Defense Authorization Committees Support Increase in Basic Research Funding

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Publication date: 
30 May 2008

One of the notable components of the Bush Administration's FY 2009 request for science and technology programs was the dramatic proposed increase in 6.1 basic research funding for the Department of Defense. Both the House Armed Services Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee responded by recommending even higher levels of 6.1 funding in their FY 2009 bills, as well as higher funding for the Pentagon's other two science and technology programs.

Ultimate FY 2009 funding for the Pentagon's science and technology programs will be set in the defense appropriations bill. There has traditionally been some coordination between the defense authorization and appropriations bills, so the actions taken by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees this month are a promising sign.

The Administration sent its FY 2009 Defense Department budget to Congress in early February with a 18.9 percent requested increase in total funding for the 6.1 basic research programs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and defense-wise agencies such as DARPA (as compared to its FY 2008 request.) Total FY 2009 funding for the defense science and technology programs would increase by 6.5 percent over the FY 2008 request in the proposed budget. (The Administration calculates year-to-year changes based on the requests and not on the actual appropriation because of extensive earmarking in the appropriations bills.) The February request followed memos from a senior Pentagon official, and from the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy called for higher defense S&T funding in FY 2009.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined his thinking regarding research and development funding in his written testimony to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee last week:

"As changes in this century’s threat environment create strategic challenges - irregular warfare, weapons of mass destruction, disruptive technologies - this request places greater emphasis on basic research, which in recent years has not kept pace with other parts of the budget.

"This request for $11.5 billion will sustain ongoing science and technology research. Within this category, the FY 2009 budget includes $1.7 billion for basic research initiatives. In total, I have directed an increase of about $1 billion over the next five years for fundamental, peer-reviewed basic research -- a two percent increase in real annual growth."

The House and Senate Armed Services Committee reacted favorably to the Pentagon's request. Said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and his colleagues in their report 110-652 accompanying the FY 2009 defense authorization bill, H.R. 5658:

"The committee applauds the Department's increased investment in basic research as noted in the fiscal year 2009 budget request. The committee also recognizes that in a difficult budget environment, this request represents a 2 percent increase over the appropriated amount for fiscal year 2008 and a 16 percent increase in real terms over the Department's fiscal year 2008 request for basic research. The committee supports this increase and reminds the Department that the committee noted strong concerns in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181) over the continued decline in the Department of Defense basic research budgets and its impact to the national security and our future science and engineering workforce. The committee strongly urges the Department to sustain this increase."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and his colleagues also responded favorably to the Pentagon's request for basic research funding. Under a section entitled "Army Basic Research," Senate Committee Report 110-335 accompanying S. 3001 states:

"The committee commends the Army for increasing investments in basic research by over $75.0 million relative to the fiscal year 2008 budget request. The committee notes that the previous Director of Defense Research and Engineering has called for increases in fundamental research of $300.0 to $500.0 million per year to support focused efforts in discovery and innovation on crucial problems for national security. Consistent with that effort, the committee recommends a series of increases to support mission-informed basic research."

There is similar language under "Air Force Basic Research Programs:"

"The committee commends the Air Force for increasing its investments in basic research in the fiscal year 2009 budget request. This is consistent with the National Research Council's 2005 report entitled 'Assessment of Department of Defense Basic Research,' [see previous FYI] which recommended that 'the Department of Defense should redress the imbalance between its current basic research allocation, which has declined critically over the past decade, and its need to better support the expanded areas of technology, the need for increased unfettered basic research, and the support of new researchers.'"

Note that House Report 110-652 and Senate Report 11–335 contain extensive language regarding specific science and technology programs; see this site to read copies of these documents.

The full House passed the defense authorization bill on May 22 by a vote of 384 to 23. The Senate bill has been sent to the floor. Here are the overall figures:

6.1 Basic Research:
FY 2008 request: $1,428.1 million
FY 2009 request: $1,698.6 million
House bill: $1,746.7 million
Senate bill: $1,741.5 million

6.2 Applied Research:
FY 2008 request: $4,356.7 million
FY 2009 request: $4,244.9 million
House bill: $4,450.9 million
Senate bill: $4,438.9 million

6.3 Applied Research:
FY 2008 request:$4,986.9 million
FY 2009 request: $5,531.8 million
House bill: $5,682.4 million
Senate bill: $5,714.9 million

Total 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 Research:
FY 2008 request: $10,771.6 million
FY 2009 request: $11,475.4 million
House bill: $12,060.0 million
Senate bill: $11,895.3 million