Defense Science Board Task Force Wants 30% Increase In University S&T A Defense Science Board Task Force recommends a 30% increase in university science and technology funding to enable the Department of Defense to better access new S&T and engineering capabilities. This was one of four major recommendations in the "Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on the Technology Capabilities of Non-DoD Providers," written in response to a provision in the FY 1998 defense authorization act, which recently became available.
The task force of 11 individuals with university, industry, and laboratory affiliations, was chaired by Walter Morrow, Jr. of MIT Lincoln Laboratory. It met nine times, beginning in early 1999, at various locations throughout the United States. Their report can be accessed at http://stinet.dtic.mil/str/index.html by requesting document ADA380423.pdf in the search box and then selecting "Citation/Document(s)."
There is concern about the effectiveness of the Defense Department's efforts to acquire the latest technologies. Relatively flat defense S&T funding, changes in the conduct of research by various performers, a shrinking DoD work force, the emergence of a global economy, and burdensome government regulation were identified as some of the factors necessitating a change in the way that the Defense Department acquires S&T.
One of the task force's findings concerned eroding funding for physical sciences, engineering, and information technology. The report comments: "The DoD provides the majority of support for university research and associated graduate student support in the fields of the physical sciences, engineering fields and information technology associated with military systems. However, such support has decreased by nearly 30% in the last ten years. As a result, recently trained professional personnel in these fields are in very short supply resulting in the use of foreign professionals as well as the use of overseas engineering of components of DoD systems. In addition, the number of scientific and engineering professionals graduated in foreign countries now greatly exceeds that graduated in the United States. As a result the U.S. may be in danger of losing its leadership in fields which are of critical importance to maintaining the superiority of U.S. military systems."
There are four major recommendations in this report. Two center on how DoD acquires technologies by calling for the establishment of an Office of Global Technology Acquisition and the development of streamlined acquisition requirements. Another recommendation calls for the utilization of private sector, non-profit and academic personnel in acquisition positions.
The fourth recommendation concerns funding for basic research. "Research universities provide a leading source of creative professionals for the pursuit of new knowledge," the report states. But, the report continues, "the 6.1 basic research funding, most of which goes to universities, has declined by nearly 25% since 1991; yet these university research programs generate the long term future scientific knowledge that will enable the technologies that will allow the U.S. military forces to maintain their dominance in the future. Perhaps an even more significant benefit of 6.1 funding of universities involves the training of science and engineering graduate students who then move on to provide the professional staff for government and industrial research laboratories as well as new faculty for the universities." The task force concludes, "This 6.1 support needs to be sustained and even increased, if the Department is to continue using technology to maintain its military leadership."
The task force makes the following recommendation about 6.1 funding: "A 30% increase is judged necessary to counter the increasingly short term focus of industrial R&D relating to DoD interests and also to address future shortfalls in technical talent, especially in DoD - unique areas. To achieve this goal, 6.1 funding should be increased by 10% per year for the next three years and then maintained at that level. Funding should be obtained from 6.3 (or higher) programs."
Last February, the Clinton Administration requested a 4.8% increase in FY 2001 6.1 funding. The final appropriations bill provided a 14.3% increase.
Richard M. Jones