FY17 Appropriations Bills: Department of Defense

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Publication date: 
8 June 2016
Number: 
69

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have moved to soften or reverse most of the administration’s proposed cuts to the Department of Defense’s basic and applied research programs.

Last month, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills for the Department of Defense (DOD). The section pertaining to Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) expenditures is in Title IV of each bill. The corresponding sections of the House committee report and Senate committee report, which contain policy guidance and program funding details for the RDT&E accounts, begin on pages 199 and 138, respectively.

Three items within the RDT&E account of particular interest are the Basic Research, Applied Research, and Advanced Technology Development accounts. Together, these constitute what is referred to as DOD’s Science and Technology (S&T) program. The below tables compare the House and Senate figures for RDT&E and S&T. A table with the S&T subaccounts for each of the service branches is available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

FY17 DOD RDT&E Appropriations Summary Table

Funding Line FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request
Change
16-17
House Change
16-17
Senate Change
16-17
RDT&E 69,737 71,392 2.4% 70,293 0.8% 70,801 1.5%
S&T 12,996 12,501 -3.8% 13,030 0.3% 13,364 2.8%
Basic Research 2,309 2,102 -9.0% 2,124 -8.0% 2,265 -1.9%
Applied Research 4,996 4,815 -3.6% 4,962 -0.7% 5,115 2.4%
Advanced Technology Development 5,691 5,584 -1.9% 5,943 4.4% 5,984 5.2%
DARPA 2,868 2,973 3.7% 2,923 1.9% 2,909 1.4%

* All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and the percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures. Overseas Contingency Operations spending is excluded.

FY17 DOD S&T Appropriations Summary Table 

Funding Line FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request
Change
16-17
House Change
16-17
Senate Change
16-17
S&T 12,996 12,501 -3.8% 13,030 0.3% 13,364 2.8%
Army 2,689 2,267 -15.7% 2,576 -4.2% 2,758 2.6%
Navy 2,334 2,141 -8.3% 2,190 -6.2% 2,291 -1.8%
Air Force 2,481 2,486 0.2% 2,538 2.3% 2,628 6.0%
Defense-Wide 5,493 5,607 1.3% 5,726 4.3% 5,686 3.5%

* All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and the percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures. Overseas Contingency Operations spending is excluded.

Masked under a 2.4 percent increase for RDT&E, the president’s budget proposes to decrease S&T funding by 3.8 percent overall. Within S&T, basic research receives the largest cut: $207 million or 9 percent. Among the service branches, the Army and the Navy receive the brunt of the cuts to S&T spending.

Both the House and Senate defense appropriations bills would soften or reverse most of the proposed cuts, although the Senate is more generous—especially for basic research. Over the past decade, Congress has regularly exceeded the president’s requested amounts for S&T, as depicted in the below chart which was presented in testimony at an April 20 hearing on the DOD research budget.

Comparison of DOD S&T funding requests and appropriations. (Photo credit - Department of Defense)

Senate defends basic research

The Senate bill would increase S&T spending by 2.8 percent, which is $863 million over the president’s request and $334 million over the House figure. The committee justifies shoring up the basic research account in particular as follows:

The Committee believes that further investment in basic research must continue and is concerned with the minor increases being made in basic research. ... Basic research is the foundation of innovative breakthroughs that are critical to maintaining the Nation’s future technological edge. Investments in basic research not only provide advances in technology for our military men and women but also provide an important incubator for national labs and academic research institutions. These investments also encourage partnerships and collaboration with industry. In order to keep pace with the global challenges to come, the Committee believes that additional funding should be allocated to Federal research.

Nevertheless, basic research would still be subject to a decrease under the Senate bill, and Navy basic research is still hit with a 16.2 percent cut, similar to the 19.2 percent cut proposed in both the president’s request and the House bill.

Highlights from the House committee report

  • FFRDC Funding: Prohibits DOD from creating any new Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), decreases FFRDC funding by $126.8 million, and places limits on the amount of staff time that can be funded.
  • High temperature superconductors: Urges DOD to consider establishing a Manufacturing Innovation Institute focused on high temperature superconductors.
  • Supercomputer acquisition: Prohibits purchase of supercomputers not manufactured in the U.S.
  • Reinvention labs: States that the Science and Technology Reinvention Labs (STRLs) should be able to accept funding from other STRLs, agencies, academia, and industry.
  • Materials research: Commends the Army Research Laboratory for expanding its open campus concept to materials and manufacturing science labs.
  • Coastal research: Encourages the Navy to conduct additional research on the characteristics of magnetic and electric fields in coastal regions.
  • STEM education: Encourages DOD to improve STEM education opportunities for underrepresented minorities.

Highlights from the Senate committee report

  • FFRDC Funding: Prohibits DOD from creating any new FFRDCs, decreases FFRDC funding by $55.8 million, and places limits on the amount of staff time that can be funded.
  • FFRDCs and the Third Offset Strategy: Urges DOD to explicitly include FFRDCs in its strategy for developing “third offset” technologies.
  • Silicon Valley Outreach: Provides $28 million for the Defense Technology Innovation Program to build relationships with Silicon Valley technology firms and requests quarterly updates on the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUX) office’s activities.
  • Lab governance: Encourages the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, Development, and Engineering to conduct a study on alternative lab governance models and to consider establishing a pilot program that allows labs to implement new management approaches.
  • Technology transfer: Encourages DOD to continue placing an increased focus on technology transfer from the DOD labs.
  • Icebreaker construction: Provides an extra $1 billion to accelerate construction of a heavy icebreaker for the U.S. Coast Guard. The National Science Foundation currently relies on the Coast Guard’s sole remaining heavy icebreaker to assist with the annual resupply of McMurdo station in Antarctica.
  • Supercomputer acquisition: Prohibits purchase of supercomputers not manufactured in the U.S.
  • Quantum computing: Encourages DOD and DARPA to create a university-based cybersecurity lab and photonics foundry to help further develop U.S. quantum computing capabilities.
  • Materials research: Encourages the Army to accelerate expansion of its open campus concept to its materials and manufacturing science labs.
  • Nuclear Cruise Missile: Directs DOD to cooperate with the Secretary of Energy on a report detailing military requirements for an upgraded nuclear cruise missile.
  • Long-range threat detection: Encourages the Army to continue developing long-range Deep Ultraviolet Raman Spectroscopy detection technology.
  • Commercial weather data: Directs the Air Force to assess the feasibility of using commercial weather data to fill coverage gaps in cloud characterization and weather forecasting.
  • Satellite servicing: Expresses support for DARPA’s and NASA’s work on robotic satellite servicing technologies.
  • Small satellites: Recommends that the Operationally Responsive Space program continue research, development, and educational programs in launching small satellites designed and built by university students.
  • Medical photonics: Encourages DOD to maintain funding of military medical photonics research at historical levels in the department’s future budget requests.

Excerpts from the House and Senate committee reports

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports that accompany the House and Senate bills.

FFRDC Funding

House/Senate: “Sec. 8023. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act are available to establish a new Department of Defense (department) federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), either as a new entity, or as a separate entity administrated by an organization managing another FFRDC, or as a nonprofit membership corporation consisting of a consortium of other FFRDCs and other nonprofit entities. …

“(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, of the funds available to the department during fiscal year 2017, not more than 5,750 staff years of technical effort (staff years) may be funded for defense FFRDCs: Provided, That, of the specific amount referred to previously in this subsection, not more than 1,125 staff years may be funded for the defense studies and analysis FFRDCs: Provided further, That this subsection shall not apply to staff years funded in the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). …

House: “ … (f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the total amount appropriated in this Act for FFRDCs is hereby reduced by $126,800,000.”

Senate: “ … (f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the total amount appropriated in this Act for FFRDCs is hereby reduced by $55,800,000.”

Note: This language is from the bills, not the committee reports.

FFRDCs and the Third Offset Strategy

Senate: “The Committee recognizes that many government Federally Funded Research and Development Centers [FFRDCs] are developing cutting-edge technology that could be used for defense purposes in support of the Secretary of Defense’s Third Offset Strategy. The research and development investments being conducted by many FFRDCs, including the national security labs, are often classified or include contract work with small businesses that are accustomed to working with the Department of Defense and other government agencies. As the Department of Defense works to support the acceleration of the fielding or commercialization of offset technologies to counter the technological advantage of potential adversaries, the Committee urges the Department of Defense to include FFRDCs in its offset strategy and to commit to increased partnerships with FFRDCs and the small businesses which support them.”

Silicon Valley Outreach

Senate: “Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental office [DIUX].—The Committee recommends $28,000,000 for the Defense Technology Innovation program to strengthen and build relationships with Silicon Valley technology firms with expertise in technology innovation. The Committee understands this is a high priority program for the Secretary of Defense. In order to insure visibility and transparency of the execution of these funds, the Committee requests quarterly updates on the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental office and their efforts in leveraging innovation for the Department of Defense.”

Laboratory Governance

Senate: “Department of Defense Laboratory Alternative Governance Assessment Pilot Program.—The Committee encourages the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, Development and Engineering to conduct a study evaluating alternative governance models for Department of Defense laboratories. This review should build upon previous work and may result in a pilot program that permits the laboratories selected to implement new management approaches and governance methods that improve autonomy, decision-making and technology transfer opportunities.”

Technology Transfer

Senate: “The Committee recognizes the importance of technology transfer between the Federal Government and non- Federal entities, such as academia, nonprofit organizations, and State and local governments. Technology transfer lowers the cost of new defense-related technology development and ensures that taxpayer investments in research and development benefit the economy and the industrial base. The Committee encourages the Department of Defense to continue placing an increased focus on technology transfer programs by allocating sufficient funding and leveraging the work being performed by Federal laboratories.”

STEM Education

House: "The Committee remains concerned about the long-term development of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce pipeline for underrepresented minorities. The Committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to emphasize STEM education improvement within the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, Tribal and Native American Colleges, and Hispanic Colleges and Universities, and to focus on increasing the participation of minority students through engaged mentoring, enriched research experiences, and opportunities to publish, present, and network. The Committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to consider these factors when awarding competitive funding under this program to expand STEM opportunities for underrepresented minorities.”

S&T Reinvention Laboratories

House: “The Committee acknowledges the unique, valuable contributions of the Department of Defense Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories (STRL) to the national technology base. As such, the Committee believes that each STRL must be able to accept and execute funding from other STRLs, Department of Defense organizations, government agencies, industry, and academia.”

Icebreaker Construction

Senate: “In August of last year, the President of the United States visited the Arctic and upon his return announced plans to accelerate planned icebreaker construction from 2022 to 2020. During this announcement, the President expressed his commitment to work with Congress to make sure the United States produces an icebreaker fleet sufficient to meet our economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs. The Committee believes this was an important step to ensuring year-round access to the Polar Regions and increasing U.S. Government’s capability in these areas. ...

“While the effort to speed polar icebreaker acquisition by 2 years is commendable, the Committee believes more must be done now to expand our capabilities and to defend interests in the Polar Regions. In addition to concerns about our current fleet, the Committee notes that Russia has roughly 40 operational icebreakers and 11 icebreakers either planned or under construction. Therefore, to further accelerate production, the Committee recommends $1,000,000,000 in the ‘‘Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy’’ account to construct domestically the first U.S. Coast Guard operated ship for the Polar Icebreaker Recapitalization Project.”

Note: There is additional language on icebreaker construction in the committee report.

Supercomputer Acquisition

House/Senate: “Sec. 8049. None of the funds in this Act may be used to purchase any supercomputer which is not manufactured in the United States, unless the Secretary of Defense certifies to the congressional defense committees that such an acquisition must be made in order to acquire capability for national security purposes that is not available from United States manufacturers.”

Note: This language is from the bills, not the committee reports.

High Temperature Superconductors

House: “The Committee notes that high temperature superconductors offer the potential to reduce the magnetic signature of Navy warships, to accelerate the use of motors and generators for all-electric ships and aircraft, to develop minesweeping magnets, and to create magnetic energy storage systems and rail guns. The Committee urges the Secretary of Defense to consider establishing a Manufacturing Innovation Institute that focuses on high temperature superconductors.”

Quantum Computing

Senate: “The Committee is aware of the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] report on quantum computing technology. Additionally, the Committee is conscious of the work done by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] in the Quantum Information Science and Technology [QuIST] program to establish the first quantum key distribution network. The Committee believes more research and development by our defense national research organizations is warranted. The Committee encourages the Director of DARPA and the Secretary of Defense to work with the research labs to implement a university-based cybersecurity laboratory and photonics foundry with close involvement with industry partners, State government and the Federal Government to continue development of quantum computing capability.”

Materials Research

House: “The Committee supports continued expansion of the Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) efforts in research, education, and technology development in materials and metals processing science and engineering. These investments have the potential to accelerate transformation of the affordability, performance, and environmental sustainability of strategic materials vital to national security. The Committee values ARL’s recent expansion of its open campus concept to materials and manufacturing science laboratories and encourages such collaborations with the academic community and industry.”

Senate: “Material Development, Characterization, and Computational Modeling.—The Committee recognizes the importance of evaluating materials and technologies as well as designing and developing methodologies and models to enable enhanced lethality and survivability. Methods such as computational research allow for the development of models that predict the mechanical properties of materials that are used in research and development at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory [ARL]. These models and simulations, which are based on quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics principles, and thermodynamic simulations, and are tested via cold spray synthesis and mechanical testing, provide a cost savings to the Department of Defense by simulating materials prior to testing them to ensure mechanical properties will work together. Additionally, these methodologies allow for the enhanced development of technologies such as lightweight armors, protective structures, kinetic energy active protection, ballistic shock and mine blast protection, helmet technologies to prevent traumatic brain injury, and numerous other uses. The Committee encourages ARL to continue the utilization of computational modeling and simulations research to achieve greater cost savings. …

“Strategic Materials Research.—The Committee continues to recognize the importance of the Army Research Laboratory [ARL] in expanding research, education and technology development efforts in materials and metals processing science and engineering, aiming to transform the affordability, performance, and environmental sustainability of strategic materials. The Committee further notes that ARL’s Open Campus concept benefits the Army, the academic community, and industry through collaboration involving ARL’s research staff and facilities, leading to continued technological superiority for the U.S. warfighter. The Committee encourages the Army to consider accelerating expansion of its Open Campus approach to its Materials and Manufacturing Science laboratories to benefit strategic materials research. …

“Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments Program.—The Committee recognizes the critical role of the Army’s Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments program in strengthening the domestic capability to develop and manufacture essential protection materials and encourages the Army to continue this work, which serves the national interest.”

Coastal Research

House: “The Committee understands the importance of the littoral region to Navy operations worldwide. The Committee believes that additional research of the magnetic and electric field characteristics in coastal ocean regions and the development of predictive techniques to distinguish ships and submarines from naturally occurring background features would be beneficial for littoral operations. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Navy to conduct additional research in this critical area.”

Nuclear Cruise Missile

Senate: “Long Range Stand-Off Weapon.—The fiscal year 2017 budget request includes $95,604,000 for the Long Range Standoff Weapon. The Committee continues to support the Air Force’s program to develop a follow-on capability to the Air Launched Cruise Missile and recommends fully funding the request. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to cooperate with the Secretary of Energy, in conjunction with the Nuclear Weapons Council, on a report to the Committees on Appropriations of both the House and Senate on the W80 warhead and the Long Range Standoff Weapon, as delineated in Senate Report 114–236.”

Long-Range Threat Detection

Senate: “Long-Range Threat Detection.—The Committee recognizes long-range Deep Ultraviolet Raman Spectroscopy technology provides effective threat detection of explosives and that this technology has been extended to chemical warfare agents, nuclear weapon processing chemicals, narcotics, and hazardous materials. The Army Research Laboratory is commended for developing these multiple application, cost-effective sense systems and is encouraged to continue its research in this area.”

Commercial Weather Data

Senate: “The Committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to examine the possibility of using commercial weather data to supplement existing assets and fill coverage gaps in cloud characterization and weather forecasting.”

Satellite Servicing

Senate: “Robotic Servicing of Geostationary Satellites.—The Committee supports the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s [DARPA] efforts to work with industry to develop and demonstrate robotic satellite servicing technologies in geostationary orbit. DARPA’s work is complementary to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] Restore-L mission to demonstrate robotic satellite servicing in low Earth orbit [LEO]. NASA’s Restore- L and DARPA’s planned Robotic Servicing of Geostationary Satellites [RSGS] will both demonstrate key technologies and enable a commercially provided sustained servicing capability to inspect, repair, relocate and add payloads to satellites. The Committee is hopeful that NASA’s Restore-L, RSGS and the subsequent commercial partners will foster a more capable and resilient space architecture for the U.S. Government and U.S. commercial satellite industry.”

Small Satellites

Senate: “Operationally Responsive Space.—The Committee recommends that the Operationally Responsive Space program continue research, development, and educational programs in launching small satellites designed and built by university students. These efforts can both advance state-of-the-art technology and help build the technological workforce needed in our space industry.”

Military Medical Photonics

Senate: “Military Medical Photonics research improves battlefield patient care using photomedicine technologies and exemplifies how mission-oriented research can benefit both military and civilian populations. Recent breakthroughs in this research include major technology advances in burn and wound management, tissue imaging and bonding for vascular and reconstructive surgery, diagnosis, and treatment of major eye diseases and trauma, critical care sensors and monitors, early assessment of inhalation airway injury, rapid imaging of coronary artery disease, and normalization of severe scarring from wounds of war. This program has made great progress in the development of important, innovative technologies for battlefield medicine, and the Committee encourages the Department to maintain funding for this research at historical levels in future budgets.”