S&T Scare

/ November 19, 2008 at 5:00 AM

When it comes to the effect that a potentially diminished Defense Department budget in the next administration might have on science and technology research and development, at least one defense official said he’s pretty frightened.

“It really scares me when I think about a shrinking science and technology budget,” John Wilcox, an assistant deputy under secretary of defense and the director of the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program, said yesterday on a panel at the Coast Guard Innovation Expo in Virginia Beach, VA. “Because that’s the money that’s the future, whether it’s building the research, scientists, the engineers and our young people that have those programs out there, or having the right monies to invest in things that can react quickly to the battlefield.”

He said he’s pretty certain defense research organizations will see a “drawdown” and be asked to do more with less. And to counter the effects, he told the audience, DOD should take greater advantage of cooperative efforts across departments.

“If we don’t start doing that, and we see our budget going down and things like that, especially across places like DOD, ((Department of Homeland Security)), and the services and the Coast Guard, we’re going to find that we’re not going to be able to put the solutions out there and we will get halfway down the path we need to go.”

The JCTD program funds accelerated research, development and operational evaluation of mature technologies that meet joint warfighting requirements or combatant commander priorities. He said JCTDs can “bring people together from the labs, from industry, sometimes working on a very informal basis,” and that “actually, it puts together a very strong, collaborative effort to go after a solution to a problem.”

More of that kind of collaboration, Wilcox said, will be what is necessary to keep science and technology research and development moving forward under tightened purse strings.

“We need to do a real shift,” he said. “And it’s going to come whether we like it or not.”

-- Rebekah Gordon