“We're depending a great deal on being at the technological edge of the future.” – Defense Secretary Panetta
When the Department of Defense releases its full FY 2013 budget request on February 13, it will be based on the Budget Control Act passed last year that will reduce projected Pentagon spending by $487 billion over the next ten years. Under this plan, during the next five years, the active Army will be reduced from 562,000 to 490,000 soldiers, and the Marine Corps will be reduced from 202,000 to 182,000. These reductions are indicative of difficult budget cuts that will affect almost every program, entailing a total reduction from projected overall Penagon spending during the next ten years of 7 percent to 9 percent.
Despite “the significant fiscal constraints that have been imposed on the department,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the FY 2013 request protects science and technology program funding. In a briefing yesterday, Panetta said the following:
“with regards to the key investments in technology and new capabilities, we have to retain a decisive technological edge. We have to retain the kind of leverage the lessons of recent conflicts have given us. And we need to stay ahead of the most lethal and disruptive threats that we're going to face in the future.
“That meant protecting or increasing investments in cyber capabilities, the ability to project power in denied areas, special operations forces - the kind that we saw that conducted the bin Laden raid and the hostage rescue operation - homeland missile defense, and countering weapons of mass destruction. In order to protect vital investments for the future, we protected science and technology programs as well.”
Panetta later said:
“There's a risk, frankly, in the -- you know, the technological area. We're depending a great deal on being at the technological edge of the future. And as I've said, I think we even have to leap forward. If we're going to deal with the kind of challenges we're going to face, we've got to be smart enough, innovative enough, creative enough to be able to leap forward. Can we do that? Can we develop the kind of technology we're going to need to confront the future? You know, I'm confident we can. But there are risks associated with that.
“So, it's -- the risks we're going to be facing obviously come with some of the areas where, you know, we've had to reduce the budget. But what we've done is to try to develop the kind of agility and capability so that we can respond to the threats that we're going to face in the 21st century.
“And I think -- I think this is the force for the future. You know, are there risks going -- associated with it? You bet. Can we deal with those risks and make them acceptable? You bet.”
The forthcoming FY 2013 request was shaped by new strategic guidance that was released by President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey earlier this month, entitled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for the 21st Century Defense.” In the section “Toward the Joint Force of 2020” the strategy outlines eight “principles [that] will guide our force and program development.” It states:
“Finally, in adjusting our strategy and attendant force size, the Department will make every effort to maintain an adequate industrial base and our investment in science and technology. We will also encourage innovation in concepts of operation. Over the past ten years, the United States and its coalition allies and partners have learned hard lessons and applied new operational approaches in the counter terrorism, counterinsurgency, and security force assistance arenas, most often operating in uncontested sea and air environments. Accordingly, similar work needs to be done to ensure the United States, its allies, and partners are capable of operating in A2/AD, cyber, and other contested operating environments. To that end, the Department will both encourage a culture of change and be prudent with its ‘seed corn,’ balancing reductions necessitated by resource pressures with the imperative to sustain key streams of innovation that may provide significant long-term payoffs.”
A year ago the Obama Administration’s FY 2012 request for the three defense science and technology programs varied significantly. For FY 2012, the request was up by 14.5 percent for total 6.1 basic research programs as compared to the FY 2011 appropriation. The 6.2 and 6.3 requests were down: applied research was down by 6.0 percent, and advanced technology research by 15.8 percent.
The final FY 2012 appropriations bill passed by Congress reflected the budget request. Congress approved a 16.6 percent increase in funding for basic research programs, a reduction of 4.7 percent for applied research programs, and a 14.3 percent reduction for advanced technology research programs.