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FYI Number 34: March 26, 2001

Warnings Issued on Funding Shortfalls in Civilian and Defense S&T Funding

Last week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich faulted the Bush Administration's FY 2002 request for basic science funding during a hearing on the long-term security of the United States. Also last week, a report released by the Defense Science Board stated "the DoD should be requesting higher levels of funding for the S&T program."


Gingrich's observation was one of a series of points he made on March 21 when testifying at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the FY 2002 Bush Administration budget request for the Department of Defense. This hearing centered on the Hart-Rudman National Security Report Commission report summarized in FYIs #22 and 23.

Gingrich and former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), both commission members, discussed the commission's latest report. Gingrich was the lead witness, giving emphatic testimony about the security threats facing the United States. First on his list was "homeland security" and the possibility of a weapon of mass destruction or mass disruption being used on American soil.

He then testified:

"Second, the commission unanimously agreed that the challenge to us in scientific research and in math and science education is a greater national security problem than any likely conventional war in the foreseeable future. And I really want to emphasize this. It's something Eisenhower said in the '50s under the impetus of Sputnik; I think we're right back at the same stand. The revolution in science requires larger investments in basic research; we are not getting the money today. Second, the inability of the United States today to produce enough high school graduates who can do math and science is a long-term national security issue. We cannot assume that we will be able to import enough people to meet our science and technology demands for the next generation. The report's pretty clear it's a very major challenge for us. And I would hope that this committee would look at the National Science Foundation budget, the NASA budget, the Department of Energy labs as integral national security investments over and above the Department of Defense, but as literally integral to our ability a decade from now to produce high technology capabilities."

Gingrich later discussed specific challenges, stating:

"there is a true revolution in scientific affairs, starting with nanoscale science and technology, quantum mechanics and physics, and biology, which will swamp the current revolution in military affairs. And I think it's very important for this committee to work with DARPA to understand the basic research level, and to get briefed by the National Science Foundation on the scale of the change which is coming, which in my judgment, after 2-1/2 years of being out of this body and going out and listening to people, is probably as much change in the next 25 years as in the entire 20th century. And I would particularly commend to the committee to go to the Ames NASA Laboratory and just spend a half day getting briefed on what they're doing combining supercomputing, nanoscale science and technology, and biology, which is, I think, the most interesting single facility in the United States. It's at Moffett Field near Stanford.

"Finally, I think that it's important for this committee to look at the service budgets and insist on deep experimentation now with new technologies. One example. We have a capacity in remotely piloted vehicle technology which should empower every ship to know several hundred miles inland what's going on by using non-piloted vehicles with very long loiter capability in a way which just dramatically expands our intelligence capability.

"The services continue to finance the systems that they're comfortable with, continue to finance the systems that maintain the rhythm of the past, and it is very difficult to get them to push money into these systems. And let me just say, before anyone starts complaining about the tight budgets, go back and look at experimentation in the 1930s with budgets that were literally 15 to 20 times tighter than these budgets. The system simply has to force itself to set aside a significant percentage of each annual budget to finance military-oriented, real experimentation with the technology of the future."

Former Speaker Gingrich then called for DARPA funding to be returned to its former peak constant dollar level, stating:

"Having said that, let me also say that when we talk budgets, the committee should go back and find out, at its peak in constant dollars, how much did DARPA have. If you'll remember, it was originally called ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is the base of the Internet. It had vastly more money in real value 20 years ago, it had more freedom, and it was more basic research. Over the last 20 years, we've gradually shoved it into basically supporting much more short-term goals. So part of the budgeting should include getting DARPA back up to its constant dollar value at its peak."

Gingrich's remarks then turned to the Bush Administration's request in its budget blueprint for basic science funding. He told the committee:

"Let me also say I'll be writing a letter to [House Science] Chairman Boehlert making the same point in terms of basic science. I think it was clearly not correct for the long-term security of this country to not increase the basic science funding in the budget that was sent up recently." He called on the committee to work with the Bush Administration on getting "what the amount ought to be" in the next year's budget.


A provision in the FY 2000 defense bill required the Defense Science Board (DSB) to report on the adequacy of DOD's FY 2001 Science and Technology Program budget requests. The DSB based their assessment on conclusions drawn in an earlier report. Their most recent findings and recommendations, dated 1 June 2000, but just released, are as follows: "In examining trends of the S&T Program is evident that the budget requests of FY97 to FY01 have not been keeping up with inflation much less increasing at 2% over inflation." A non-binding sense of the Congress provision in the FY 2000 law stated that S&T funding should increase 2% over inflation each year. The DSB calculated that S&T funding for FY 2001 should have been nearly $10 billion; the actual appropriation was $9,063 million.

After observing how much U.S. high technology industries spent on research in 1998, the DSB stated in this latest report: "it would appear that if the Department of Defense wants to continue to have a high technology military capability in the future, the DoD should be requesting higher levels of funding for the S&T program."

The report continues: "If the DoD does not pursue a strong forward looking S&T Program, it runs the danger of ultimately falling behind potential challengers employing novel unsymmetrical military challenges."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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