8
Funding Mechanisms

The AFOSR is responsible for oversight and management of the Air Force program in basic (6.1) research. AFOSR program managers orchestrate the research program with universities, industry, other government organizations, and the AFRL technical directorates. The goal is to create revolutionary breakthroughs and to facilitate the transfer of research results to support Air Force challenges and needs.

In FY 2004, AFOSR managed funding for approximately 1,350 grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. The total funding of $394 million was distributed to approximately 380 academic institutions and industrial firms. As shown in Figure 8-1, the AFOSR FY 2004 budget authority included $205 million for 6.1 defense research and $104 million for university research initiatives (URI), both distributed in the form of extramural grants to universities, contracts to industry, and intramural grants to Air Force in-house laboratories. AFOSR also executed approximately $85 million for other programs, such as the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program and programs at DARPA.

One task given to the committee was to recommend an appropriate balance of funding mechanisms for IS&T research. The committee was briefed by John Tangney of AFOSR on funding mechanisms used by the AFOSR Directorate of Mathematics and Space Sciences, and it had the benefit of several reports,1 excerpts from AFOSR BAA 2005-1, notes from

1  

Among them, National Research Council, Review of the U.S. Department of Defense Air, Space, and Supporting Information Systems Science and Technology Program, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (2001).



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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs 8 Funding Mechanisms The AFOSR is responsible for oversight and management of the Air Force program in basic (6.1) research. AFOSR program managers orchestrate the research program with universities, industry, other government organizations, and the AFRL technical directorates. The goal is to create revolutionary breakthroughs and to facilitate the transfer of research results to support Air Force challenges and needs. In FY 2004, AFOSR managed funding for approximately 1,350 grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. The total funding of $394 million was distributed to approximately 380 academic institutions and industrial firms. As shown in Figure 8-1, the AFOSR FY 2004 budget authority included $205 million for 6.1 defense research and $104 million for university research initiatives (URI), both distributed in the form of extramural grants to universities, contracts to industry, and intramural grants to Air Force in-house laboratories. AFOSR also executed approximately $85 million for other programs, such as the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program and programs at DARPA. One task given to the committee was to recommend an appropriate balance of funding mechanisms for IS&T research. The committee was briefed by John Tangney of AFOSR on funding mechanisms used by the AFOSR Directorate of Mathematics and Space Sciences, and it had the benefit of several reports,1 excerpts from AFOSR BAA 2005-1, notes from 1   Among them, National Research Council, Review of the U.S. Department of Defense Air, Space, and Supporting Information Systems Science and Technology Program, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (2001).

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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs FIGURE 8-1 Funding for all of AFOSR in FY 2004. a review of the Partnership for Research Excellence and Transition (PRET) for Advanced Concepts in Space Situational Awareness, which a member of the committee attended, and an overview briefing of AFOSR. The current AFOSR IS&T program is executed through a variety of mechanisms: Individual investigator grants at universities, at Air Force laboratories, and in industry. A large majority of these grants are held by academic researchers. The committee agrees with that choice, because the academic setting is well suited for long-range, basic research and has a time-tested record of success. A small number of grants are held by investigators within AFRL, which is appropriate for topics that require in-depth understanding within the Air Force or that have not yet caught the attention of strong academic researchers. Multidisciplinary university research initiatives (MURIs). These longer-term group grants (up to 5 years) provide a good mechanism for investigating challenges requiring an unusual and/or concerted mix of efforts. University centers. These grants enable the Air Force to establish a critical mass of expertise focused on particular Air Force challenges at selected institutions. Those institutions in turn become a resource for in-house Air Force scientists and engineers. Partnerships for Research Excellence and Transition (PRETs). This mechanism brings together mixtures of academic, industrial, and Air Force researchers to jointly develop a new area of research (e.g., space situational awareness) while also establishing some path-

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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs ways for technology transition. The industrial partners must contribute resources. Small-business research, DOD Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR), and grants designated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI). These research mechanisms allow AFOSR to tap into a broader portion of the research community while, in the first case, also increasing the potential for technology transition. Finding. The committee concluded that all of these mechanisms provide value of different sorts to the Air Force and that AFOSR program managers understand their pros and cons and use the mechanisms appropriately. Therefore, the committee concluded that the current choices appear to be good ones and that AFOSR staff should continue to be given the latitude to make choices. Recommendation. The committee recommends that AFOSR consider augmenting these choices by implementing a young investigator award along the lines of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development program or the Office of Naval Research’s Young Faculty Investigator Program. Such a program in the AFOSR would help attract young science and engineering faculty of exceptional promise to work on Air Force research problems early in their careers. In particular, the Navy’s program, which includes a basic award of $75,000 per year for 3 years, coupled with possible equipment support and additional funding if the investigator receives support from another part of the Navy, is a very interesting model to consider since it includes incentives to connect to Navy laboratories and systems commands. The committee also offers two related recommendations for consideration in planning and executing an expanded program in IS&T: Recommendation. Using whichever funding mechanisms are appropriate, AFOSR should maintain a healthy balance between theory, experimentation, and transition efforts. This balance can be achieved only by providing freedom to program managers to resist pressures toward short-term goals, which in the long run will not serve the Air Force well because the Air Force long-term challenges are dominated by IS&T. This recommendation is almost a repeat of one from a 1996 review of AFOSR’s mathematical and computer sciences program.2 2   National Research Council, Review of AFOSR Programs in Mathematical and Computer Sciences, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (1996).

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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs Recommendation. To accommodate the challenges of an expanded program in IS&T—which is called for because of the pervasiveness of IS&T in network-enabled Air Force operations—AFOSR should not only continue to build a strong, world-class base of PIs but should also develop highly interactive research communities of PIs with common goals and benchmarks, probably focused on the grand challenges suggested in Chapter 7. In some cases this will be possible through multidisciplinary activities (MURIs, PRETS, etc.). In others it will be essential to develop teams of researchers, perhaps on the scale of MURIs, to meet the challenges posed by the Air Force long-term goals.