Reform

DOD Seeks to Expand Competition, Innovation in Research

May 22, 2019 | BY David Vergun

The Defense Department recently began an initiative called the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

What is It?

DEPSCoR is all about searching underrepresented U.S. "states and territories for researchers with important contributions to [DOD's] scientific enterprise," said Bindu Nair, acting director of DOD's Basic Research Office. "It's crucial that we build a [DOD] research infrastructure that leaves no state behind."

Three men use hand tools on small electronic devices in a field.
Printed Drone
Army researchers prepare a 3-D printed drone for flight at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 27, 2017.
Photo By: David McNally, Army
VIRIN: 170927-A-GX166-802

Nair said that institutions of higher education are especially relevant for building research capacity as they are incubators of science and engineering research and they operate under robust peer-review systems.

Why is It Important?

To avoid technological surprise and to maintain battlefield dominance against peer competitors like Russia and China, Nair said it is important for every state to be involved in cutting-edge defense research that could potentially lead to greater lethality.

Two men hook up a device on a barren landscape.
Research Laboratory
Andrei Abel, left, and Robert Fusing, both with the Naval Research Laboratory, conduct material testing at a beach in Benbecula, Scotland, during the first-ever Unmanned Warrior research and training exercise, Oct. 8, 2016. Academic and industry researchers were also involved in the program.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Grant P. Ammon
VIRIN: 161008-N-OH194-171

How It Works    

DEPSCoR is targeting the states and territories that have received the least funding from DOD science and engineering research programs as a way to increase competition and innovation.

The program is congressionally mandated and has directed over $8.5 million toward program grants this fiscal year, with more to potentially follow in coming years.

The head of the Environmental Sciences Branch Space at the Naval Warfare Systems Center checks fuel cells in a container.
Fuel Cells
Bart Chadwick, head of the Environmental Sciences Branch Space at the Naval Warfare Systems Center, checks conditions in laboratory microbial fuel cells in San Diego, April 14, 2010. The fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize naval energy use by converting decomposed marine organisms into electrical energy, offering a clean, efficient and reliable alternative to batteries and other environmentally harmful fuels.
Photo By: Navy photo
VIRIN: 100414-N-ZZ999-001C

DEPSCoR is also funding $3.45 million in outreach and support to help higher education institutions to learn more about the program and navigate DOD's paperwork process.