House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
recently addressed a defense conference on the 50th anniversary
of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Boehlert's
remarks were wide-ranging, addressing critical issues in both
civilian and defense R&D. Selections from his remarks follow:
"The Administration's request for both civilian and defense
research can be kindly described as - disappointing. While the
Administration's FY 2003 request for R&D overall is above last
year's level, most of the requested funding almost exclusively
falls on the 'D' side of the ledger. The 'R' side - especially
funding for basic research in math, physical sciences and
engineering - is flat or even declining. Shorter-term
requirements seem to be winning out over long-term needs.
"Even a casual glance at the Administration's budget makes clear
what the R&D priorities are - biomedical research and the fight
against terrorism at home and abroad. These are reasonable -
even self-evident - priorities and they deserve to be funded
more generously than are other programs. That's what it means
to be a budget priority.
"But I'm concerned that the proposed budget treats these items
not just as priorities, but as panaceas. And that, I fear, is a
mistake. I have long supported, and continue to support the
doubling of the budget of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH). But the NIH alone cannot under gird our economic health
or even improve human health. Yet the NIH budget is now larger
than that of the rest of the civilian science agencies put
together, and just the increase in the NIH budget is larger than
the research budget of National Science Foundation. Pretty
soon, AFOSR's total budget will fall within the rounding error
of the figure for the NIH.
"Similarly, I have long been a supporter of Defense Department
advanced development programs, but those programs alone cannot
create a stable and secure American society or even ensure our
protection from enemy attacks over the long-term. Yet while the
Pentagon is slated to receive a 12 percent increase, basic and
applied research in the Defense Department are flat, and
numerous programs in other agencies that unarguably contribute
to Homeland Security receive tepid increases.
"For years, some have raised the difficult question of whether
the R&D budget is out of balance. This year, we may finally
find out the answer, and I fear it will be 'yes.'
"This has profound implications for our economic security as
well as our national security. Take the Air Force for example.
We often remark the US Air Force and the entire military is the
most technologically superior force in the world, and today it
most certainly is. But what about five or ten years from now?
Many experts, blue-ribbon panels and former generals have warned
that - unless something is done today - our military's
technological leadership will be in jeopardy in the not so
"The National Research Council has documented - in a report
released last year - a chronic pattern under funding of science
and technology in the Air Force. The NRC report - requested by
Congress and published last July - found that Air Force
investment in science and technology fell 46 percent in real
terms from FY 1989 to FY 2001. Let me repeat that - 46
percent! That's an alarming statistic for a service that
prides itself on its technological brilliance.
"By contrast, the NRC found that investments by the Army, Navy
and defense agencies rose between 17 and 47 percent in real
terms over the same period. Now folks, tell me - when could we
ever say that the Army or the Navy was more technologically
advanced than the United States Air Force?
"It is often assumed that the military should be relying more
and more on innovations flowing from high tech industry and this
assumption is correct - to a point. What it fails to recognize
is where industry got those innovations in the first place.
Chances are the original breakthroughs were supported - often
over many years - by the federal government through AFOSR,
DARPA or one of the other federal basic research agencies.
"I know I'm preaching to the converted here but it's a point
more and more of us who care about R&D investments need to make.
I say this in particular to the representatives of the defense
contractor community with us today. I can't remember a moment
when a representative of a defense contractor ever - in my 20
years as a Member of Congress - came to me and said, you know,
we're not investing enough in long-term, basic research.
"That's a message that needs to be heard-both inside and outside
the Pentagon. Part of the problem is that there is a distinct
lack of marketing of our system of innovation. We all know
Intel's famous 'Intel Inside' sticker attached to seemingly
every PC on the market. Maybe we can have an 'AFRL Inside'
sticker on every F-22, Global Hawk or Predator. . . . "
"Organizations like the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFOSR
are the well springs of innovation and discovery across
disciplines of science and engineering. We must continue to
keep them healthy and vibrant so we may continue to keep the
U.S. Air Force on the cutting edge far into the future."