Carrying Out the Defense S&T Mission

Research sometimes pays immediate dividends, with a transition directly from laboratory bench to defense systems in the field. But most often the full impact of research is not apparent until much later. It is only in hindsight that the patterns of research which spawned revolutionary military capabilities-radar, digital computers, semiconductor electronics, lasers, fiber optics, and navigation systems capable of great accuracy-are discernible. Thus, in planning our research programs, we focus not only on immediate needs but also on opportunities that will sustain our technological edge far into the future.

A balance of investments is needed at every phase of development to ensure that basic research results are exploited for military applications in a timely manner through technology demonstration and transition. Further, since there are many performers, we must carefully manage our investments to make sure that we capitalize on all their strengths.

About 15 percent of our Defense S&T investment is devoted to basic research, about 36 percent to exploratory development, and the rest to advanced technology development. The majority of the work in the basic research program is conducted at universities and Defense Department laboratories, with the remainder in industry, nonprofit research institutes, and other Federal laboratories. Most of the Defense technology program is performed by industry. Our Department of Energy National Laboratories, Department of Defense, and other government laboratories are involved in both basic research and technology development. Of course, intense interactions among these complementary performers are essential if we are to realize full synergistic benefits.


The linkage between military-related science and technology and the university community is longstanding. The Department of Defense has supported research and development at academic institutions for over five decades. The research offices of each of the military services were among the first Federal organizations created in the period immediately after World War II to foster science and engineering research in the nation's universities. University research pays dual dividends, providing not only new knowledge but also producing graduate scientists and engineers in disciplines important to national defense. The greatest part of the Defense-supported university effort-over 75 percent-is in basic research conducted within academic departments. In addition, some universities in the World War II period established highly specialized laboratories to perform defense technology development. These organizations are generally separate and distinct from the academic side of the universities, and account for virtually all the Defense Department's development funding awarded to academic institutions.

The defense basic research investment is focused on those disciplines which have a potential relationship to a military function or operation. Funding decisions weigh both technical quality and military relevance.


Both the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy operate large laboratory systems.

The Department of Defense laboratories operated by the military departments are both performers and purchasers of research and technology. The laboratories provide the technical expertise to enable the military services to be smart buyers and users. The Department of Defense laboratories perform such critical functions as:

Besides directly supporting their military departments, the Defense Department laboratories act as agents for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and other defense research and technology agencies.

Like other elements of the Department of Defense infrastructure, the laboratories are participating in the processes of reinvention and acquisition reform. The laboratory work force is being reduced; the facilities infrastructure is being restructured, and opportunities for consolidation and cross-service integration are being examined. Accompanying this reduction in size are new personnel demonstration systems designed to reinvigorate in-house quality and new organizational structures and acquisition procedures that stress interaction and partnership with extramural performers.

The Department of Energy national security laboratories have, for more than half a century, provided the science and technology to ensure that U.S. nuclear weapons meet the highest standards of performance and safety. The laboratories' multidisciplinary, multiprogram approach has been extremely successful at solving complex technical problems of national importance. In carrying out their national security mission, the Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, have created an unmatched pool of scientific and technical expertise. The nuclear weapons work of the laboratories has spurred major inventions and technology breakthroughs that, in turn, have spawned new scientific opportunities and enabled the laboratories to address and solve other important national problems. For example, the supercomputer industry, born in the nuclear weapons program, has not only spurred the growth of a significant segment of the economy, but it has also enabled the labs to tackle such other problems as global climate change and work on the human genome. In their weapons work, the laboratories have vividly demonstrated the success of programmatic integration and interlaboratory collaboration, an approach that is proving equally successful in other areas of investigation. In the future, as in the past, the expertise of the laboratories will continue to evolve as their programs adjust to meet changing national needs within increasing requirements for effectiveness and efficiency.

Private Industry

U.S. commercial industry accounts for the largest portion of the defense S&T investment portfolio. The majority of this investment is in advanced technology development, reflecting the unique strength of industry in integrating advanced technology into military systems. Our industrial capacity is the pride of the United States and the envy of the world. It is vital to developing the military capabilities on which we depend and fundamental to our strength as a nation.

Some industrial capabilities required for national defense are unique to defense. With no commercial counterparts, they must depend on defense markets for survival (for example, building nuclear-powered submarines and the production of most ammunition). As we reduce defense procurement, the Administration seeks to maintain key capabilities of the industrial base that supports defense. We do not seek to preserve every company that supplies defense equipment, but rather to support only those industrial capabilities that are both essential to defense and genuinely at risk.

In addition, defense diversification initiatives within the Department of Commerce provide small and medium-sized defense subcontractors with direct access to Federal and state programs designed to assist in this period of declining defense markets and increased foreign competition. Through these initiatives, defense contractors and subcontractors are upgrading production techniques and finding new markets for their technologies and products.