House Appropriators Provide Extra Dollars for Defense Research

Under the House bill, general science and technology funding would be cut by less than the Pentagon had intended, while DARPA would see a smaller increase.

Early this week the House Appropriations Committee approved on a voice vote their FY 2015 Defense appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Defense (DOD). The bill provides $491 billion for DOD, $4.1 billion above FY 2014 and $200 million more than the request. The bill would actually keep overall DOD R&D essentially flat from FY 2014 levels, according to current AAAS estimates excluding R&D related to overseas military operations, which has not yet been appropriated. It shifts funding away from the science and technology accounts (the "6.1, 6.2, and 6.3" accounts in the DOD nomenclature) and towards downstream development activities, as the Pentagon requested. In fact, the House bill would actually lessen this shift somewhat, boosting science and technology accounts above the request while granting less for other R&D.

Even so, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — funding for which is contained throughout the science and technology accounts — would receive a smaller increase than requested. House appropriators also continued to support DOD medical research, though provided much less for peer-reviewed research than in FY 2014. Given these shifts, DOD science and technology, including medical research, would decline by 3.3 percent below FY 2014 levels in the House bill. Visit the House Appropriations Committee's website for draft bill text and the associated draft committee report.

House appropriators made minimal adjustments to the basic research (6.1) request. The only changes came within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) basic research portfolio: appropriators increased funding for the National Defense Education Program and for historically black colleges, but cut $10 million from the account containing the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship and the Minerva Initiative, a social science research program. Otherwise, the basic research request was fully met (see basic research programs table above).

There were several assorted increases for applied research (6.2) and advanced technology development (6.3). R&D elements receiving boosts included Army medical technology; Air Force materials research, manufacturing technology, and technology transfer; and continuing support for the Defense Rapid Innovation Fund.

Medical research funded through the Defense Health Program would decline by 19.8 percent below FY 2014 levels. As is customary, House appropriators added in several hundred million dollars on top of the request for peer-reviewed medical research across an array of research areas including ovarian, breast, and prostate cancer; multiple sclerosis; and tramautic brain injury. But at $591 million (updated), the provision for this research was greatly reduced from FY 2014 levels of $732 million.

The DARPA budget would rise to $2.8 billion under the House bill, a 2.5 percent increase. As mentioned above, this represents a decline from the request, which sought a 4.9 percent increase. The Committee granted a $2.5 million increase above the request for DARPA biomedical technology research, but then levied an unspecified reduction of $69 million for DARPA overall.

The Committee also doubled the Missile Defense Agency's request for cooperative R&D programs with Israel, related to Israel's Iron Dome short-range defense system.

The Defense appropriations bill may be considered by the full House next week.