A new National Research Council report finds that the Air Force's
investment in science and technology has fallen 46 percent in
real terms since FY 1989. The report's authors conclude that
"the Air Force's current (FY01) investments in air, space, and
information systems S&T are too low to meet the challenges being
presented by new and emerging threats," and recommend that
funding be increased to "one-and-a half to two times" the
level. They also recommend better advocacy for S&T programs and
investments within the Air Force, and actions to improve "the
quality and retention" of the Air Force S&T workforce.
Reps. Tony Hall (D-OH) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) incorporated
a provision in the FY 1999 DOD authorization act which mandated
an NRC study of the DOD technology base in the areas of air and
space systems and supporting information technology. Hall, in a
press release, stated, "This is the most authoritative study yet
that points to the inadequacies of the Air Force science and
technology program.... With this report, the National Research
Council adds its voice to earlier warnings of the Air Force
Association, the Defense Science Board, and even the Air Force's
own Scientific Advisory Board."
The report finds that "attempts to realize a post-Cold War peace
dividend and to deal with federal budget deficits" have left the
total DOD budget "about 25 percent lower in real terms than at
the end of the Cold War." S&T funding within DOD fell during
1990s but was restored in the past two fiscal years. It is now
about two percent above its Cold War level in real terms, and
currently represents three percent of total defense spending.
While Army, Navy and defense research agency S&T budgets reflect
the recent increases, the report states, "the sole exception is
the Air Force, whose real S&T investment is down by 46 percent"
from FY 1989 to FY 2001. The report adds, "The strength of S&T
representation in the Air Force is weakened by the relatively
small size of the S&T program compared with the Air Force's total
program.... The relatively small size of the S&T investment
affects perceptions of its value and the amount of attention paid
The report's "Overarching Conclusions and Recommendations"
INVESTMENT IN S&T:
Conclusion 1. "The committee believes that [post-Cold
War] reductions made by the Air Force to its S&T investment since
the end of the Cold War did not take into account the changing nature
of the global threat and the S&T challenges it presents.... The
committee believes that the Air Force's current (FY01) investments in
air, space, and information systems S&T are too low to meet the
challenges being presented by new and emerging threats."
Recommendation 1. The Defense and Air Force Secretaries
"should continue to increase [Air Force S&T funding] to reach
one-and-a- half to two times its current (FY01) level. Investments in
S&T for air, space, and information systems should all be increased.
Increasing one by decreasing the others will not satisfy current...shortcomings
and may create new ones."
S&T REPRESENTATION AND ADVOCACY WITHIN THE AIR FORCE:
Conclusion 2. "The committee strongly believes that
the Air Force needs authoritative, S&T-focused and dedicated representation
and advocacy at the corporate policy and decision- making level...to
help make informed trade-offs and budget decisions." Without such
advocacy, "the committee believes that the Air Force faces undue
risk that its S&T investment will not provide the technologies and
systems needed to meet future threats." The committee praises recent
Air Force actions to improve S&T advocacy.
Recommendation 2. The committee suggests possible additional
actions "to further strengthen S&T representation," including
(1) formally designating Air Force S&T as a corporate program, (2)
having the Air Force Research Laboratory commander report directly to
the Chief of Staff or sit on the Air Force Council, and (3) establishing
an Air Force Council position "dedicated to, responsible for, and
authorized to represent and advocate S&T within the Air Force."
Conclusion 3. Post-Cold War reductions in the Air Force
S&T workforce, as well as hiring and personnel management rules,
"have helped to undermine the quality and health of the Air Force's
S&T program." In addition, the talents of technically- educated
DOD officers "are not being fully exploited," and the number
of DOD officers "who understand the importance of S&T to U.S.
military superiority is decreasing."
Recommendation 3. The pilot program to revitalize the
service laboratories should be extended. The Defense and service secretaries
and chiefs of staff should find innovative ways to manage and "improve
the quality and health of their [S&T] workforces," assure career-advancement
opportunities for S&T officers, encourage officers to accept S&T
assignments, and view such assignments positively for promotions. "Remedial
actions" should be implemented, including personnel demonstration
projects and various mechanisms to bring leading non-DOD scientists
and engineers into DOD labs. With the help of Congress, Civil Service
rules that "directly affect the quality and health of the science
and technology workforce" should be modified.
President Bush's DOD budget request for FY 2002 would reduce
aggregate Air Force Basic Research, Applied Research, and
Advanced Technology Development by 5.1 percent, from $1.46
billion to $1.38 billion. Congressional appropriators have not
yet drafted their FY 2002 defense bills.
"It is often said that reports in Washington, once released, are
left to gather dust. I can assure you this one will not," Boehlet
vowed. The report, "Review of the U.S. Department of Defense Air,
Space, and Supporting Information Systems Science and Technology Program,"
is not yet available on the National Academies web site, but a prepublication
copy of the Executive Summary is available on Rep.
Hall's web site.
Audrey T. Leath Media and Government Relations Division