Can DOD preserve science and technology as budget ax swings?

As the Defense Department prepares to slash its budget by billions, some high-level officials are fighting to maintain spending in science, technology and cyber, stressing that investment in those areas will be crucial for a smaller, more agile future force.

Some of DOD’s top scientists told a panel of members from the House Armed Services Committee that they have established priorities in each of the respective services that will help keep science and technology research, development and deployment on track as budgets shrink in coming years, according to a DOD release.

“Our ability to support the warfighter … depends on our ability to sustain a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, [or] STEM, workforce in our active and reserve ranks and our research laboratories,” said Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, in the March 1 discussion on Capitol Hill.

For the Navy, that will mean strategic investments in and use of the Naval Research Laboratory – something that will be a challenge for the service, which, due to budget cuts, reduced its top science and technologies from 13 to nine in its long-term strategic guidance released in January.

The Army has put significant effort into planning its science and technology priorities for coming years, including with a major effort in 2011 under which senior Army leaders collaborated to establish 24 top challenges to receive near-term research focus, according to Dr. Marilyn Freeman, Army deputy assistant secretary for research and technology.


Related stories

Army struggles to save programs


“My vision for Army [science and technology] is to invent, innovate and demonstrate technology-enabled capabilities that empower, unburden and protect our soldiers,” she told the congressmen. “It's important that we keep the cadre of scientists and engineers in our laboratory systems to solve our problems. It is absolutely essential that we work on this problem together.”

Still, the cuts already under way and yet to come are forcing DOD officials to take some gambles in what they prioritize.

Freeman said decreased funding has meant taking risks in what leaders choose to receive precious dollars. For the Army, that has meant discretionary spending on some aspects of unmanned aerial vehicles, she said.

For the Air Force, those risks have equaled cuts to high-tech investments in some areas, including “work in micro UAVs, deployed airbase technologies, some thermal sciences and some plug-and-play activity for small [satellites] that we just never got the industry to buy into,” said Dr. Steven H. Walker, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for science, technology and engineering.

While tradeoffs like those outlined by Freeman and Walker will be unavoidable as defense funding is cut, the officials emphasized that keeping science and technology as a high priority will help solve a range of problems that will inevitably accompany slashed spending.

“We believe the key to achieving this goal lies in supporting STEM education in the continuum of experiences…from kindergarten all the way through post-doctoral opportunities,” Klunder said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Wed, Mar 7, 2012

We don't need no stinking science. We need more billion dollar weapon systems built by MY favorite Corporation in MY congressional district.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group