The US House Appropriations Committee has approved for action in the full House of Representatives a bill calling for a drastic 50 to 62 percent percent reduction in sponsored research spending by the Department of Defense.
The Defense Subcommittee headed by Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, voted to include the reduction in research spending in the appropriations legislation and the full committee made no changes as it sent the bill to the floor.
Congressional observers believe the bill may pass the House in that form, and those who seek to reverse the cut in DOD research may have to make their case in the Senate and in conference committee negotiations.
As the legislation now stands, MIT could face a reduction from $66 million in DOD research funds on campus in fiscal year 1993 to about $25 million in the fiscal year 1995.
"It is not hyperbole to say that the impact would be devastating," said John C. Crowley, special assistant to MIT President Charles M. Vest and director of the MIT Washington Office. "The research funded by the Defense Department-and the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee-at American research universities in the past two decades has been absolutely critical in building America's computer industry. These cuts, if they stand, will do substantial damage to the nation.
"Technological superiority is essential as our armed forces are downsized. A strong and continuous research base therefore is more important than ever. Historically, Congressman Murtha has been a strong supporter of Defense Department research. Despite today's controversy, we hope that he will maintain that support," Mr. Crowley said.
Professor J. David Litster, MIT vice president and dean for research, said the unprecedented cutback "would be a complete disaster for MIT." Both Mr. Crowley and Professor Litster were quoted in the Boston Globe last week in an article anticipating the action by the Defense Subcommittee.
The Globe also quoted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as saying: "Drastic cutbacks like that make no sense. This research represents the backbone of the nation's future high-tech defense capabilities and has far-reaching benefits for the civilian economy too. I'm confident that the full House and Senate will reject these shortsighted subcommittee cuts."
The appropriations bill is expected to be voted on before the House breaks June 30 for its Independence Day holiday. Members are scheduled to return to Washington July 11.
A version of this article appeared in the June 29, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 37).