Defense research funding clarified
I would like to comment on the third paragraph from the end of the article, "FAC takes input in presidential search" [Jan. 10], in which Professor Eugene B. Skolnikoff '49 and I are quoted.
I was quoted as saying that "while 40 percent of MIT research was defense-sponsored in 1980, that percentage increased to 66 percent in 1989." I think that I had a few disclaimers of accuracy in my statement, since I calculated the percentages on the spot from remembered numbers. In any case, Department of Defense funding of MIT's total research and development budget (on-campus plus Lincoln Laboratories) increased by 38 percent from 45.5 percent of the total R & D budget in fiscal year 1979 to 63.0 percent in FY88.
Professor Skolnikoff is quoted as saying "that on-campus military research had not increased during that period." My memory is that he just said that on-campus research did not increase as much, but in fact, even that is incorrect. Calculations based the annual "MIT Report of Sponsored Research" indicate that DOD funding of on-campus research increased by 61 percent from 10.8 percent of on-campus R & D in FY79 (the lowest percentage since World War II) to 17.4 percent in FY88.
I would also like to clarify the description of my comments. I do not advocate that the administration of MIT should forbid DOD funding of MIT on-campus research. However, the present administration has done much more than be neutral on the source of funding; it has actively supported increases in DOD funding of university R & D. President Paul E. Gray '54 has gone to Washington, DC, to speak in favor of such increases, and has supported lobbying by the Association of American Universities to achieve this result. Provost John M. Deutch '61 is on record supporting the 1988 Defense Science Board Fuhrman report that concluded that the DOD should expand its funding of R & D into civilian areas to maintain its 66 percent share of all federal funding of R & D in a time of threatened DOD cutbacks.
In the next MIT administration this dependence on DOD should be replaced by a clear vision of how both the most interesting basic research and the R & D relevant to real national needs could best be supported, and the next MIT president should have the leadership qualities to help achieve this nationally.
Professor of Physics->