House Committee Approves FY 2014 Defense Spending Bill

On Wednesday, June 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2014 Defense appropriations bill on a voice vote, sending the bill to the House floor. The $513 billion bill has created headlines by allocating a greater amount for defense spending than allowed by the current caps under the Budget Control Act, violating the cap by $15 billion. This move fits in with the overall House budget strategy of boosting defense spending above sequester levels, while cutting nondefense spending even further.

In terms of R&D, the current bill would provide $69.3 billion for R&D at the Department of Defense (DOD), slightly below the request, 1.8 percent above FY 2013 post-sequester estimates, and 6.9 percent below FY 2012 (not accounting for inflation of 4 percent). Total research funding, including basic and applied, would rise to $6.8 billion, 0.9 percent above the request, due to a handful of programmatic increases. Downstream technology development would receive even larger cuts than those envisioned by the Administration. The largest divergence with the President’s request is in research funding within the Defense Health Program. The Administration has targeted the program, a major funder of cancer and brain injury research, for significant cuts in FY 2014, but the Committee would restore these cuts and add an additional $63 million above FY 2012 levels for a 5 percent increase.

In historical terms, the House bill would continue the recent decline in DOD R&D, leaving department R&D funding at its lowest point since FY 2002. Science & Technology funding would reach its highest point since FY 2010.

DOD Science & Technology. There is only limited divergence from the President’s request for most science and technology funding accounts, which consist of basic research (“6.1” in the DOD nomenclature), applied research (“6.2”), and early-stage technology development (“6.3”), as well as medical research. The 6.1 to 6.3 accounts would cumulatively increase by 2.9 percent, or $333 million, above the President’s request, and 2.1 percent ahead of FY 2012 levels; however, inflation would render this a 1.9 percent decline in real dollars.

These numbers are buoyed by a positive outlook for basic research, which the Administration has sought to boost to an all-time high in FY 2014. The Committee matched the Administration’s programmatic basic research request almost exactly; the only change is an additional $5 million for historically black colleges and minority institutions, reflecting the Committee’s concerns over DOD’s access to minority talent in science and engineering fields. The result would be a 7.9 percent or $160 million boost above FY 2012 levels for DOD basic research, while the other two accounts would fail to keep pace with inflation.

Also excepted is the aforementioned Defense Health Program research. The largest research funding accounts include $125 million for brain injury and psychological health, $120 million for breast cancer, $80 million for prostate cancer, and $45 million for the Joint Warfighter Medical Research program, which seeks to enhance combat readiness and military medicine.

Lastly, the Committee has taken a particular interest in several individual programs, including malaria vaccine development; Navy’s pursuit of ocean energy technology; collaborative strategic metals research by the Air Force Research Lab and the Metals Affordability Initiative Consortium; and DARPA’s cyber-enabled manufacturing program, which engages the nation's high school students.

The bill awaits House floor action.

Tables: Congressional Action on DOD R&D
Dept. of Defense R&D
R&D By Military Department and Agency
DOD Basic Research
DOD Science & Technology Budget
Read more: Analysis of the President's Request for DOD R&D