Budget Reductions Limit Science, Tech Development, Official Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 The Defense Department’s research and engineering department faces the same challenges the rest of the department does due to limitations caused by sequestration spending cuts, a senior Pentagon official said today.
Alan R. Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, was joined by Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities to talk about their part of the fiscal year 2014 defense budget request.
Shaffer said he represents scientists and engineers from DOD, a group that “conceives, develops and matures systems” early in the acquisition process.
“They work with multiple partners to provide the unmatched operational advantage employed by our services’ men and women,” he said. “As we wind down in Afghanistan, the national security and budget environments are changing.”
The president’s fiscal 2014 budget request for science and technology is $12 billion -- a nominal increase from fiscal 2013’s $11.9 billion, Shaffer said, noting that it isn’t possible to discuss the budget without addressing the impact of sequestration, “which takes 9 percent from every single program” in research, development, testing and evaluation.
“This reduction will delay or terminate some efforts,” he said. “We will reduce awards. For instance, we will reduce university grants by $200 million this year alone.”
Potentially, he added, the number of new SMART Scholarships —an acronym that stands for science, mathematics and research for transformation -- could go down to zero, and sequestration cuts will cause other limitations for research and engineering departments.
“Because of the way the sequester was implemented, we will be very limited in hiring new scientists this year, and the [next] several years,” he said.
Each of these actions, Shaffer said, will have a negative long-term impact on the department and to national security.
“The president and secretary of defense depend upon us to make key contributions to the defense of our nation,” he said. “[Science and technology] should do three things for national security.”
Shaffer said science and technology should mitigate current and emerging threats and that the budget should build affordability and affordably enable current and future weapons systems to operate.
Also necessary, he said, is developing “technology surprise” to prevent potential adversaries from threatening the United States.
“In summary, the department’s research and engineering program is faced with the same challenges as the rest of the DOD and the nation,” he said, “but our people are performing.”
Prabhakar focused on DARPA’s goals in her testimony.
“[Our] objective is a new generation of technology for national security, and to realize this new set of military capabilities and systems is going to take a lot of organizations and people,” she said.
“But DARPA’s role in that is to make the pivotal early investments that change what’s possible,” she added. “[This] really lets us take big steps forward in our capabilities for the future.”
The director said DARPA is investing in a host of areas to include building a future where war fighters can have cyber as a tactical tool that’s fully integrated into the kinetic fight.
“And we’re building a new generation of electronic warfare that leapfrogs what others around the world are able to do with widely, globally available semiconductor technology,” she said.
“It means we’re investing in new technologies for position, navigation and timing, so that our people and our platforms are not critically reliant as they are today on GPS,” Prabhakar said.
The director also noted DARPA is investing in a new generation of space and robotics, advanced weapon systems, new platforms, and a new “foundational” infrastructure of emerging technologies in different areas of software and electronics, and material science.
The aim, Prabhakar said, is to create real and powerful options for future commanders and leaders against whatever threats the nation faces in the years ahead.
“And that work is the driver behind all of our programs,” she said. “It’s the reason that the people at DARPA run to work every morning with their hair on fire. They know that they’re part of a mission that really does matter for our future security as a country.