Support Expressed for Increases to DOD's FY 2009 Basic Research Budget

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Publication date: 
14 November 2007


In less than three months, President Bush will send his FY 2009 budget request to Congress. One of the more closely watched R&D numbers in that budget submission will be the Pentagon's request for its 6.1 basic research program. Six key Member of Congress and nine prominent CEOs have sent letters to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in support of a significant increase in basic research funding.

The two letters support a recommendation in an August 24 memo to Secretary Gates from John Young, Director of Defense Research and Engineering. Young's 13-page memo (described as a "strawman budget profile") recommends that the Pentagon increase its FY 2009 basic research request by $300 million, or 21.0 percent, over the FY 2008 request. Funding would then increase by $50 million a year through 2013. Under Young's memo, total new funding for basic research during the next five years would increase by $2,000 million. The Young memo can be read at

On October 26, the CEOs (or equivalents) of The Boeing Company; Intel; Battelle; Goodrich Corporation; American Defense Systems, Inc.; Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman Corporation; Raytheon; and Orbital Sciences Corporation sent a letter to Gates. Their letter, written on the letterhead of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, states:

 . . . currently DoD is greatly underinvesting in basic research. As overall Defense Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) has grown by over one-third in the last five years, investment in DoD basic research has remained essentially flat. The share of the DoD investment in S&T devoted to basic research has declined from 20 percent in 1980 to less than 12 percent in 2005. The Department has been proposing budgets for Defense S&T that fail to meet the target of three percent of the total Defense budget endorsed by the Defense Science Board and included in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review.

Information on the 3 percent target is available at The letter continues:

In light of the impending crisis in the defense workforce and the need to develop the next foundational national security technologies, we urge you to provide annual increases in the DoD basic research budget of $300-$500 million for the next five years. This would help DoD begin to recover from the recent underinvestment in basic research. We also urge the Department to restore its commitment to the three-percent overall target for Defense S&T beginning in its FY 2009 budget request. These investments are a relatively small but worthwhile price to pay to help ensure our nation's continued national and economic security.

The entire letter can be viewed here.

Four days later, Secretary Gates was sent a similar letter by six Members of the House of Representatives: Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ralph Hall (R-TX), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), and Judy Biggert (R-IL). Their letter states:

We support the views expressed by Mr. Young in his memo and urge you to take those views into account when considering your budget request for Fiscal Year 2009.

As Mr. Young notes, investments in Department of Defense (DoD) Science & Technology (S&T) programs, and particularly in foundational or basic science programs, are most often the investments that lead to groundbreaking advancements in our warfighting capabilities. DoD support for these programs is also vital to training U.S. students in science and engineering fields critical to our future national defense. Despite its importance, the DoD S&T budget has increased at a far slower rate than the DoD RDT&E budget. Furthermore, foundational science has been reduced to less than 15 percent of the total S&T budget in recent years, a level which historically exceeded 20 percent of the S&T budget.

President Bush signed the FY 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill yesterday, the only one of the twelve "must pass" funding bills enacted. Under this legislation, 6.1 basic research increases by 4.5% or $70.1 million to $1,633.7 million (see

Young's memo recommends an increase of $300 million in "foundational science" in FY 2009. While not stated in the memo, DOD traditionally compares its budget requests from year to year. The FY 2008 request for 6.1 research was $1,428.1 million. Under this memo, the FY 2009 request would be $1,728.1 million, an increase of $94.4 million, or 5.8 percent over this year's enacted appropriation. Compared to increases in the American Competitiveness Initiative, this hypothetical DOD increase is in line with requests for NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST (see

There is an important caveat. The DOD 6.1 account contains numerous earmarks, which OMB does not include in its core budget baseline. As a result, the Pentagon's FY 2008 request for 6.1 funding was down 8.2 percent from the previous year. OSTP Director John Marburger explained this reduction as follows: "the entire change in the FY08 Presidential budget request for DOD S&T comes from removing the FY07 earmarks to determine a meaningful base budget for this important research. The President is actually asking Congress to increase the S&T budget that DOD can devote to its core programs." Seen from the perspective of a FY 2008 budget in which earmarks are first removed, which is the perspective of DOD, OMB, and OSTP, the FY 2009 budget increase recommended in the Young memo is quite significant.

There is has been no public response to the Young memo from Secretary Gates. In the next ten days the Pentagon will receive notice from the Office of Management and Budget about its reaction to DOD's FY 2009 initial budget document. The public will likely have to wait until the first week in February to see how closely the budget number matches Director Young's recommendation. That 6.1 number is $1,728.1 million

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