The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its FY 2005 Defense Authorization
bill (S. 2400), has proposed a program to enhance the Defense Department's
ability to recruit and retain technically-skilled workers. The bill
would authorize $10.0 million for a three-year pilot program to provide
scholarships to U.S. citizens in return for service to the Department.
According to the bill, the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation
(SMART) Defense Scholarship Pilot Program would provide financial assistance
for undergraduate or graduate "education in science, mathematics,
engineering, and technology skills and disciplines that...are critical
to the national security functions of the Department," in return
for a period of employment by DOD. The financial assistance would cover
normal educational expenses including tuition, fees, cost of books,
laboratory expenses, and room and board. The period of service required
in return would be at least as long as the time covered by the scholarship.
Relevant language on the SMART Defense Scholarship Pilot Program from
the committee report (S. Rept. 108-260) follows; the bill and report
text can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.
"The committee recommends a provision that would establish a pilot
program within the Department of Defense to provide targeted educational
assistance to individuals seeking a baccalaureate or an advanced degree
in science and engineering disciplines that are critical to national
security. This provision would allow individuals to acquire such education
in exchange for a period of employment with the Department of Defense
in the areas specified. The committee recommends that the Director,
Defense Research and Engineering be designated to manage the program.
"The Committee remains concerned with the aging technical workforce
and statistics which point to a growing deficiency in the right mix
of scientists and engineers to support our national security workforce
needs. Testimony to the committee over the last few years further emphasizes
the science and engineering workforce challenge for the Department that
this section is designed to address. The Department has implemented
a series of successful programs to increase the number of students pursuing
degrees in selected fields, but has not been as successful in recruiting
and retaining scientists and engineers for positions in its laboratories,
service components, and defense agencies.
"A rapid, well managed infusion of a new generation of defense
science and engineering personnel who are experts in the 21st century
defense-related critical skills is needed to maintain U.S. defense technology
dominance. As a means of increasing the number of U.S. citizens trained
in disciplines of science and engineering of military importance, the
committee authorizes $10.0 million to carry out this pilot program."
S. 2400 is still under consideration in the Senate. The House bill,
H.R. 4200, passed in May, does not include a similar provision. Keep
in mind that, even if this provision is retained in the conference report
and signed into law, it would only authorize funding for such a program,
not provide the actual money.