Effort Underway to Increase Defense Basic Research Funding

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Publication date: 
9 March 2006

The FY 2007 budget request that President Bush sent to Congress earlier this year proposes a cut of 3.3% in defense basic research spending (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/025.html). A bipartisan effort is underway in the Senate to demonstrate to defense authorizers and appropriators that there is widespread support for a "ten-percent increase for 6.1 basic research programs in FY 2007 and in subsequent years."

Constituent interest and support of this effort will be important to the success of this effort. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) sent a letter to their colleagues asking for their signatures on two letters to be sent to Senate Defense Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Ranking Member Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-VA) and Ranking Member Carl Levin (D-MI). The wording of the letters is identical.

Senatorial staff read many such "Dear Colleague" letters every week. They are more likely to call one of these letters to the attention of their senator if constituents have expressed an interest in the letter and the program that it is in support of. See http://www.aip.org/gov/nb1.html for information on writing to a Member of Congress with links to e-mail systems.

The text of the February 21 letters from Bingaman, Santorum, Domenici and Mikulski supporting a 10% increase in defense 6.1 basic research funding in FY 2007 follows:

"We write to urge you to support Pentagon-funded basic research (budget account ‘6.1') programs in the FY2007 Defense Appropriations Bill at robust levels. Specifically, we urge your adoption of the recommendation contained in the National Academies (NAS) report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, calling for a ten-percent increase in basic defense research in FY2007. We believe that a great effort in support of basic defense research is absolutely critical to meet the unprecedented military and economic security challenges facing our nation now and in the future.

"Much of our nation's economic and military superiority has been built on past investments in basic research at the Department of Defense and the human talent base that such investments have generated. Radar, digital computers, cryptology, wireless mobile communications, the Internet, lasers and fiber optics in communications and in medicine, composite materials, satellite navigation, and global positioning systems (GPS) are all technologies that came entirely or largely out of past Defense research investments. These technological advances, and the scientists and engineers behind them, have been of immeasurable benefit to the nation, helping to grow our economy and to ensure that our military forces are the best equipped and most capable in the world.

"Today, there is growing concern that United State's scientific and technological leadership is in jeopardy. During the past two years, a number of organizations - including the NAS, the Centers for Strategic International Studies, the Council on Competitiveness, and the Business Roundtable, among others - have noted with alarm the signs of U.S. complacency emerging in scientific and technological fields in which our dominance was unquestioned not so long ago. These groups cite evidence that America's continued capacity to innovate is stagnating at the same time that countries such [as] China and India are increasing theirs. They also warn that actions must be taken to both improve math and science education and to encourage more U.S. students to pursue degrees in science, math and engineering.

"As President Bush said in his State of the Union Address, ‘to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people - and we are going to keep that edge.' Starting with the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill, and the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) passed in 1958, the national security of this country has been intimately tied to educational opportunity and developing talent. Today, the 6.1 basic research accounts fund the newly authorized Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART)/National Defense Education Program (NDEP) program and other educational programs such as the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships. Increased appropriations for these basic research accounts will help the Department of Defense to attract the best and brightest young Americans into studying the most critical areas of national security need.

"In its report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a National Academies panel lead by former Lockheed-Martin CEO Norm Augustine, recommends increasing federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering - including DOD sponsored research - by 10 percent annually over the next seven years. These increases are needed to address years of under funding of basic research in the physical sciences and engineering and to ensure our future scientific and technological leadership. At DOD alone, the National Research Council reported last year that, from 1993 to 2004, the funding for 6.1 basic research declined by 10 percent and 18 percent in real terms according to the inflation indexes used by the DOD and the Consumer Price Index (CPI), respectively.

"We hope that you will agree with us that the challenges our nation faces demand a strong response now so that we will continue to enjoy scientific and technological superiority in the future. We believe that a ten-percent increase for 6.1 basic research programs in FY2007 and in subsequent years, as recommended by the NAS, will lay the foundation to enable the United States to sustain its military and economic superiority."

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