It's not just the geeks who are worried. Last week, computer scientists voiced concerns about the Pentagon's retreat from funding blue-sky research. In a Times op-ed today, former Defense Secretary William Perry and CIA chief John Deutch say they're nervous, too. And not just about the Defense Department's shrinking purse for open-ended, basic research. But about the larger step back from the future that the Pentagon seems to be taking.
Of the Pentagon's $419.3 billion budget request for next year, only about $10.5 billion - 2 percent - will go toward basic research, applied research and advanced technology development. This represents a 20 percent reduction from last year, a drastic cutback that threatens the long-term security of the nation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should reconsider this request, and if he does not, Congress should restore the cut...Of course, the administration and Congress need to make tough budget choices. But to shift money away from the technology base to pay for Iraq, other current military operations or research on large, expensive initiatives, is to give priority to the near term at the expense of the future. This is doubtful judgment, especially at a time when the nature of the threat confronting America is changing. New threats, like catastrophic terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, urgently call for new technology.