puter science gets nearly 50 percent and mathematics gets 17 percent of its federal funding through the DOD.
Changes in recent years occurring in the national laboratories operated by the Department of Energy's Office of Defense Programs may be altering a formula that has served the nation well for half a century: National security challenges are best addressed by laboratories with excellent basic science core competencies and with strong connections to outside university and industrial researchers. The dominant force behind the changes is a pattern of funding that de-emphasizes the long-term basic research that previously maintained laboratory excellence in core competencies. In addition, unfortunate security lapses and the response to them are contributing to morale and recruiting problems, endangering the historical partnership between government and laboratory scientists.
Some scientific leaders in DOD feel that budget reductions for basic science have seriously weakened in-house research: Long-term declines and year-to-year instabilities have made it difficult to retain the top scientists. Instabilities in DOD external funding of industry and university research have also resulted in considerable disruption of programs with a corresponding loss in productivity.
The decline of DOD laboratory basic science capabilities and activities raises issues similar to those raised at the DOE laboratories. In earlier decades, the DOD laboratories had active programs in basic physics research directly relevant to DOD missions. The scientists involved in such research were able to advise the DOD on basic physics issues and to help evaluate products provided by industry. The decline in this research effort and in the quality of in-house expertise has been driven by changing funding trends, short-term demands on the services' budgets, and competition for good technical people from other sectors of the economy.
There is a critical need to ensure that the physics research required to maintain the technical superiority of the nation's armed forces is being carried out somewhere. Although the committee is not in a position to judge whether or not the DOD laboratories are the best places to do this, it is clear that they had this function in the past and now have lost much of their capability. Regardless of the source of DOD research, there is also a critical need for the DOD to evaluate the physics carried out by outside vendors. The level of DOD in-house expertise may no longer be sufficient for this task.