House Armed Services Committee Report Language on Basic Research, STEM Education, STEM Workforce

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Publication date: 
25 May 2010

The House Armed Services Committee has completed work on its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2011.  H.R. 5136 sets defense policy, authorizes programs and military construction, establishes troop levels, and guides the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee in the development of the FY 2011 funding bill.  The bill authorizes the President’s request of $725.9 billion. The committee is chaired by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO); Howard McKeon (R-CA) is the Ranking Member.

House Report 111-491 accompanies the bill, and provides insights into the committee’s positions on the Defense Department’s science and technology programs.  The entire 637-page report may be viewed here.   Excerpts from this report in a section entitled “Defense-Wide Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation” follow regarding basic research, STEM education programs, and the STEM workforce.  Information on specific programs can be located using the report’s Table of Contents that starts on report page iii.  Page numbers refer to the pdf version of the report.

Readers interested in the committee’s recommendations regarding the Department of Energy’s National Security (nuclear) Programs should consult report page 525.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has not completed work on its version of this bill.

Management of defense basic research (report page 205):

“The committee is encouraged by recent sustained increases for basic research within the Department of Defense (DOD). The committee recognizes the critical contribution basic research investments make in creating a strong scientific foundation that supports the long-term development of future military capabilities.

“The committee notes the concerns regarding the defense basic research program raised by the JASON scientific advisory group and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Department of Defense Basic Research. Considering the increasing investments being made in defense basic research, the committee remains concerned about the quality, relevance, and focus of the basic research efforts, and the coordination of those efforts within the Department, including the services and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and relevant programs within the federal government.

“The committee is encouraged that the Basic Science Office, within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, recently proposed a clear, actionable strategic defense basic research plan that would address many of those concerns. The committee supports the five goals set forth to strengthen the defense basic research enterprise, including:

(1) Provide scientific leadership for the DOD basic research enterprise;   (2) Attract the nation’s best scientists and engineers to contribute to and lead DOD research;   (3) Ensure the coherence and balance of the DOD basic research portfolio;   (4) Foster connections between DOD performers and the DOD community;   (5) Maximize the discovery potential of the defense research business environment.

“The committee is concerned that the proposed basic research strategy is not properly resourced to develop and execute useful management tools for ensuring the quality and relevance of defense basic research. Therefore, the committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to provide adequate resources to oversee, plan, execute, and evaluate its basic research program and investments. Further, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services by September 1, 2010, on actions being taken to implement the proposed basic research strategy.”

STEM Education (report page 204):

In a section entitled “K–12 education in computer sciences and mathematics,” the committee comments more generally on STEM education:

“The committee remains concerned about reports such as the National Academy of Science study ‘Rising Above the Gathering Storm’ which indicate that the United States may not be producing sufficient numbers of scientists and engineers (S&E) to meet our future national security needs. The strength of the nation is founded on a knowledge economy. If the nation is unable to meet the demands in S&Es, it will have severe detrimental effects on the defense sector and the broader economic health of the nation. Facing a similar challenge 50 years ago, President Eisenhower increased investments in science and mathematics education that made significant progress in the years that followed. However, in the past several decades the impact of those investments has declined.”

STEM Workforce (report page 210):

“The committee believes that one of the enduring strengths of the Department of Defense is the technological capability provided by a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The committee has repeatedly expressed concerns, echoed by reports from the National Academy of Science and the Defense Science Board, which indicate that the United States is not producing sufficient numbers of qualified scientists and engineers to meet our future national security needs. In addition to the national security implications, the committee agrees with leading economists that the continual decline in the STEM workforce will have a significant impact on our economic security, affecting the nation’s competitiveness and technological leadership on the world stage.

“The committee commends the service secretaries and the Secretary of Defense for placing increased emphasis on developing and implementing STEM programs, particularly K–12 programs, but remains concerned that there has not been a commensurate increase in planning, coordination or investments across the Department. The committee is disappointed that the Secretary of Defense has not complied with a March 31, 2009, deadline for a response to a study required in the committee report (H. Rept. 110–652) accompanying the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009. The committee directed the Secretary to include in the study the findings from an assessment of all STEM related programs across the Department and the recommendations for the enhancement and coordination of such programs.

“The committee emphasizes that the Department of Defense has a mandate to continually analyze, understand, and address critical STEM needs in areas, such as:

(1) Enduring scientific and technical disciplines where the Department of Defense may potentially have critical shortages in personnel or expertise;   (2) Emerging scientific and technical areas where the Department should promote growth of the workforce;   (3) Tools necessary to foster and grow a diverse and culturally competent STEM workforce; and   (4) Efforts that mutually support broader national goals to promote STEM education and increase the international competitiveness of the United States.

“The committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to conduct greater mentoring and outreach with STEM professional societies or other organizations to help support STEM education outreach programs. The committee urges the Secretary of Defense and the service secretaries to do more to increase diversity and equity in the STEM workforce pipeline in order to leverage the untapped potential of a broader range of the population. Not only does this have the potential to increase the resource pool to support traditional scientific and engineering pursuits for national defense, but it also has the potential to provide valuable benefits for other related organizations, such as the intelligence community, the Foreign Service, and the acquisition corps.”