The Senate has just passed H.R. 2863, the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for FY 2006. Funding for basic research and a recently established education program for civilian scientists was increased because of an amendment offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and nine Republican and Democratic Members. The amendment passed by voice vote earlier this week.
This amendment increased funding in the bill for the Army and Air Force University Research Initiatives by an additional $10 million each and a similar Navy program by $5 million. The SMART National Defense Education Program received an additional $10 million. The DARPA University Research Program in Cybersecurity received an additional $5 million. A future FYI will provide the Senate's recommended levels of FY 2006 spending for DOD's science and technology programs.
The Kennedy-Collins amendment also included the following language: "It is the sense of the Senate that it should be a goal of the Department of Defense to allocate to basic research programs each fiscal year an amount equal to 15 percent of the funds available to the Department of Defense for science and technology in such fiscal year." For perspective, last year's figure was 11.6%, an amount $447 million short of the 15% allocation target in the amendment.
The Kennedy-Collins amendment was cosponsored by the following senators: Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
Kennedy described the amendment and its rationale as follows:
"Mr. President, our military is first in the world, because of the quality and training of our personnel and because of the technological sophistication of our equipment and weaponry. A large portion of the best civilian scientific minds in the Defense Department are nearing retirement age.
"I rise to thank my colleagues for their support and adoption of the amendment Senator Collins and I offered to ensure that the Department maintains the workforce that it needs to stay globally competitive and invests in crucial research and development efforts.
"Our amendment includes $10 million to double the committee's funding for the Department's current SMART Scholars program, which is essentially an ROTC program for the agency's civilian scientists. This represents a $17.8 million increase over the $2.5 million funding level provided last year – the program's first year in existence.
"It increases by $30 million the Department' s funding of basic research in science and technology, to ensure that its investment in this field is maintained and our military technology remains the best in the world.
"Our amendment provides sufficient funding for the full cost of college scholarships and graduate fellowships for approximately 100 science, technology, engineering, and math students. It increases basic research in the Army, Navy, Air Force, DARPA, and National Defense Education Program. It is supported by more than 60 of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in America.
"Defense Department-sponsored research has resulted in stunningly sophisticated spy satellites, precision-guided munitions, stealth equipment, and advanced radar. The research has also generated new applications in the civilian economy. The best known example is the Internet, originally a DARPA project.
"Advances in military technology often have their source in the work of civilian scientists in Department of Defense laboratories. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these scientists are nearing retirement. Today, nearly one in three DOD civilian science, technical, engineering, and mathematical employee is eligible to retire. In 7 years, 70 percent will be of retirement age.
"Another distressing fact is that the number of new scientists being produced by our major universities at the doctoral level each year has declined by 4 percent over the last decade. Many of those who do graduate are ineligible to work on sensitive defense matters, since more than a third of all science and engineering doctorate degrees awarded at American universities go to foreign students.
"It is unlikely that retiring DOD scientists will be replaced by current private industry employees. According to the National Defense Industrial Association, over 5,000 science and engineering positions are unfilled in private industry in defense-related fields.
"The Nation confronts a major math and science challenge in elementary and secondary education and in higher education as well. We are tied with Latvia for 28th in the industrialized world today in math education, and that is far from good enough. We have fallen from 3rd in the world to 15th in producing scientists and engineers. Clearly, we need a new National Defense Education Act of the size and scope passed nearly 50 years ago.
"At the very least, however, the legislation before us needs to do more to maintain our military's technological advantage. Last year, over 100 ‘highly rated' SMART Scholar applications were turned down because of insufficient funding. Our amendment has sufficient funds to support every one of those talented young people who want to learn and serve.
"It also increases the investment in basic research in science and technology. Investments by DOD in science and technology through the 1980s helped the United States win the cold war. But funding for basic research in the physical sciences, math and engineering has not kept pace with research in other areas. Federal funding for life sciences has risen fourfold since the 1980s. Over the same period, appropriations for the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics have remained essentially flat. Funding for basic research fell from fiscal year 1993 to fiscal year 2004 by more than 10 percent in real terms.
"The Defense Science Board has recommended that funding for Science and Technology reach 3 percent of total defense spending, and the administration and Congress have adopted this goal in the past. The board also recommended that 2 percent of that amount be dedicated to basic research. We must do better, and our amendment makes progress on this issue.
"I thank my colleagues for recognizing the importance of this amendment and for their support in its adoption. I hope that we will continue to see similar increases in these programs in the future."