Wanted: A Defense R&D Policy; December 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by John Horgan; 3 Page(s)
For decades, the most powerful force shaping the direction of defense research in the U.S. was competition with the Soviet Union. Now, as the new world disorder emerges, the strategic landscape has completely changed. But has defense research policy? The Clinton administration has certainly uttered the right words concerning the need to shift the priorities of research spending. "In the short run, our national security depends on military might," Defense Secretary Les Aspin stated recently, "but in the long run, our national security depends on a strong economy."
Yet the vast research establishment that the U.S. constructed to counter any real or potential aggression from its archenemy stands more or less unchanged. The Department of Energy alone still spends some $3 billion a year on weapons-related research at its three major weapons laboratories, Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia. The research and development budget of the Department of Defense now stands at nearly $40 billion a year. Defense consumes about 60 percent of the total federal budget for research and development, which is roughly equal to the total spending on research and development by the private sector. There has been no significant shift in the way funds are spent to reflect the fact that the U.S. faces not one huge potential adversary but many small ones.