By Buddy Blouin
The United States continues to have the most elite fighting force in the world, encompassing multiple branches across all sorts of terrain. Our naval abilities continue to set the standard and look to be increasing in importance as warfare continues to evolve. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), just minutes away from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB), is where the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps begin to understand the best techniques and technologies available to give our military personnel an edge on the battlefield. Using science and engineering, the Naval Research Lab conducts research that leads to innovative solutions.

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History of the NRL

Created in 1923, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory was actually thought up years before by one of the most famous innovators of all time, Thomas Edison. In 1915, Edison published an article that talked about the need for such a lab with the U.S. facing a variety of potential conflicts. The government would soon find itself engaged in World War I and would allocate $1.5 million for the development of the lab. Due to many different delays and disagreements, the NRL would not come to be for a few years, but when it was finally time to create the lab, Edison would end up leading those who built the first version of the research facility. Shortly after WWI would come World War II, and the NRL Navy facilities would become vital to the success of many campaigns. The size of its employees grew ten times as large, many additional facilities were brought to the lab, and it expanded its studies and testing capabilities into new, exciting fields. Following the end of WWII, many institutions were deactivated, but the U.S. Navy Research Lab remained in service due to its tremendous successes. Today, it continues to serve American interests by creating innovative solutions for everything from weapons to watercraft to environmental issues and much more.

Organizational Structure and Areas of Research

Government organizations sponsor NRL's research, including the Office of Naval Research, Naval Systems Commands and Warfare Centers, Air Force, Army, DARPA, Department of Energy, and NASA. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Department of Navy's corporate laboratory, which reports to the Chief of Naval Research. In accordance with the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) commitment to science and technology, the NRL is the Navy's corporate laboratory. Here are the NRL areas of research that remain the focal point of the lab:
  • Autonomous and Unmanned Systems
  • Chemical and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Physics
  • Electronics
  • Environments (Sea/Air/Space)
  • Information and Social Sciences
  • Materials
  • Nanotechnology
  • Optical Sciences
  • Power and Energy
  • Quantum Research
  • Space Sciences
As you can see, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has grown to cover much more than things related to purely sea operations for the U.S. military. The NRL’s ability to provide solutions for America and its allies is amplified further by its willingness and capability to provide solutions for a variety of military branches.

Visit the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, but Call Ahead First

You can find the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory at 4555 Overlook Ave. S.W. Washington, DC 20375, the address of the NRL Visitor Center. But it’s important to remember that this is a military institution and that access is limited. In order to be sure that you can enter the building, you’ll want to call ahead at 1 (202) 767-2996 to best understand the regulations and requirements governing access to the lab at the time. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is a continuing spotlight on the importance of STEM careers within the military. It’s because of science and engineering that our Armed Forces are provided with the best tools for getting the job done. It doesn’t matter if we are launching into space, improving communication efforts, or working on improving the best Navy in the world; the U.S. is prepared thanks to the hardworking diligence of those working at the NRL.

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Thomas Edison
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

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