Both the Senate and House authorization committees with jurisdiction over the Defense Department have held hearings on the Administration's FY 2005 request for defense science and technology programs. While support was given to allocating 3 percent of DOD's budget for science and technology programs on both sides of the witness tables, no firm indications were given about what the authorizers will recommend in their forthcoming bills.
In the last few years, support has been building to devote 3 percent of the DOD budget for 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 defense S&T programs. This figure was first recommended by the Defense Science Board, and later included in the Quadrennial Defense Review issued in late 2001 (see http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2001/130.html.) While there is a range of opinion about the usefulness of this rule-of- thumb figure, it has become an often-cited benchmark when discussing defense S&T funding levels. The Coalition for National Security Research, to which AIP and several Member Societies belong, adopted an FY 2005 funding statement based on this 3 percent figure, which "encourages Congress to ensure the future safety and technological superiority of the U.S. fighting force by providing at least 3 percent of DOD spending to core S&T programs, or $12.05 billion in FY05. We further recommend that the Administration and Congress undertake a five-year program to reverse the declining percentage of funding within the S&T portfolio that supports basic research." (See http://www.aip.org/gov/cnsr05.html for the full text of this statement.) The FY 2005 Administration S&T request is 2.61 percent, down from the 2.68 percent figure that was requested a year ago. The S&T budget request for next year is $10.5 billion, down from $12.1 billion this year.
The 3 percent figure was cited several times at the March 3 hearing of the Senate Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, chaired by Pat Roberts (R-KS). In his opening remarks, Roberts spoke of "how important it is if we can somehow meet the goal of 3 percent of defense spending for science and technology and maintain the technological lead that is absolutely essential if we are going to be successful or continue to be successful in the global war on terrorism." He later told the DOD witnesses that "I have questions on the long-term viability of our current investment strategy and concern about the department's apparent deviation from its projected 3 percent goal for S&T. I know that Senator [Jack] Reed [D-RI] and Senator [Susan] Collins [R-ME] share my view that that is a goal we should meet."
Reed, who is the subcommittee's Ranking Member, also spoke of how he shared the chairman's concern, saying that the Administration's FY 2005 request would cut S&T spending by $1.5 billion from the current budget (see http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2004/013.html.) "The reductions in these programs may severely impact the work that is done by our nation's high-tech small businesses, as well as the university research programs that are training the technical workforce of the future," Reed said. Wayne Allard (R-CO) also spoke of the importance of the 3 percent allocation goal.
The senior military and civilian DOD witnesses indicated their support of this goal. Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, Chief of Naval Research, also spoke of the importance of basic research. He stated, "I have learned the value of sustained investment in basic research at a critical level." The proportion of the DOD S&T budget devoted to 6.1 basic research has been declining, from nearly 20 percent in the early 1980s to now less than 12 percent of the portfolio.
Yesterday's hearing of the House Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee touched on many of the same themes as the Senate hearing. Chairman Jim Saxon (R-NJ) mentioned the level of S&T spending as one of several important questions the subcommittee is grappling with in its deliberations. His concern was shared by other members of the subcommittee, who all expressed support for defense science and technology programs. Members' questions at this House hearing focused more on combating threats and specific weapons systems.
Last November, the House and Senate defense authorization committees wrote in the report accompanying their FY 2004 authorization bill:
"Despite the positive aspects of the Department's Science and Technology Program, the conferees are concerned about long-term projections for reductions in DOD science and technology as a percentage of total obligation authority, which are well below the three percent level, and in short-term trends in the science and technology accounts of some of the military departments and defense agencies." They also remarked, "The conferees remain concerned that the level of investment in basic, long-term research remains anemic. This account will provide the next generation of warfighters with the equipment, training, and protection they will require in future conflicts. As the investment in science and technology continues to grow towards the Secretary's three percent goal, the basic research accounts must grow at comparable rates. In the face of growing near- term requirements and budget pressures, the Department must work to preserve its long range view of technology development and embrace the role that fundamental research plays in the future of our military. The recent successes of the technology base in the Global War On Terrorism should not lead to an expectation of science on demand."
It is now up to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and the Appropriations Committees in each chamber, to determine how to meet the challenges of today's security demands, as well as to prepare for the challenges that will face the United States in the coming years.