February 22, 2012
The Department of Defense funds basic research in a wide variety of scientific and engineering fields with a goal of exploiting new knowledge to enhance-and where possible, transform-future capabilities. DOD-funded research is known for high-risk endeavors that have led to paradigm shifts in the nation's technical capabilities.
The task force took on the task to both validate the quality of the existing DOD basic research program and to provide advice on long-term basic research planning and strategies.
Overall, the task force found the current DOD basic research program to be a very good one, comparable to other basic research programs in the government and well-suited to DOD needs.
The managers are highly qualified, reviews are plentiful, and coordination is excellent. As is true for most programs in the DOD, however, less bureaucracy and more transparency would be welcome improvements.
In the area of long-term basic research planning and strategies, the task force investigated four topic areas, making recommendations for actions in each of them:
• A more concerted effort is needed to ensure that the U.S. scientific human resources needed by the Department for global military competition will be available, and not assume that it will be so without such determined effort.
• An increasing fraction of the world's basic research is being conducted outside the United States as part of a larger trend toward the globalization of science. In order to avoid technological surprise, it is important for 000 to be involved in the cutting edge of basic research on topics of specific interest to the Department- whether the cutting edge is in the U.S. or overseas.
• A technology strategy is needed that contains objectives expressed with clarity, quantification, priority and timing. A genuine technology strategy would not only be invaluable in alignment of basic research, but also in alignment of systems, missions and national security affairs more broadly.
• While basic research was not identified as a barrier to a healthy innovation ecology in DOD, several factors related to the current defense acquisition system were found to limit innovation in major DOD systems.
Taken together, the issues addressed in the study point to the important role of basic research in the continuing success of the DOD mission. DOD dominates the world's military organizations in being able to use basic research results to create new and enhanced military capabilities, by dint of financial resources, infrastructure and national culture. The task force offers their recommendations that will ensure this trend continues for decades to come.
Source: Defense Science Board