Following the 8 percent increase enacted for Defense Department S&T funding in fiscal year 2017, the Senate and House are respectively proposing 0.5 and 2 percent cuts for fiscal year 2018.
The Senate Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill for the Department of Defense on Nov. 21, over two months after the House passed its version of the bill as part of a larger government-wide appropriations package. The bills are each accompanied by a report containing policy guidance for the DOD as well as detailed instructions for the allocation of the department’s budget.
Both the Senate and House bills would follow President Trump’s proposal to increase funding for DOD’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) activities by over $10 billion, or well over 10 percent. However, within that budget, funding levels for the three S&T accounts — Basic Research, Applied Research, and Advanced Technology Development — would collectively decrease 2 percent under the House bill and 0.5 percent under the Senate bill. Those cutbacks, though, are more modest than the 6 percent decrease proposed in the president’s budget.
The DOD bill is one of 12 that the chambers must reconcile to arrive at a final spending package covering the remainder of fiscal year 2018, which began on Oct. 1. Before Congress can reach an agreement on spending, though, it must first navigate an array of other legislative challenges. Among them, lawmakers are feeling significant pressure from DOD, other agencies, and various outside interest groups to raise statutory budget caps. In fact, both DOD spending bills exceed current defense spending caps by about $70 billion, and if either were enacted without raising them, it would trigger an automatic, across-the-board cut of approximately 13 percent.
Funding proposals vary among service branch accounts
While the Trump administration has advocated significantly higher military spending overall, its proposal to cut DOD’s S&T accounts by 6 percent reflects the department’s recent prioritization of late-stage development, prototyping, and testing. The cut also follows an almost 8 percent overall increase in those same accounts for fiscal year 2017, enacted in May. The House and Senate bills are, by comparison, proposing relatively slight adjustments from the currently enacted levels.
The House and Senate bills do, though, propose more significant adjustments within the S&T accounts of the individual service branches and defense-wide programs. Over 40 percent of the department’s S&T spending is on defense-wide S&T, about half of which is for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Current proposals continue the upward trend in funding for the defense-wide accounts, with the administration proposing a 3 percent increase, the House a 6 percent increase, and the Senate a marginal increase.
Army S&T has been a bone of contention in recent years, with Congress pushing funding upward against administration attempts to reel it back in. The Trump administration has proposed a 22 percent cut, and Congress is partially acquiescing, with the House suggesting a 11 percent cut and the Senate 4 percent.
Proposals for the Air Force’s and Navy’s S&T programs are roughly in line with proposals for DOD S&T as a whole. The Senate is proposing to increase Air Force S&T by 3 percent, while the House and administration are proposing a 2 and a 4 percent cut, respectively. The Senate, meanwhile, would impose a 2 percent cut on Navy S&T, which is less than the House’s and administration’s respective proposals for a 7 percent and an 8 percent cut. There appears to be a consensus among all parties that the recent 16 percent reduction in the Navy’s basic research budget should be partially reversed.
Additional funding details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Selected items of congressional interest
Materials R&D: Both the Senate and House reports contain passages praising DOD’s materials R&D programs and the use of new materials for military applications. The House report also calls for DOD to “survey and prioritize future needs with advanced materials for national security applications, assess material sustainment issues across Department of Defense platforms, identify solutions capable of improving military readiness and reducing cost, identify gaps in the knowledge base, and provide recommendations to improve the talent pipeline in the advanced materials field.”
However, line-item appropriations for applied materials research appear set to halt their recent, congressionally driven growth, with both the House and the Senate bringing their proposals back closer to the administration’s request.
Directed energy: Citing DOD’s difficulties in transitioning directed energy technology into viable acquisitions programs, the Senate report directs the department to prepare a report on the anticipated costs and timeframes involved with making systems currently under development ready for operational use. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which Congress passed this month, directs DOD to develop a new program to award contracts for prototyping and demonstrating directed energy weapons system.
NSF telescopes: Noting that “other federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, maintain older space tracking and surveillance assets that may potentially assist the Air Force with its own space tracking and surveillance mission,” the House report directs the Air Force to assemble a report on potential uses of such facilities in coordination with the NSF director. NSF is currently divesting from some of its older observatories, including the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, and is seeking partners to operate the facilities and to take over much of their funding.
DOD lab governance: The Senate report encourages DOD to conduct a study of alternative governance models for its labs, which could result in “a pilot program that permits the laboratories selected to implement new management approaches and governance methods that improve autonomy, decision-making and technology transfer opportunities.”
Army Open Campus initiative: Both the Senate and House reports praise the Open Campus model pioneered at the Army Research Lab (ARL), which facilitates collaboration with academic and industrial researchers. The Senate report encourages the Army to consider extending the model to its materials and manufacturing science labs. The House bill proposes that $4 million be appropriated for giving academic researchers joint appointments with ARL’s “extended campuses” in different regions.
Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO): DOD’s big-ticket initiative to rapidly advance new technological applications is set to continue its growth, with the administration proposing to increase its primary budget from $835 million to almost $1.2 billion. The Senate adds $25 million above the request while the House is proposing only slightly more than $1 billion in funding. The Senate report directs DOD to keep SCO within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Current DOD plans call for SCO to report to begin reporting to the assistant secretary of defense for advanced capabilities, a position to be created early next year.
Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx): DOD’s initiative to contract with innovative firms and universities continues to divide congressional opinion. The administration again requested about $30 million for DIUx. Last year, the House proposed to zero out this funding and this year is proposing $15 million. The Senate is proposing almost $35 million.
Committee report comparison
The expandable tabs below contain excerpts from the House and Senate committee reports that accompany the chambers’ appropriations bills. Some of this language may be considered to reflect the views of Congress once a final spending package is enacted, if it is not preempted by new language in a final spending deal.
Senate: “Strategic Materials Research — The Committee continues to recognize the importance of the Army Research Laboratory [ARL] in expanding research, education, and technology development efforts in materials and metals processing science and engineering, aiming to transform the affordability, performance and environmental sustainability of strategic materials. The Committee further notes that ARL's Open Campus concept benefits the Army, the academic community, and industry through collaboration involving ARL's research staff and facilities, leading to continued technological superiority for the U.S. warfighter. The Committee encourages the Army to consider accelerating expansion of its Open Campus approach to its Materials and Manufacturing Science laboratories in order to benefit strategic materials research.”
Senate: “Material Development, Characterization, and Computational Modeling — The Committee recognizes the importance of evaluating materials and technologies as well as designing and developing methodologies and models to enable enhanced lethality and survivability. Methods such as computational research allow for the development of models that predict the mechanical properties of materials that are used in research and development at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory [ARL]. These models and simulations, which are based on quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics principles and thermodynamic simulations, and are tested via cold spray synthesisand mechanical testing, provide a cost savings to the Departmentof Defense by simulating materials prior to testing them toensure mechanical properties will work together. Additionally,these methodologies allow for the enhanced development of technologies such as lightweight armors, protective structures, kinetic energy active protection, ballistic shock and mine blast protection, helmet technologies to prevent traumatic brain injury, and numerous other uses. The Committee encourages ARL to continue the utilization of computational modeling and simulations research to achieve greater cost savings.”
Senate: “Materials Under Extreme Dynamic Environments — The Committee recognizes the critical role of the Army's Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments program in strengthening the domestic capability to develop and manufacture essential protection materials and encourages the Secretary of the Army to continue research in this area.”
Senate: “Materials Research — The Committee urges the Office of Naval Research to support research and development that addresses materials homogeneity and integration related to electronic and photonic technologies. The results of fundamental electronic and photonic materials research can be more rapidly translated into military and commercial applications in portable electronics and displays, such as sensors, communications systems, power systems, and enemy monitoring technology.”
House: “Advanced Material Solutions for Defense Applications — Advanced materials, composites, and manufacturing process are critical to sustain military readiness and superiority. New materials and improvements to existing materials are important for applications for aircraft, armor, munitions, prosthetics, and batteries. While investments in fundamental and applied materials research and development have led to notable advancements, challenges remain to understand and characterize materials performance and reliability for critical defense applications. Performance and reliability issues are found across the Services that impact current and new systems and the life extension of existing platforms. An assessment is required to determine the current status and necessary steps to address gaps and improve knowledge utilization to enhance defense readiness through collaboration across research and development sectors. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to perform such an assessment with collaboration from academic researchers and the commercial sector and to determine advanced materials solutions for defense applications. The assessment should survey and prioritize future needs with advanced materials for national security applications, assess material sustainment issues across Department of Defense platforms, identify solutions capable of improving military readiness and reducing cost, identify gaps in the knowledge base, and provide recommendations to improve the talent pipeline in the advanced materials field. The Committee directs the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) to brief the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the results of this study not later than April 30, 2018.”
House: “Materials for Extreme Environments — The Committee is aware that the Air Force is conducting research into the development of complex materials and structures for use on weapon systems operating in extreme environments. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to expand such research to two-dimensional materials beyond graphene, including oxide materials that are suitable for operationally relevant extreme environments.”
House: “Domestic Supply of High Performance Material for Soldier Protection — The Committee recognizes the national security need to provide soldiers with advanced lightweight transparent armor made of laminated films to improve face and eye protection. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Army to ensure that a secure, domestic source of high performance, strong, transparent polymer films exists for the production of a new generation of lightweight transparent armor that provides superior ballistic protection, optical properties, and operational capabilities.”
House: “Refractory Metal Alloys — The Committee supports Air Force research into refractory metal alloys and recognizes that these alloys may provide a contribution to the development of a new generation of jet propulsion systems. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to continue the exploration of refractory metal alloys that have higher stress and temperature tolerances and that may potentially lead to self-healing jet turbine parts.”
Senate: “The Committee notes that robust directed energy technology investments have not produced acquisition programs or fielded capabilities sufficient to warfighter requirements. The Department of Defense has consistently described the potential warfighting advantages of directed energy programs, as well as their concern about the growing operational capabilities and developments of foreign adversaries in this technology area. Therefore, the Committee directs the Undersecretary of Defense (Research and Engineering) to conduct a review across the services to identify directed energy technologies that can be transitioned out of the laboratories and provide a report to the congressional defense committees no later than 120 days after the enactment of this act which describes the technology readiness levels of existing programs, an assessment of both the time frame for potential transition of each program to a program of record/fielded technology, as well as funds required to complete the technology transition.”
House: “The Committee understands that technologies such as advanced laser coating removal, repair, and additive restoration of aircraft surfaces could lead to significant increases in weapon system availability while reducing cost and environmental impact. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to support and enhance depot maintenance by further developing advanced laser technologies that can be qualified and incorporated at Air Force depots for de-painting, restoration, and repair of aircraft surfaces for both metal and composite surfaces.”
Senate: “The Committee notes advances made by our adversaries in advanced energetics and believes the United States would benefit from a renewed, long-term investment in research and development for advanced energetics to increase the lethality, range and speed of weapons, develop new leap-ahead capabilities, and grow the national energetics workforce. Therefore, the Committee recommends additional funds for multi-domain research, development, prototyping and experimentation to lead to energetic weapons improvement. The Committee encourages the Office of Naval Research to execute the funding for the necessary efforts best suited to advance the overall knowledge, expertise and capability of energetics, to conduct a pilot program in rapid prototyping, technology transfer, technology business incubation and continuing education for the Navy energetics workforce, and to incorporate these developments into advanced weapon systems, when technologically feasible, as appropriate.”
House: “The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Army to demonstrate, through the application of novel manufacturing pilot processes, next generation insensitive energetic materials that enable increased gun-launched munition performance to achieve longer ranges and increased terminal effects against a spectrum of threats.”
Senate: “The Committee recommends $15,000,000 in additional funds for Navy alternative energy research, and $10,000,000 for renewable energy technologies. The Committee notes the fiscal and operational value of investing in alternative energy research and encourages the Navy to continue research, development, test and deployment of advanced energy systems that have the potential to reduce the cost of energy and increase energy security, reliability and resiliency at Department of Defense facilities. The Committee understands that the integration of emerging land- and ocean-based energy generation and energy efficiency technologies could potentially improve the operational security and resiliency of critical physical and cyber-physical infrastructure and encourages the Navy to invest in energy demonstration activities relating to Department of Defense facilities and activities in coordination with other Federal agencies and entities.”
Senate: “The Committee continues to support Navy investments in power generation and energy storage research. The Committee notes that the development and deployment of lithium-ion batteries are critical to Department of Defense missions, but that safety incidents restrict their operational use. Therefore, the Committee believes that the development and qualification of technologies that improve the safety in lithium-ion batteries should be a research priority.”
House: “The Committee supports continued research in power generation and energy storage and notes that the development and deployment of lithium-ion batteries are critical to current and future missions. However, the Committee understands that safety concerns have often hindered the operational use of lithium-ion batteries. The Committee believes that the development and qualification of materials technologies, such as non-flammable electrolytes, aimed at improving lithium-ion battery safety and performance should be a research priority.”
Silicon Carbide Power Modules
Senate: “The Committee notes the recommendations in the 2015 Naval Power and Energy System Technology Development Roadmap for the development of advanced power electronics, to include silicon carbide power modules, which the Committee understands can reduce the size and weight of electronic systems needed to power advanced sensors and weapon systems. Noting space limitations in a shipboard environment, the Committee encourages the Chief of Naval Research to invest in cost reduction initiatives and the qualification of silicon carbide power modules in order to enable planned deployment of high-power, mission-critical systems on Navy platforms in the near future.”
House: “The Committee supports the Navy’s investment to develop advanced power and energy technology to meet requirements for higher electric power loads through efficient means. The use of silicon carbide power modules may be able to reduce the size and weight of power conversion modules and other electronic systems necessary for advanced sensors and weapon systems. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Navy to continue to invest in advanced power and energy technology and to accelerate the qualification of silicon carbide power modules to be used on high-power, mission-critical Navy platforms.”
House: “The Committee is aware that the Air Force has funded research in deployable and reconfigurable multifunctional antennas. The Committee encourages the Director of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to partner with academic institutions capable of advancing technologies with a potentially transformational impact on important applications for military use, such as expandable antennas for satellite communications and collapsible antennas that can benefit ground personnel by reducing the weight and footprint of antennas.”
Senate: “The Committee understands the difficulties near-field and far-field aircraft engine noise poses for communities surrounding military installations and service members working in close proximity to military aircraft. The Committee notes that the Navy has pursued noise reduction solutions, and understands that variable exhaust nozzle seal chevron technologies have the potential to contribute to noise reduction. The Committee encourages the Navy to continue to pursue researching these technologies.”
Coastal Environmental Research
Senate: “The Committee notes the importance of the littorals to the Navy and encourages the Chief of Naval Research to focus additional research on the characteristics of the magnetic, electric, and acoustic ambient fields in the coastal ocean regions, and the development of predictive techniques to distinguish ships and submarines from naturally occurring background features.”
House: “The Committee understands the importance of the littoral region to Navy operations worldwide. The Committee believes that additional research of the magnetic, electric, and acoustic ambient fields in the coastal ocean regions and the development of predictive techniques to distinguish ships and submarines from naturally occurring background features would be beneficial for littoral operations. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Navy to conduct additional research in this critical area.”
Optical Space Surveillance
Senate: “The Committee understands the importance of improving ground-based space situational awareness, and encourages the Naval Research Laboratory to continue investments that significantly extend U.S. National space situational awareness capabilities.”
Spectral and Reconnaissance Imagery
Senate: “The Committee is aware of the versatility and broad application the spectral and reconnaissance imagery for tactical exploitation sensor system brings to the warfighter in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Committee understands that certain capabilities are available for integration and testing on current unmanned aircraft prior to the complete system being available and encourages the Navy to accelerate integration and test of these modular sensor systems.”
Senate: “The Committee has long advocated that the Air Force ensure that the next generation of weather satellites meet the full spectrum of warfighter and intelligence requirements, that other weather coverage gaps are met using appropriate civil or international weather assets, and that urgent needs for electro-optical/infrared coverage for cloud characterization and weather forecasting, particularly in the CENTCOM theater of operations are met with rapid capability solutions. The Committee is encouraged that the fiscal year 2018 President's budget submission shows the Air Force's commitment to all of these efforts. While the Committee supports the comprehensive plan, it recommends that the Secretary of the Air Force examine the possibility of achieving cost savings by combining the short-term Operationally Responsive Space-8 (ORS–8) electro-optical/infrared solution with the long-term Weather System Follow-On electro-optical/infrared [WSF–E] solution. The Committee recommends that the Secretary examine whether vendor solutions for the ORS–8 mission could meet WSF-E requirements and consider proposal submission that are over budget for ORS–8, but if used to satisfy long-term WSF–E requirements, could achieve overall cost savings to the Air Force. Finally, the Committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to continue efforts to examine the use of commercial weather data to supplement existing assets and fill future coverage gaps and recommends $10,000,000 for the commercial weather data pilot program.”
Space Acquisition Strategy
Senate: “In early 2017, the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation [CAPE] provided an analysis of national security space acquisition that found a troubling pattern of near-simultaneous recapitalization of almost every Department of Defense satellite system. The analysis showed a dramatic decrease in spending on space research and development following recapitalization that resulted in reductions in the numbers of scientists and engineers at major satellite contractors in the following decade. This industrial base decline, in turn, resulted in even higher costs during the next recapitalization phase as contractors and the government had to rebuild a skilled workforce for several satellite architectures concurrently. The Committee is concerned that the Air Force is about to embark on another near-simultaneous recapitalization as the Air Force plans for new development or completely new architectures in Space Situation Awareness, Positioning, Navigation and Timing, Weather, Early Warning, Wideband Communications, and Protected Communications. In light of the CAPE findings and expected continued budget constraints, the Committee recommends that the Secretary of the Air Force reexamine current recapitalization plans to focus on those highest priority programs that must enter a near-term redevelopment phase and determine whether other programs can replace ageing satellites with continued production of current designs in the near-term in order to stagger architecture recapitalization, better protect the industrial base, and potentially achieve cost savings.”
Government-owned Observation Assets
House: “The Committee recognizes that other federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, maintain older space tracking and surveillance assets that may potentially assist the Air Force with its own space tracking and surveillance mission. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Air Force, in coordination with the Director of the National Science Foundation and any other appropriate directors of federal agencies that maintain similar assets, to analyze the potential capabilities of federal facilities or observatory assets for potential space tracking and surveillance missions. The Committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act on the potential for expanded space tracking and surveillance uses of other government-owned assets, any associated costs with developing or increasing necessary capabilities, and how such assets could be used to further the Air Force mission. The report may be submitted with a classified annex if necessary.”
House: “The Committee recognizes that the staff years of technical effort (STE) limitation on Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) has limited the effort of study for many programs including strategic nuclear modernization programs. In an effort to alleviate these limitations, the Committee recommendation increases the fiscal year 2018 limit by 250 STEs, divided proportionately between Studies and Analysis FFRDCs and Systems Engineering and Integration and Laboratories FFRDCs, and provides the necessary funding to support this increase.”
DOD Lab Governance
Senate: “The Committee encourages the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, Development and Engineering to conduct a study evaluating alternative governance models for Department of Defense laboratories. This review should build upon previous work and may result in a pilot program that permits the laboratories selected to implement new management approaches and governance methods that improve autonomy, decision-making and technology transfer opportunities.”
Army Open Campus Model
Senate: “The Committee encourages the Army to consider accelerating expansion of its Open Campus approach to its Materials and Manufacturing Science laboratories in order to benefit strategic materials research.”
House: “The Committee supports the Army Research Laboratory's (ARL) Open Campus Initiative which was created in 2014 to increase collaboration with universities and other external research stakeholders. Since that time, ARL Open Campus has established a presence in geographic regions across the United States. Known as ARL extended campuses, Army researchers are able to easily collaborate with and leverage scientific assets outside of ARL's headquarters. The Committee encourages the Director of the Army Research Lab to create additional opportunities for the United States academic research and development community to contribute to Department of Defense science and technology efforts. The Committee recommendation includes $4,000,000 to support the hiring of university faculty under joint appointments with the laboratory at ARL extended campuses across the country to increase access to infrastructure, research staff, equipment, concepts, and results.”
Advanced Defense Technology Clusters
House: “The Committee recognizes that developing high-technology small businesses across the nation provides innovative defense-related technologies for ongoing and future Department of Defense requirements. The Committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to engage with these small businesses and regional advanced defense technologies clusters that advocate for small businesses to support the sustainment and creation of jobs in critical and emerging markets.”
Army Lab Maintenance
House: “The Committee notes the work being conducted at Army Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories around the country but remains concerned about the current state of research facilities, office space, and other infrastructure at some premier Army laboratories. Modern buildings, equipment, and other resources are vital to ensuring that the Army stays at the cutting edge of technology and continues to recruit and retain the most talented scientific personnel. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Army to prioritize recapitalizing, refurbishing, and modernizing facilities at Army research laboratories.”
Manufacturing Technology and Education
Senate: “Manufacturing Technology Program — The Committee understands that metal castings play a significant role in ensuring warfighter preparedness and that investment is needed in castings technology to maintain technological superiority in the advanced manufacturing industry. Therefore, the Committee supports the fiscal year 2018 President's budget request of $41,5110,000 for the Manufacturing Technology Program and encourages the Secretary of Defense to invest in metal castings technology.”
Senate: “Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program — The Committee recognizes that the United States must maintain a technically trained workforce to meet the defense industrial base requirements of the Department of Defense. Therefore, the Committee recommends an additional $25,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 budget request for manufacturing engineering grants and encourages the Secretary of Defense to prioritize funding under this program to support community colleges and technical schools.”
Strategic Capabilities Office
Senate: “The Committee supports the Department of Defense's fiscal year 2018 President's budget request of $1,175,832,000 for the Strategic Capabilities Office [SCO] and commends SCO for responding to critical needs from Combatant Commanders that address near term national security requirements. Further, the Committee notes that SCO's direct reporting to the Secretary of Defense has led to the rapid development of breakthrough technologies that have successfully transitioned to the military services. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department to maintain the current chain of command for conducting SCO activities.”
House: “In the House-passed version of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017 (House Report 114–577), the Committee directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees detailing the estimated lifecycle costs associated with the Department's plan for replacing and sustaining all legs of the nuclear triad, including the ground based strategic deterrent, the B–21 bomber, the long range standoff weapon, the Ohio replacement program, associated warheads, and supporting infrastructure. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a follow-on report not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act detailing the updated lifecycle costs for the same programs indicated above and providing an explanation for any changes relative to the initial report. This report may be submitted with a classified annex if necessary.”