Editor's note: The U.S. armed services operate a network of in-house laboratories to pursue basic research that fits the mission of each service. In the months to come The Scientist will offer a glimpse of these little-known but well-respected facilities and the challenges they face. The first two articles in the series deal with the Army's labs.

ADELPHI, MD.—"As Bell Labs is to AT&T, the laboratory command is to the Army Materiel Command," says Ira Marcus, associate director for engineering and technical support of Harry Diamond Laboratories in this suburb of 'Washington, D.C. One of the Army's largest and most highly regarded laboratories, Harry Diamond is part of what Army officials like to call the service's "corporate technology center."

But all is not well between the labs and the Army's top leadership. This spring, during a monthly teleconference that linked the directors of the service's seven laboratories, the conversation turned...

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