Skip to main content

Task Force Ocean (TFO) Department Research Initiative

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is seeking input on a planned Task Force Ocean (TFO) Department Research Initiative (DRI) that is expected to run from FY21-FY24. Research funded under this effort will result in new sensing, modeling and prediction techniques that will enhance our scientific understanding of a complex but coupled environment and lead to improved predictions for the region of study and by extension to many other regions around the world.

The primary focus of the TFO DRI will be focused on a specific 100 km x 100 km area of the ocean that will be closely studied and extremely well characterized, particularly during periodic at sea measurement epochs. The specific area to be studied will be part of the initial planning letter process, and take into account the interest/advantages that each proposed area offers. The intensive data collection and modeling effort will focus on improved understanding of the connections and complex relationships amongst a large number of ocean processes and variables. A primary objective will be the development of a large covariance matrix that includes sound propagation, ambient sound, ocean and atmosphere physical processes, and biological communities.

Questions to be addressed in this DRI include: to what degree can the provision of additional observations of each particular variable amongst a large array of ocean variables improve estimation and reduce uncertainty across the entire array of ocean parameters?

Research Concentration Areas

Research efforts that may be appropriate for this initiative include but are not limited to:

  • Cross-disciplinary studies in acoustics, signal processing, oceanography and meteorology
  • Remote and in situ sensing strategy development to infer ocean/acoustic properties
  • Development of innovative tools that provide insight into uncertainty that may be suitable for transition to tactical decision aids
  • Development of new sensors and systems that address ocean observing needs
  • Novel exploitation of existing sensing infrastructure
  • Novel sensing and modeling strategies employing complementary observation types or systems
  • Coupled/hybrid assimilation techniques that leverage a combination of numerical modeling and AI/ML approaches


The DRI will run for four years, with deployment opportunities and in situ observational studies expected to occur in 2022 and 2023. Collaborations amongst academic institutions, U.S. Navy Laboratories and Navy Warfare Centers are encouraged. Initial planning letters outlining proposed TFO DRI research are encouraged. The purpose of the first phase of planning letters is to support an analysis of alternatives by encouraging prospective investigators to submit a description of scientific ideas and a proposed area of study that would best support those ideas.

Multiple components, investigators and approaches will be supported under this initiative. Proposed collaborative structures at the planning letter stage are encouraged, but it is not required. As with all ONR DRIs, successful investigators funded by the program will be expected to work productively and constructively in an inter-disciplinary team environment, and activities will include participation in two DRI team meetings each year.

Request for Planning Letters

All planning letters should be submitted as PDF files no later than August 1, 2020 by email to