MERIT, an acronym for Military Exploitation of Reconnaissance and Intelligence Technology program, is an initiative to ensure future capabilities are captured for use by the tactical community. The program is a yearly competitive process that provides "seed" money to develop and prototype capabilities that will increase the accessibility of National Space Reconnaissance data for the tactical operator.
Established in 1982 under the Defense Support Program Office (DSPO), the MERIT program provides funds to DOD service and National agencies to initiate programs that fall into specific areas. Prospective projects under the MERIT program must meet several requirements. Requirements include:
The Army proposals are submitted to the DSPO MERIT board by two Department of the Army MERIT voting members for competition for project funding on a yearly basis. A centralized selected MERIT panel with representatives from all the services and selected DOD organizations decides which projects will be funded. In 1998, 29 projects were selected by the MERIT board to receive funding and the Army received funding for five. The 1999 MERIT projects that are selected received funding in October of 1998.
ASPOs development of a small, compact Hybrid Optical Processor that successfully processes large amounts of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery in real time is an example of a successful MERIT project. This MERIT funded advanced SAR processing method benefits other organizations as well as the Army. There are also several MERIT projects that register national imagery to tactical imagery to improve geolocation accuracy for targeting and other purposes for the tactical commander. A successful MERIT project must have a solid, detailed transition plan to an operational user.
The Army derives many benefits from the yearly MERIT cycle. The program acts as a vehicle for funding small research and development projects to improve the availability of national data to the commander. Additionally, the Army also benefits from the other service and national agency projects that are developed under MERIT.