Government scientists want to preserve the surge of cash military laboratories have used to help troops fight the wars of the last decade in hopes that ongoing experimentation will help the military prepare for conflicts to come.
But the output of science and technology investment is difficult to quantify and therefore is a hard sell to bean counters, said
"As a result of the wars, some of the labs were involved in building weapon systems that went directly into the war fighters' hands in 90 days or 180 days," he said. "When we had a lot of money, we could afford to [look farther down the road]. We could say this will lead to transistors or lasers."
Fortunately, the Obama administration is supportive of science and technology investment, he said. There was great emphasis put on research into weapons, armor and bomb-detection technologies, among other endeavors, during the active wars in
"We have to be very wary of just trying to get something in the near term versus still making those longterm investments," Roy said during a
All of the advantages gained from a decade of research into materials science, human systems, robotic autonomy, simulation and other disciplines are threatened by budget cuts.
Roy has already seen the defense science and technology budget fall from 17 percent of discretionary spending to 12 percent in his four years on SASC.
Sequestration cut a little more than
"This is just the defense budget," Roy said. "There is a civil science and technology sector, there is a commercial sector. So what effect does this have on
There remains a perennial debate over how big a slice of the base
The military must continue funding science and engineering endeavors, even at the expense of procurement programs,
The Obama administration emphasized research-and-development spending in its defense strategic guidance released in
"As the budget grows, early on R&D should not grow at the same rate as the budget,"
Traditionally, scientists and engineers have been tasked with creating technologies in anticipation of a specific threat or adversary assumed to be on the horizon. They and upper-level military strategists have historically miscalculated what those threats would be.
The role for
Threats pop up, and commercially available technologies evolve much more quickly than the government's ability to respond, Roy said.
"It took 19 years from contracts to [initial operating capability] of the F-22, and in that time period, look how the world changed and look how technologies changed. If we are going to be agile and responsive, we cannot continue as we have been."
The private sector is also able to pay its employees more than the government, which has led to a demand for highly educated candidates for military lab positions, Roy said.
There are about 37,000 scientists and engineers working for
"From a DoD perspective, we need to be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest, whether it's in government, whether it's in the industrial base," he said. "There is competition between the commercial and defense worlds for students. We need a seamlessness to move between academia, government and industry to gather a variety of experiences."
* Flashy big-ticket weapons like tanks and fighter jets get all the press when the money to buy them gets cut, but neither would exist if it weren't for years of researching what makes them such potent tools of warfare.
Email your comments to DParsons@ndia.org
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