The gift of freedom: Why we’re moving Aberdeen Proving Ground innovations beyond our gates [Commentary]


In 1945, Percy Spencer was a Raytheon Corporation engineer working for the Department of Defense on newly invented radar systems. One day, while operating a magnetron that produced the microwaves used in radar, he noticed the candy bar in his pocket had melted. He realized microwaves’ ability to quickly heat food, and soon after, the microwave oven that’s now in 90% of American households was born.


This is just one example of many inventions originating in the military that are now ubiquitous in our daily lives. From GPS to duct tape to the EpiPen, the transfer of military technologies to the commercial sector has not only created innovations we can’t live without, but has been foundational to American industry and our leadership of the global economy.

That tradition continues today, and one of our most exciting recent advances is additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing. Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) is the Army’s leading center for advanced technology development and home to the Army Research Lab, which is responsible for major advances in additive manufacturing to protect our Soldiers on the battlefield.

But additive manufacturing is making an impact far beyond the military, and it is poised to revolutionize entire industries and help re-establish the U.S. as a manufacturing leader. For that reason, the Army is working with the State of Maryland, Harford County, and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences to create the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Consortium.

Housed in the former Higher Education and Applied Technology (HEAT) Center in Aberdeen, AMMP will be a collaboration space for government, industry, and academia to develop not yet commercially available breakthroughs in metallurgy, plastics, and factory machinery. Opening later this month, the new center has the potential to transform how U.S. producers make aircraft, automobiles, munitions, medical devices, and more. AMMP will also help solidify the economic future of Northeastern Maryland as a high-tech manufacturing hub.

Beyond its potential to remake manufacturing, AMMP embodies the long heritage of mutual support between APG and Harford County and the Army’s commitment to strengthening our communities. For example, in 2017 Harford County Public Schools received more than $200,000 from the Department of Defense Impact Aid program, which benefits school districts with high enrollments of federally connected students. And through the Army Compatible Use Buffer program, APG recently contributed $850,000 to the Harford Land Trust to purchase the 32-acre Perryman forest for recreation use. This is one of many ongoing conservation efforts to preserve the quality of life for Harford County residents who may experience the “sound of freedom” from our munitions-testing activities.

Reciprocally, we could not achieve our mission to empower our Soldiers and Army readiness without the support of Harford County, which the majority of the APG civilian workforce calls home. That’s why in fiscal year 2017, our employees engaged in more than 33,000 student interactions through our science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) school outreach program: to get our young people excited about STEM, additive manufacturing, and a career at APG. As we develop our region together through these and other initiatives, I am confident we can count on our local community to continue working with APG to ensure we pass our great gift of freedom on for future generations.

America’s Army, Your Army!

Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor

Senior commander

Aberdeen Proving Ground