Sunday, January 07, 2007

Crisis In Science Funding

The New York Times reports on how the failure to pass a federal budget has decimated ongoing and new science projects in the US:
Congressional Budget Delay Stymies Scientific Research

[NOTE: ...and threatens a lot of people's livelihoods. Thanks a lot!]

The failure of Congress to pass new budgets for the current fiscal year has produced a crisis in science financing that threatens to close major facilities, delay new projects and leave thousands of government scientists out of work, federal and private officials say.

“The consequences for American science will be disastrous,” said Michael S. Lubell, a senior official of the American Physical Society, the world’s largest group of physicists. “The message to young scientists and industry leaders, alike, will be, ‘Look outside the U.S. if you want to succeed.’ ”

. . .

Congress and the Bush administration could restore much of the science financing in the 2008 budget. Scientists say it would help enormously, but add that senior staff members by that point may have already abandoned major projects for other jobs that were more stable.

. . .

The National Science Foundation, which supports basic research at universities, had expected a $400 million increase over the $5.7 billion budget it received in 2006. Now, the freeze is prompting program cuts, delays and slowdowns.
Let's divert some of the Pentagon's budget back to NSF, NIH, etc. The Pentagon is the worst-managed federal agency, according to this report:
Fiscal mess awaits new defense chief
Gates inherits 'worst-managed' federal agency


Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Iraq isn't the only pressing issue Robert Gates will face when he becomes the 22nd U.S. defense secretary on Monday.

High on his list of priorities will likely be the enormous task of cleaning up the Pentagon's tangled finances, which outside auditors lambaste as so chaotic that no one knows how much money is being spent on defense at any given time.
Great! Just think of how many students and post-docs could be funded from the waste and fraud at the Pentagon... The article contines:
Nowhere is the Pentagon's inability to control costs more glaring than in the surging costs of new weapons projects. The Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress and headed by Walker, recently concluded that the total cost of all major U.S. military weapons projects under development has doubled in five years to $1.4 trillion.

Financial problems like the Pentagon's "would put any civilian company out of business," said Kwai Chan, a former GAO auditor, assistant inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency and author of a report entitled "Financial Management in the Department of Defense: No One is Accountable."

The Office of Management and Budget, the GAO and the Pentagon accountants "all cannot tell you and agree on how much the Pentagon is spending at any given time," said Chan.
So no one is accountable. How did that happen?

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2 Comments:

At January 08, 2007 8:18 AM, Blogger RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

 
At January 08, 2007 11:41 AM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Thanks for your insights, Ken. Increased funding for veterans' health care and for research that will directly benefit the lives of returning Iraqi veterans with PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injuries, and possible neurotoxin exposure should be added to the list of funding priorities. It's a sad commentary that seeking treatment for PTSD and depression, as a Vietnam Veteran, would have disqualified you for a job within the Defense Industrial Complex. Best of luck to you in your new position with Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

from ODYSSEY OF ARMAMENTS

We are spending over $500B per year for defense, homeland security and nation building. Investments we are making in developing new democracies are draining our domestic programs such as health care, stifling the education of our young people and limiting research and development in valuable commercial technologies. The largest corporations selling to our government are no more than extensions of our government in the cloak of industry.

 

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