At a March 31 hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, a senior Defense Department official and commanders from the Air Force, Army, and Navy voiced support for the future allocation of 3% of the Defense Department's budget to science and technology programs. The subcommittee's senators also expressed strong support for S&T, although they gave no indication about the FY 2004 authorization levels for the 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 programs.
Subcommittee chairman Pat Robert (R-KS) opened the two-hour hearing by declaring that S&T is "critical" to the nation's defense, even though is but a small slice of the overall DOD budget. The pay off from such investments is tenfold, he stated, resulting in "awesome" military superiority. The challenge, Roberts said, was in rapidly moving laboratory-developed technologies to the battlefield.
Ranking Minority Member Jack Reed's (D-RI) remarks were similarly supportive. He spoke of the need to "faithfully invest a small but stable" amount of money in the S&T program, and remarked that the Bush Administration's FY 2004 request of 2.69% of the total defense budget for S&T programs fell short of the 3% mark. Long-term projections for FY 2009 would result in an even lower spending level of 2.4%, he said.
The 3% target was in the 2001 "Quadrennial Defense Review"(see /fyi/2001/130.html). Congress appropriated 3.2% of the defense budget for the S&T programs for this year.
The FY 2004 Bush Administration request for the three programs is $10,232 million, which is a 4.9% reduction from the current budget of $10,763 million. Michael Wynne, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition and Technology) addressed the overall funding level in both his written and oral testimony. The DOD S&T request is 2.69% of the total DOD request, he said, characterizing this as "a very good budget request." Noting that the administration has increased the budget request by almost 25% in just two years, Wynne cautioned that "simply adding money to the S&T accounts will not, by itself, ensure transformation."
Each of the three commanders (General Paul J. Kern, USA; General Lester L. Lyles, USAF; and Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer, USN) outlined in their written and oral testimony the importance of S&T to the nation's defense. All expressed concern about future shortfalls in the science and engineering workforce, as did Wynne. Many cited nanotechnology as an emerging force in the transformation of the nation's military.
In answer to a question from Reed about the 3% funding goal, each of the witnesses described their support for it as a worthy benchmark. Dyer added a caveat: the challenge of being able to afford within budget constraints everything that needed to be done. Later expanding his remarks, he told the senators that it was difficult to ascertain how much money was enough, adding that the S&T program must be attractive to retain the workforce. Lyles commented that achieving the 3% goal immediately would be difficult, saying it would be necessary to prioritize where dollars are to be spent. He spoke of the need to leverage available funding.
Also attending the hearing were Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). They discussed the importance of S&T to national defense, as well as stability in annual funding and overall funding levels. Wynne characterized the S&T funding process as cyclic: "in a given year it can be a little down or a little up." Some of the commanders spoke of previous shortfalls in procurement, and how the emphasis on spending over the next few years will be on transforming the military.
Roberts concluded the hearing by asking about hiring procedures, and the ability of the services to track the development of foreign research. His final request to the witnesses was that they provide him with a list of unfunded S&T priorities.