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FYI Number 114: October 14, 2002

Defense Science Board Recommends 3% of DOD Budget for S&T

The budget cycle never really stops. As Congress voted on the final FY 2003 Defense Department appropriations bill last week, the Pentagon continued its work on the FY 2004 request that will go to Congress early next year. An input to this request may be a recently issued report by the Defense Science Board reaffirming their earlier recommendation that 3% of DOD's budget be allocated to S&T spending. Last month, however, a top Pentagon official cast doubt on using a "percentage number" for setting S&T spending. This latest study, "The Defense Science Board 2001 Summer Study on Defense Science and Technology," was forwarded to DOD in mid- June, and recently became available. The DSB is an independent committee that provides advice to the Secretary of Defense.

This is not the first time the DSB has reviewed how much money DOD should spend on S&T. A late1990s DSB study recommended that 3.0% of the department's budget be spent on the 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 programs. The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review Report issued last fall made the same recommendation. The Summer Study reaffirms the 3% level:

"There is no magic formula to determine the optimum level of S&T funding. Several recent studies have addressed [this] issue. In its report, 'Defense S&T for the 21st Century' (1998), the DSB . . . recommended an S&T funding level equivalent to 3 percent of the total DoD budget. This figure is in keeping with the research and development budgets of various commercial industries, in terms of the percentage of sales spent on research and development." The recent Summer Study continues, "The task force agrees that 3 percent is a reasonable funding level. DoD leadership has concurred in recent testimony to Congress. Furthermore, support appears to exist within DoD and on Capitol Hill for achieving this level based upon historical DoD S&T budgets. Therefore the task force recommends that the Secretary of Defense achieve and sustain the 3 percent S&T funding level (of top-line DoD budget), recommended by the prior DSB study."

This 226-page report made many recommendations about improving the conduct of defense S&T. Nanotechnology was featured as an example of a promising technology. The study is on the Board's web site at

At a Pentagon briefing last month Stephen Cambone, Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation, agreed that S&T investment is a major Administration priority, and expressed concern that some service branches have sought to reduce their S&T funding. Cambone sees problems with funding S&T as a percentage of DOD's budget, which fluctuates in response to defense procurement. If S&T can be "bought" "at a more efficient rate," should not the spare dollars go into procurement, he asked. In addition, Cambone cautioned, a falling defense budget would lead to a decline in S&T spending. That is when, he stated, S&T programs should ramp up. "So percentages are tough," Cambone concluded.

Major decisions about the Pentagon's budget will be made around Thanksgiving. The last two Bush Administration defense S&T requests were 2.7% of the DOD request. Congress increased that to 3.2% for FY 2003; last year the S&T appropriation was 3.1% of the total.

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

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