advanced equipment and state–of–the–art facilities to carry out their operations safely.”

He described SDL as “a leader in developing impressive and ground–breaking technology to advance our national defense capabilities.”

With the help of Bennett and other Congressional leaders, SDL has consistently won strong funding, typically receiving $4 million to $8 million a year, according to the organization’s director, Mike Pavich.

The threat of another Sept. 11 has also increased the government’s interest in funding national security research, explained Gail Bingham, SDL’s chief scientist and director of its Civil Space Division. “Terrorism is one of the things people are very concerned about,” he said. Pavich credited much of SDL’s success to its ability to turn out technology that has valuable real–world applications. “(These projects) end up in use shortly after we develop them,” he said. SDL is a nonprofit research corporation owned by USU.

© 2008 The Herald Journal