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House Approves $200M Cut in DoD Research

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Editor in Chief

The House of Representatives approved a $200 million cut in the Department of Defense university research budget yesterday, which will mean a significant loss in sponsorship for the Institute, according to John C. Crowley, director of the MIT Washington office. The Senate was expected to vote on the bill last night or will vote today.

There is little doubt that the Senate will also approve the budget, Crowley said.

The Defense Department funds 40 percent of U.S. universities' engineering research. In fiscal year 1993, 18 percent of MIT's research was funded through the Defense Department, according to Tech Talk.

The Clinton administration had originally budgeted $1.8 billion for DoD university research funding for fiscal year 1995, which begins tomorrow, but the cut reduces this more than 10 percent.

MIT has "faced other serious proposals in Congress to cut and freeze various budgets, but this is perhaps the most serious reduction which has been passed into law in the last few years," Crowley said.

The final $200 million cut is a compromise between a $900 million cut passed by the House in July and an $82 million cut approved by the Senate in August. The compromise figure emerged from a conference committee last week.

Rep. John P. Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said the original $900 million cut was made to "send a message" to Congress and the Pentagon to bring university research spending into line with other DoD spending, according to an article in The Boston Globe this summer.

Impact is not clear

"It will take some time to determine what the specific impact on campus programs is," said George H. Dummer, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Because each branch of the DoD will determine how it wants to allocate the reduction, it will take a few weeks before MIT knows how much research funding is lost, Crowley said.

It is "quite unlikely that all ongoing activity will be reduced by an equal share," Crowley said. "There will be some programs that fare better than others across the nation."

The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency, will each adjust their internal funding plans, Crowley said.

ARPA has been "key over the years in funding computer sciences," said Kenneth D. Campbell, director of the news office. Many innovations in computing over the past 25 to 30 years have come from ARPA-funded projects, he said.

The reduction is distributed as follows: $13.8 million from the Army, $62.2 million from the Navy, $18.5 million from the Air Force, $86.5 million from defense-wide appropriation, and $19.1 million associated with university laboratories, according to the House of Representative's Congressional Record [Sept. 26].

"It's particularly worrisome because in national terms, as well as MIT terms, the DoD funding is heavily concentrated in schools of engineering" - especially in departments of computer science, materials science, and ocean engineering, Crowley said.

"I think that it is important to note that the effects of this run counter to national policy goals for science and technology of the current administration," Crowley said.

Many lobbied for MIT

Crowley credited the efforts of key members of Congress for reducing the cuts to $200 million from drastic reductions originally approved by the House. "One has to look at the $200 million cut as a serious problem, which it is, but one must also understand that we had a [House] proposal to cut it by $900 million."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Sen. John F. Kerry, and Rep. Joe Moakley "were absolutely crucial to securing this last drastic outcome," Crowley said. "From their point of view, it was a victory. It could have been much worse."

Though Kennedy, Kerry, and Moakley were not part of the conference committee, they "went to great lengths to express their support and to urge their colleagues to restore funding," Crowley said.

The Massachusetts House delegation sent a letter supporting university research funding to the House of Representatives, Crowley said.

Along with certain Congressional supporters, several industry leaders strongly backed the universities' position, Crowley said.