the DoD cuts and debate over it (fwd)

Hemant Desai (
Mon, 25 Jul 1994 00:17:30 -0500 (CDT)

> What I have seen so far in the debate over the DoD research cuts (Dave
> Johnson's memo and his response to critics) raises further questions:
> 1. What was the funding level for the last fiscal year? A $0.9 billion cut
> measured against what the DoD requested may not accurately reflect how much
> would be cut from present levels. Could go in either direction, could make a
> big difference in the numbers. Remember that we are being asked to pressure
> the Senate (or was it the House; I forget) to take a bargaining position to
> arrive at a reasonable final funding level in the conference committee. Can't
> do that unless we know what a reasonable level would be. The previous
> funding level may be a better benchmark than the DoD proposal for this
> year.
> 2. Have the directions taken by DoD-sponsored research helped the various
> social science disciplines like psychology, or have they diverted scarce
> resources (talented people willing to earn less than they would in the
> private sector) to lines of research that at best fail to improve the
> conditions of human life? It's not self-evident to me that giving
> people employed in psychology more incentives to study brain chemistry & brain
> architecture helps much, when we live in a society with high rates
> of "mental illness" however defined and where few people are aware that
> we have free will and souls, concepts generally not investigated by the
> brain sciences. Just for example. These things need
> to be assessed one field at a time, via debates among people familiar with
> the various fields.
> 3. Even if we accept the achievements cited by David Johnson as positive
> things, are they worth $1.8 billion a year or whatever they cost? Could
> they be obtained for less money if they were funded in some other way,
> not through the DoD? I know that inside the Beltway, the time horizon
> for strategic thought is something like 1-3 weeks maximum, but we are
> outside the Beltway and hence quite free to keep the broader picture in
> view.
> 4. It is possible that the DoD offers money for relatively "basic"
> research with relatively few strings attached, compared with other
> possible ways of funding research. If so, this needs to be
> demonstrated.
> Please feel free to forward this to anyone who would be interested.
> Roger Karapin, Political Science Dept., Hunter College