Basic Research Gets A Pass at Pentagon

Science appears to be on offense at the Department of Defense (DOD). As the Pentagon prepares to downsize by about $5 billion, it's making an exception in its budget for key research programs. Basic science in line 6.1—a category that supports work at universities—would rise slightly from $2.112 billion in 2012 to a target of $2.117 billion in the proposed 2013 budget. And the Pentagon's champion of risk-taking R&D, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is slated for a small increase, from $2.816 billion to $2.817 billion. Basic science within DARPA would grow from $329 million to $349 million. Also bucking the trend is an Administration request to double the size of an innovative social science program on conflict, known as Minerva, from $7.5 million in 2012 to more than $16 million next year.

The DOD request impressed the Association of American Universities (AAU) in Washington, D.C., which lobbies for research funding. It is clear that the Administration is giving priority to research even "at a time when the Pentagon is making substantial spending cuts," AAU federal relations vice president Matt Owens wrote in an e-mail. "We hope Congress will consider ways to continue the growth that basic research has seen."