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Information Technology R&D Cybersecurity R&D IT Workforce Defense R&D Impediments to Research Advocacy Archives

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DARPA and University Research

The computing research community is concerned about ways in which the current funding regime at DARPA could discourage innovative research and discourage the participation of university-based researchers. Additionally, CRA members have expressed concern that research aimed at advancing the leading edge of IT has not received adequate focus within the agency.

  • Many of the technologies that have enabled our current economic prosperity and increased our national security have their roots in university research supported by DARPA.
  • The Internet, graphical user interfaces, and global positioning systes are all the result of long-term, cutting edge, university based research, supported decades ago by DARPA.
  • DARPA's recent move to a "milestone" based approach to funded research -- where programs are evaluated on a 12 to 18 month cycle with "go/no go" decisions at each step -- encourages the proposing of less-than innovative research and poses considerable logistical challenges to university-based researchers.
  • CRA is also concerned about a worrisome trend at DARPA of taking formerly un-classified research projects and turning them "black" or classified. While there are quite a few areas of research which rightly should be clossified for national security reasons, there should also be some concern that programs are not turned black -- and therefore out of public scrutiny -- simply because they might eb controversial. There is a cost to science when research goes black.

Congressional Reaction

"DARPA has been recognized as the high-risk, high-payout defense agency ever since its inception. The committee, however, is concerned about recent trends in the agency-sponsored research that appear more shortsighted in their approach, particularly the emphasis on 12- and 18-month reviews in order to attempt to eliminate non-promising technologies."
--Senate Armed Services Committee Report accompanying FY 2003 Defense Authorization Bill


Current Funding Situation

Final Science and Technology Funding Levels, Defense Appropriation
(in Millions)
Account
FY 2007
Level
FY 2008
Level
FY 2009
Estimate
$ Change
FY 08 vs. FY 09
% Change
FY 08 vs. FY 09
Total Science and Technology (6.1, 6.2, 6.3)
$12,839
$12,828
$11,474
-$1,354
-10.6%
Total Basic Research (6.1)
$1,525
$1,783
$1,697
-$86
-4.8%
Total Applied Research (6.2)
$5,103
$5,058
$4,245
-$813
-16.1%
Total Adv. Tech. Development (6.3)
$6,210
$5,987
$5,532
-$455
-7.6%
Total Army 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
$2,795
$2,891
$1,841
-$1,050
-36.3%
Basic - 6.1
$353
$379
$379
-$.4
0.1%
Applied - 6.2
$1,189
$1,175
$723
-$452
-38.4%
Adv. Tech. Dev. - 6.3
$1,253
$1,337
$739
-$598
-44.7%
Total Navy 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
$2,006
$2,021
$1,840
-$181
-8.9%
Basic - 6.1
$482
$497
$528
$31
6.2%
Applied - 6.2
$773
$801
$633
-$168
-20.9%
Adv. Tech. Dev. - 6.3
$751
$722
$678
-$44
-6%
Total Air Force 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
$2,006
$2,021
$1,840
-$181
-9.0%
Basic - 6.1
$482
$497
$528
$31
6.2%
Applied - 6.2
$773
$801
$633
-$168
-21%
Adv. Tech. Dev. - 6.3
$751
$722
$679
-$44
-6%
Total Defense-Wide 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
$5,496
$5,512
$5,718
$207
3.7%
Basic - 6.1
$293
$336
$339
$3
.8%
Applied - 6.2
$2,026
$1,912
$1,844
-$69
-3.6%
Adv. Tech. Dev. - 6.3
$3,032
$3,363
$3,152
$272
8.3%


Trends in Defense S&T


Trends in DOD S&T Funding
Enlarge - PDF (488k)

Over the last 20 years, DOD spending on Advanced Technology Development (6.3) -- the "D" in "R&D" and the yellow line on this chart -- has more than doubled, while Basic Research (6.1) -- the blue line -- has declined in constant dollars.

Useful Graphs and Charts



IT R&D Funding at NSF and DARPA
Enlarge - PDF (488k)



Trends in DOD Science and Technology
Enlarge - PDF (488k)



Defense Department IT R&D FY08 Request
Enlarge - PDF (488k)