Letter to Deficit Reduction Committee Highlights Importance of Defense Research

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Publication date: 
27 October 2011

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Yesterday  the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held a public hearing to  receive testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.  This hearing focused on defense and  nondefense discretionary spending, which is determined through annual appropriations  bills.

Discussion  about discretionary spending was largely at the macro level, with few individual  programs mentioned.  Elmendorf estimated there  could be a potential reduction in defense spending of up to $882 billion during  the next ten years as a result of this summer’s Budget Control Act.  The actual amount will depend on congressional  appropriations and whether automatic funding reductions occur as a result of inaction.   

At  the start of yesterday’s hearing, one of the committee’s co-chairs commented  that the committee has received many recommendations from Members of Congress  and congressional committees,  individuals on deficitreduction.gov, and groups. 

The  Coalition on National Security Research, to which the American Institute of  Physics, the American Physical Society, and the Optical Society of America  belong, sent the following letter to the committee earlier this month:

Dear  Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:

As  the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continues its important work,  the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR) urges the development of a  balanced bipartisan agreement that avoids the sequestration process as outlined  in the Budget Control Act.  This  agreement should also prioritize expenditures that provide economic growth and  recognize the value of defense research to not only the warfighter, but the  nation overall.

The  Defense Science and Technology (S&T) portfolio is the incubator for the  next generation of national security technologies.  The 6.1 basic research accounts support the  long-term scientific discovery that provides the foundational knowledge for new  technologies.  The 6.2 applied research  accounts refine discoveries by exploring and determining the operational  parameters and practicality of the technology to military needs.  The 6.3 advanced technology development  accounts support the creation of larger-scale hardware and technology to be  tested in realistic environments.

Investments  in the Defense S&T program have yielded cutting edge technologies and  innovations that have led to superiority on the battlefield, life-saving  therapies for wounded soldiers, and better quality of life for civilians.  New sensor technologies help detect and  neutralize threats on the battlefield from improvised explosive devices and  enhance underwater monitoring capabilities.   Battlefield medical protocols and prosthetics have been  revolutionized.  Furthermore,  technologies once created solely for military use, such as the Internet and  GPS, are now widely used around the globe.

Defense  S&T investments also underpin our economic vitality.  Companies specializing in these technologies  often originated in university labs and have become economic drivers that  provide thousands of high-quality jobs across the country.  Since 2007, the number of workers in science  and engineering occupations grew at an average annual rate of 6.2%, nearly 4  times the 1.6%       growth  rate for the total workforce older than age 18 during this period.  In addition, each job directly  created in the chain of manufacturing activity generates, on average, another  2.5 jobs in  such unrelated endeavors as operating restaurants, convenience stores, gas  stations and banks.

Defense  S&T programs also play a critical role in cultivating the next generation  of talented       engineers  and scientists. Programs such as the National Defense Science and Engineering       Graduate  Fellowship Program and the National Defense Education Program which includes       the  Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship, and the  National Security  Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship Program provide education and  technical workforce.

The  threats facing our nation are complex, unconventional and constantly  evolving.  The       Department  of Defense is in the process of assessing its ability to combat these threats  while       implementing  $465 billion in reductions over the next 10 years, as mandated by the Budget       Control  Act.  Further reductions through the  sequestration process could have serious consequences on the Department’s ability  to fund into the next-generation of technologies that       will  help keep our nation secure.  The  continued strength and global superiority of our defense       system  is rooted in the ability to develop a sophisticated technological response,  which flows       directly  from the defense S&T pipeline.  As  the Congress makes difficult decisions in light of the  tough fiscal climate, the Coalition strongly urges that critical investments in  defense research be  designated a priority, not only because of their importance to our national  security but also because of the long-term benefit they provide our national  economy.

The  committee must submit a plan by November 23, followed by its approval by Congress  about a month later, to avoid automatic reductions in discretionary funding that  would occur in January 2013.

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