Department of Defense FY 2022 Request: This is a Terrible Budget Request

In our continuing series following the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request, we now turn to the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD’s Science and Technology (DOD S&T) program is made up of three accounts: 6.1 (basic research), 6.2 (applied research), and 6.3 (advanced technology development). These accounts are themselves made up of individual accounts for each of the three services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), as well as a Defense Wide account. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a section under the Defense Wide account. Unlike the requested budgets of NSF and DOE, most of these accounts are cut heavily under the President’s plans for FY22.

All three of DOD S&T’s accounts are pretty grim. Basic Research (6.1), which is the main Defense Department supporter of fundamental research at US universities, is cut heavily at 14.5 percent; going from $2.67 billion in FY21 to $2.28 billon under the Biden Administration’s plan (a cut of $388 million). The details for 6.1 accounts make it look worse: the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s “University Research Initiative” subaccounts are cut at 31.1, 18.9, and 17.5 percent, respectively.

Additionally, the overall Applied Research (6.2) account is also cut at 14.5 percent; going from $6.45 billion in FY21 to $5.51 billion under the Administration’s framework, a loss of $937 million. Finally, Advanced Technology Development (6.3) would receive a large cut too, going from $7.76 billion in FY21 to $6.89 billion in FY22, a cut of $862 million (or 11.1 percent). All very bad.

DARPA would be the only account to escape cuts. The agency would see an increase, but just barely. It would go from $3.50 billion in FY21 to $3.53 billion in FY22, an increase of 0.8 percent (or $27 million). Effectively, DARPA is flat funded.

FY20 FY21 FY22 PBR $ Change % Change
DOD 6.1 $2.60B $2.67B $2.28B -$388M -14.5%
DOD 6.2 $6.07B $6.45B $5.51B -$937M -14.5%
DOD 6.3 $7.40B $7.76B $6.89B -$862M -11.1%
DARPA $3.46B $3.50B $3.53B +$27M +0.8%

What’s going on, especially in light of the Biden Administration’s general support for scientific research and for federal science agencies? There are two things happening here. The first is that there is likely some budget gamesmanship happening by Pentagon leadership. Namely that they pull money from what is seen as a Congressional priority (ie: research funding) to put toward something else that does not have the same support. If it works, Congress puts money back into R&D and the moved money “sticks” elsewhere in the DOD budget. Not a new strategy, as the Trump Administration (and the Obama and Bush Administrations) did this same thing. Given that the Defense Department in general is a big loser in Biden’s FY22 budget, it makes this view likely.

However, there is a second view that the President is under significant pressure from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to make up for cuts to domestic programs during the Sequestration Budget years of the past decade. To that end, increases elsewhere in the federal budget have to come from somewhere and the Department of Defense takes the hit.

These budgets are now in the hands of Congress, and it will be interesting to see how they are handled. One thing we do know is that CRA will continue to make the case for the importance of these Federal investments in defense research for our national security and the criticality of remaining a global leader in science and technology. We’ll keep track of their progress, so please check back for updates.

Department of Defense FY 2022 Request: This is a Terrible Budget Request