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Cuts in DOD research threaten US preparedness

The MIT Office of Government and Community Affairs last week issued a briefing paper calling on friends of MIT to contact their Senators and Representatives to urge restoration of the 60 percent cut in Defense Department research at universities throughout the nation. In FY 1993, the DOD funded 18 percent of all research at MIT. Members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee are now meeting informally to discuss the Defense Appropriations bill, and will be meeting in formal session on July 26.

The text of the briefing paper follows:

What is happening?

$900 Million in cuts to DOD university research programs for FY95 have been voted on and passed by the US House of Representatives in the DOD Appropriations bill for FY95, HR 4650. This is a 60 percent reduction from FY94 DOD funding for such research. The United States was technologically prepared for the nation's most recent incident, the Gulf War. This preparedness was made possible by basic research conducted in the previous decade.

Reduced research budgets will make us militarily vulnerable and halt many excellent research programs critical to our economic future.

What is the impact?

A 60 percent reduction would gut defense research efforts at our nation's top universities. The nation's research base would be at its lowest funding level in 20 years. In Massachusetts, the cuts could range between $73 million and $100 million. At MIT, the cuts could be between $34 million and $40 million.

What does it mean?

These cuts would gut research efforts in key disciplines, including engineering, mathematics, materials science, and computer science-which are vital for technological development, job creation and US competitiveness. To put it in perspective, DOD funds 40 percent of all engineering research in US universities.

Such drastic reductions would:

  • Put the national defense at risk for a technological surprise.
  • Contradict the Clinton Administration's science, technology and economic development goals.
  • Deplete the next generation of engineers and scientists-through reduced funding for graduate education and by amplifying the perception that careers in science and technology are vulnerable and therefore undesirable.
  • Financially weaken the country's universities, which serve as the nation's infrastructure for research, and place about 9,000 jobs at risk.

What good is this research?

DOD research has provided technological superiority for the defense of the nation and has fueled the engine of the US economy. Once this technological engine stops, it is very difficult to restart.

Research results have given us key military strength through technology-based capabilities such as ultrafast information processing and communications, night vision and satellite surveillance.

DOD university research has also triggered economic growth in the following:

��������� Computer hardware, software and services which now represent a $600 billion industry in the US At least half of the innovations in computing in the last 20 years have been funded by DOD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
��������� ARPA funded expert systems engineering for the military. It has been developed for civilian applications ranging from credit authorization to new aircraft design.
��������� DOD funding of research for advance military command and control systems has led to the creation of the multimedia industry, which may generate as much as $100 billion next year.

What is to be done?

Inform your colleagues and ask for their help in opposing these cuts. Efforts are underway to persuade the Subcommittee on Defense of the Senate Committee on Appropriations (Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, Chair; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Ranking Minority Member) to restore the funding. Ask your colleagues to contact their Senators and Representatives in Congress to petition Sen. Inouye and Sen. Stevens to fully restore DOD funding for basic research.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye722 SHOB Washington, D.C. 20510(202) 224-3934

Senator Ted Stevens522 SHOBWashington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-3004

Additionally, all Senators should be asked to sign the "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated by Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Maryland) urging Senator Inouye to restore the DOD research funds.

Time is of the essence. Members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee are now meeting informally to discuss the Defense Appropriations bill and will be meeting in formal session on July 26.

What is the message?

Our messages should be thoughtful and quantitative-describing the successful history of technology development resulting from DOD research funding.

If the cuts are allowed to remain, they will:

  • ������Threaten America's defense preparedness and our military's technological base;
  • Damage the nation's military and industrial competitive advantage for future generations, and
  • ������Wipe out a significant portion of the country's highly skilled scientists and engineers.

Want to know more?

Contact Ron Suduiko (617-253-1988) or Jack Crowley (202-789-1828) for additional information.

A version of this article appeared in the July 20, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 1).

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