DOD slashes funding for tech research

Because of ongoing and anticipated operations around the world, the Defense Department will scale back spending on information technology research in fiscal 2000, according to DOD's proposed budget, released today.

The department's $268 billion budget represents "the first increase in defense spending since the end of the Cold War," according to a senior DOD official speaking at a background briefing on Friday.

But recent operations in Iraq, hurricane relief in Honduras and an upcoming peace enforcement mission in Kosovo are expected to drain critical funds from the $49 billion originally set aside to raise pay for civilian workers and to improve DOD's readiness to respond to crises around the world.

Although R&D funding for command, control and communications (C3) and information systems security were funded less robustly as they had been in previous years, the goal for the fiscal 2000 budget was to find a "balance between the [department's] near-term needs while at the same time be able to prepare for the uncertain threats of the future," the DOD official said.

DOD slashed R&D funding for Army intelligence and communications programs by half, from $161 million last year to $81 million for fiscal 2000. DOD also cut R&D for the Army's digitization program by 39 percent to $28 million.

Air Force R&D spending for C3 was slashed by a third—down to $46 million from $72 million last year. Air Force base-level communications upgrades also took a back seat to personnel and other readiness issues, according to a senior Air Force official.

Likewise, the Navy cut its R&D for fleet tactical telecommunications by 38 percent, to less than $10 million.

With the exception of the Navy, which received a modest 10 percent boost for IT security research, funding for information systems security R&D overall also was lower in the fiscal 2000 budget.

According to a senior DOD official familiar with funding for departmentwide programs, the department's lukewarm response to information security concerns stems from confusion over what the appropriate response should be. "We're still trying to figure out what we really need to do," the official said.

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