Congress Looks at FY 2001 Defense S&T Budget Since early March, various House and Senate Armed Services subcommittees have held hearings on the FY 2001 request for defense science and technology programs. The hearings revealed considerable support for defense S&T, and recognition of shortfalls in program funding. At the same time, there is great concern about deficiencies in other areas of the defense budget, ranging from the replacement of aging ships and planes to difficulties in recruitment and retention.
A March 1 memorandum prepared by the House Armed Services Committee cites "an alarmingly small investment in S&T for the future." A hearing that day opened with subcommittee chairman Curt Weldon (R-PA) telling administration witnesses that "it has been a continual source of frustration for [committee] Members that the [Defense] Department has not acknowledged any negative impacts resulting from the steady decline in requests for R&D funding." Weldon was not entirely critical, as he called the FY 2001 R&D request "relatively healthy." However, he said, only 8% of the modernization budget "is left to fund science and technology for the future," asking "what about those future technologies needed to prepare our military services to face the changing, uncertain, and dangerous world referred to so often by DOD leadership?"
Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition and Technology) Jacques Gansler acknowledged the need to maintain S&T funding and university research. He called R&D the cornerstone of future preparedness. When asked to identify how more money could be best used, Gansler mentioned quality of life, maintenance, modernization, and "if we were in a rich man's world, more S&T." Gansler was also asked about software development, rapid force projection, all-weather munitions, and information dominance. Weldon ended the hearing by telling Gansler that he would "try to get more resources" when the committee drafts its bill next month.
Subsequent hearings highlighted a host of problems facing the Defense Department and the services. At a hearing on the Navy and Marine Corps, subcommittee chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) warned there was "growing evidence that forces are stretched too thin." He and other members were concerned about the need to maintain the existing fleet, and build new ships. Navy witnesses agreed, saying "we are a Navy that is running flat out." The pace of operations is triple what it was in the Cold War, another witness said. Hunter seemed to be speaking for many when he said that with "this fleet of old taxi cabs that we have . . . we can't get the job done."
It "is simply not enough" Hunter commented at a similar Air Force hearing. While Weldon praised the Air Force's progress on many R&D programs, he told the Air Force witnesses that many Members of Congress had complained to him that the S&T portion of the Air Force R&D program was too low. Echoing the Navy hearing, a committee member described the increased, and unanticipated, "operational tempo," and added, "obviously a big part of the problem is money." Similar issues were raised at a hearing on the Army's budget request, one witness stating, "At present, our heavy forces are unequaled anywhere on earth, but they are challenged to deploy rapidly. We have the world's finest light forces but, in some scenarios, they lack adequate lethality, survivability, and mobility."
Gansler appeared before a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 21. Addressing the FY 2001 defense S&T budget request, he said: "We believe the DoD S&T program is indeed adequate to protect the stability of the defense technology base and to maintain technological superiority in our future weapon systems. We did not meet the 2% real increase goal for FY 2001 [as established in last year's National Defense Authorization Act.] However, we have provided zero real growth plus $48 million over the FY 2000 budget request level [note that this refers to the request, and not the actual appropriation.] In addition to the FY 2001 request after inflation we increased total research and development by 8% and procurement by 12% over the FY 2000 request. This was done to meet our goal of a $60 billion procurement to ensure that acquisition programs in final development are ready to transition. In fact we believe when compared with S&T funding levels [over] a longer period of years, the President's Budget funding request for FY 2001 will be seen to be quite reasonable."
The degree to which Congress agrees with Gansler will become known later in this budget cycle when the House and Senate authorization and appropriations committees draft their bills.
Richard M. Jones