Defense-Related Issues

Changes in U.S. defense policy - in terms of both strategy and funding levels - have been dominating front-page headlines since the end of the Cold War. Not only is downsizing the military having an adverse impact on the economies of many communities throughout the country, but also defense-related S&T policies and programs are undergoing transition.

Although the threat of a potential superpower confrontation has diminished, other national security and economic considerations are now at the forefront, shaping U.S. defense posture. Current concerns include the country's role in extinguishing regional conflicts, curtailing nuclear proliferation, monitoring the pace and stability of democratic reforms in former Communist countries and in developing nations, and maintaining military leadership in the international marketplace where competition is driving the pace of technological change.

To meet these and other challenges, policymakers have been rethinking DOD's role in supporting S&T. In September 1994, DOD issued an updated version of its S&T strategy (Department of Defense, 1994). This statement confirms that technological supremacy remains the overriding goal of U.S. defense S&T policy, but it also includes two additional objectives - affordability and enhanced economic security - as factors determining S&T program priorities. Reduced defense budgets necessitate the careful targeting of limited R&D funds; hence, the inclusion of these additional goals which are also prominently featured in DOD's recently published S&T management guidelines. (See Guiding Principles for Science and Technology Management.)

DOD has identified a number of examples that illustrate how the adoption of new goals is affecting the funding of S&T activities. Emphasis on affordability and cost-effectiveness is manifested in the designation of three DOD-wide S&T initiatives - information technology, sensors, and modeling and simulation - as high-priority programs. Advancements in each of these technologies have already proven their worth in real-world scenarios such as Desert Storm and other regional conflicts and hold great potential for additional reductions in the cost of war in terms of both lives and equipment.

The inclusion of enhanced economic security as a major goal in allocating defense S&T expenditures is predicated on the assumption that DOD dollars should not only buy the latest state-of-the-art technology for the military but should also, whenever possible, leverage and perhaps accelerate the private sector's development of new products and services for the commercial marketplace. Thus, an all-out effort has been underway for the past few years to encourage and provide incentives (largely in the form of cost-sharing) for the public and private sectors to join forces to exploit promising technologies that have both defense and commercial applications.

The latest DOD pronouncement on so-called dual-use technology identified three pillars of this strategy: investment in R&D on dual-use technologies; dual produce, or integration, of military into commercial production; and insertion of commercial capabilities into military systems technologies.

The total FY 1995 DOD investment in dual-use research is $2.06 billion, or approximately 25 percent of the total DOD S&T budget.27 This DOD research effort is concentrated in four focus areas: information technology ($392 million); advanced materials ($295 million); advanced manufacturing ($563 million); and advanced simulation and modeling ($83 million) (Department of Defense, 1995a).

The centerpiece of these dual-use efforts has been the Technology Reinvestment Project. TRP is a multiagency effort led by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DOD's central R&D organization). It is aimed at creating public-private partnerships to develop technologies for new products and processes that meet both military and commercial needs. In its first call for proposals, TRP received 2,850 submissions requesting a total of $8.5 billion in Federal funds, roughly 17 times the amount available. In the first round, $654 million was actually awarded. In the second round of competition, 39 out of 237 submitted proposals were funded, for a total of $188 million. After rescission, the 1995 funding level available for TRP was $208 million. The FY 1996 budget request was $500 million.

Within the broad array of dual-use technology projects, areas of special strategic importance have been identified. These include electronics manufacturing, flat panel displays, microelectronomechanical systems, advanced composites for aircraft, integrated high-performance turbine engineering technology, rotocraft technology, high-density data storage systems, and wireless communications.

Like the ATP, TRP has encountered political opposition in the 104th Congress. The most vocal critics have questioned TRP's relevance or are concerned that it represents an attempt at industrial policy inappropriate for the Government in a free-market system. Because of this difference of opinion on its usefulness, the future of TRP is uncertain.


27 Basic research is not included in these dollar figures.