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Defense: Cuts Hit Systems Development

by Andrea Widener
April 22, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 16

Credit: Department of Defense
A table shows that basic research funding will increase as other areas decline at the Department of Defense.
Credit: Department of Defense

The Department of Defense’s R&D budget dwarfs all other federal research combined, but it has not been spared the ax in President Obama’s proposed 2014 budget.

The DOD R&D budget is facing overall cuts of 7.5%, down from $73.0 billion in 2012 to $67.5 billion in 2014. That includes a decreasing amount of Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which were dispersed throughout the department to help support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 2014 cuts mostly come in the development side of the R&D equation, decreasing the amount spent on transitioning research programs into production.

The situation is better for DOD’s research portfolio. The three military branch research labs—the Army, Air Force, and Navy—will receive $2.2 billion each, flat funding compared with 2012. They have been hit hard by the across-the-board budget cuts called sequestration because many of the scientists working in those labs are civilian employees and thus subject to furloughs, unlike military personnel.

In keeping with the President’s overall support of basic science, DOD’s basic research budget would get a 7.7% increase from 2012 to $2.2 billion in 2014. The focus would be on high-priority areas, including cybersecurity, robotics, advanced learning, “big data,” energy efficiency, advanced manufacturing, and biodefense.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds high-risk basic research projects, also avoided the budget ax. It would get $2.9 billion in 2014, up 1.8% from 2012.

A big chunk of the DARPA increase will go toward the President’s proposed Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which he announced this month. With a proposed investment of $50 million, DARPA will support technologies designed to study how the brain works.



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