A new National Research Council report finds that the Air Force’s
investment in science and technology has fallen 46 percent in
real terms since FY 1989. The report’s authors conclude that
“the Air Force’s current (FY01) investments in air, space, and
information systems S&T are too low to meet the challenges being
presented by new and emerging threats,” and recommend that
funding be increased to “one-and-a half to two times” the current
level. They also recommend better advocacy for S&T programs and
investments within the Air Force, and actions to improve “the
quality and retention” of the Air Force S&T workforce.

Reps. Tony Hall (D-OH) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) incorporated
a provision in the FY 1999 DOD authorization act which mandated
an NRC study of the DOD technology base in the areas of air and
space systems and supporting information technology. Hall, in a
press release, stated, “This is the most authoritative study yet
that points to the inadequacies of the Air Force science and
technology program…. With this report, the National Research
Council adds its voice to earlier warnings of the Air Force
Association, the Defense Science Board, and even the Air Force’s
own Scientific Advisory Board.”

The report finds that “attempts to realize a post-Cold War peace
dividend and to deal with federal budget deficits” have left the
total DOD budget “about 25 percent lower in real terms than at
the end of the Cold War.” S&T funding within DOD fell during the
1990s but was restored in the past two fiscal years. It is now
about two percent above its Cold War level in real terms, and
currently represents three percent of total defense spending.
While Army, Navy and defense research agency S&T budgets reflect
the recent increases, the report states, “the sole exception is
the Air Force, whose real S&T investment is down by 46 percent”
from FY 1989 to FY 2001. The report adds, “The strength of S&T
representation in the Air Force is weakened by the relatively
small size of the S&T program compared with the Air Force’s total
program…. The relatively small size of the S&T investment
affects perceptions of its value and the amount of attention paid
to it.”

The report’s “Overarching Conclusions and Recommendations” are
provided below:


Conclusion 1. “The committee believes that [post-Cold War]
reductions made by the Air Force to its S&T investment since the
end of the Cold War did not take into account the changing nature
of the global threat and the S&T challenges it presents…. The
committee believes that the Air Force’s current (FY01)
investments in air, space, and information systems S&T are too
low to meet the challenges being presented by new and emerging

Recommendation 1. The Defense and Air Force Secretaries “should
continue to increase [Air Force S&T funding] to reach one-and-a-
half to two times its current (FY01) level. Investments in S&T
for air, space, and information systems should all be increased.
Increasing one by decreasing the others will not satisfy
current…shortcomings and may create new ones.”


Conclusion 2. “The committee strongly believes that the Air
Force needs authoritative, S&T-focused and dedicated
representation and advocacy at the corporate policy and decision-
making level…to help make informed trade-offs and budget
decisions.” Without such advocacy, “the committee believes that
the Air Force faces undue risk that its S&T investment will not
provide the technologies and systems needed to meet future
threats.” The committee praises recent Air Force actions to
improve S&T advocacy.

Recommendation 2. The committee suggests possible additional
actions “to further strengthen S&T representation,” including (1)
formally designating Air Force S&T as a corporate program, (2)
having the Air Force Research Laboratory commander report
directly to the Chief of Staff or sit on the Air Force Council,
and (3) establishing an Air Force Council position “dedicated to,
responsible for, and authorized to represent and advocate S&T
within the Air Force.”


Conclusion 3. Post-Cold War reductions in the Air Force S&T
workforce, as well as hiring and personnel management rules,
“have helped to undermine the quality and health of the Air
Force’s S&T program.” In addition, the talents of technically-
educated DOD officers “are not being fully exploited,” and the
number of DOD officers “who understand the importance of S&T to
U.S. military superiority is decreasing.”

Recommendation 3. The pilot program to revitalize the service
laboratories should be extended. The Defense and service
secretaries and chiefs of staff should find innovative ways to
manage and “improve the quality and health of their [S&T]
workforces,” assure career-advancement opportunities for S&T
officers, encourage officers to accept S&T assignments, and view
such assignments positively for promotions. “Remedial actions”
should be implemented, including personnel demonstration projects
and various mechanisms to bring leading non-DOD scientists and
engineers into DOD labs. With the help of Congress, Civil
Service rules that “directly affect the quality and health of the
science and technology workforce” should be modified.

President Bush’s DOD budget request for FY 2002 would reduce
aggregate Air Force Basic Research, Applied Research, and
Advanced Technology Development by 5.1 percent, from $1.46
billion to $1.38 billion. Congressional appropriators have not
yet drafted their FY 2002 defense bills.

“It is often said that reports in Washington, once released, are
left to gather dust. I can assure you this one will not,”
Boehlet vowed. The report, “Review of the U.S. Department of
Defense Air, Space, and Supporting Information Systems Science
and Technology Program,” is not yet available on the National
Academies web site, but a prepublication copy of the Executive
Summary is available on Rep. Hall’s web site at

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094