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The Military United States Science Technology

What's Wrong With the US Defense R&D Budget? 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the loosest-sense dept.
Harperdog writes "Here's an in-depth analysis of what constitutes defense R&D spending and how some of those projects are classified. From the article: 'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'"
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What's Wrong With the US Defense R&D Budget?

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  • R&D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:04PM (#38533254)

    A large part of all R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.

    FTFY.

    • Re:R&D (Score:5, Funny)

      by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:09PM (#38533314)
      Exactly. It R&D primarily revolved around proven, reliable technology then you've just removed both "Research" and "Development" from the acronym. May as well just call it &
      • Re:R&D (Score:5, Funny)

        by mikael (484) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:27PM (#38534168)

        You get a mod point from me for Funny.

        From a geographic viewpoint, the & symbol always looks like "wander round in a circle until you are back where you started" symbol.

      • Frankly, in some cases, the best course of action that U.S. should take with respect to its military R&D is precisely that - forget "research" and "development", and just look at what everybody else out there is using in practice.

        Case in point: M16/M4 - the single most unreliable firearm in military service anywhere in the world for decades now (pretty much ever since Brits have fixed the mess that was SA80). Why? Well, mainly it's because of dubious design decisions like direct impingement that are see

        • I'm glad the army of my country uses steyr assult rifles then
        • by tibman (623933)

          mmm, isn't the 416 just the m4 with a different gas system? I wouldn't say that making the return mechanical instead of gas makes the internals essentially another rifle. And if that's true, the only thing that makes the AR platform unique in your view is the gas return? I haven't used an hk416 but google images makes it look nearly identical when disassembled. The bolt looks very similar.

          I actually like the m4 and the hk416 looks like a good upgrade to the weapon.

        • I have had no problems with either the M16 or M4. Of course I have more experience with the M4. The M16 during the Vietnam era was a piece of shit. I am not old enough to have had any experience with the Vietnam era M16 but the M16 used today is nothing like the earlier models. In my opinion the AK is the best infantry assault weapon being used today. The accuracy is iffy because they do not have optical sights but the .308 caliber compensates for this lack of optical sights and provides plenty of stoppin
        • The m16/m4 isn't perfect. Direct impingement means its higher maintenance, but there is no good reason for it to jam if your are taking proper care of it. That brings me to my main point.

          You can buy all the latest and greatest equipment in the world, but if you skimp on training it's all worthless. I'd rather have a squad with muskets that know how to fight than a squad with assault rifles that don't. I'm glad there is finally a reasonable discussion on the R&D side of the Defense budget. Every
    • Re:R&D (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ravenshrike (808508) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:27PM (#38533556)

      Exactly, the man's an idiot, especially this gem "The United States' high-technology, high-price, and high-maintenance weaponry is of relatively little value in such conflicts." What he fails to understand is that it is our high tech overwhelming advantage that forces them to use methods such as IEDs, since we ream their asses in any conventional confrontation.

      • There is also significant R&D dedicated to nullifying IEDs and much of the technology has been available for years. Google it.
      • Re:R&D (Score:5, Informative)

        by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:22PM (#38534124) Journal
        Yes. A man that R&D lasers for the DOD, worked for national security and GAO, does not have a grasp of the US military system.

        Ghoshroy is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Before this, he was for many years a senior engineer in the field of high-energy lasers. He was also a professional staff member of the House National Security Committee and later a senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        Hi-tech vehicle and body armor and improved battlefield medical treatment have reduced US casualties to amazingly LOW levels. Still sucks to be one, don't get me wrong, but the author is ignorant of the military and should STFU.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        That's not really a very good point, because it only needs to be good enough for them not to pick a conventional confrontation. Being ten times that overwhelming for a fight they're not going to pick anyway doesn't help. You don't need stealth bombers and smart missiles to beat these insurgents to a pulp, Cold War era warfare would do just fine. A much better point is that high-tech equipment does help in all other parts of the operation like patrolling and intelligence gathering and inflicting less collate

      • The means are down to your conscience.

        The American government spends so much money that even if every single income tax payer was paying 100% of their income in tax, there would still be a deficit. Most of that deficit is military spending.

        Yet all it takes to kill a $4 million M1A1 is a $50 IED. To disable a $4 billion aircraft carrier, a $1 million missile.

        Perhaps in a conventional confrontation the US military would win but nobody (apart from saddam) would be stupid enough to fight that fight. You don't f

        • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Friday December 30, 2011 @09:54AM (#38538188)

          The American government spends so much money that even if every single income tax payer was paying 100% of their income in tax, there would still be a deficit. Most of that deficit is military spending.

          2010 Federal Spending: $3.46 Trillion
          2010 Federal Tax Recipts: $2.16 Trillion
          2010 DoD, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid spending: ~$700-$800 billion apiece
          (Sourced from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], so take with the usual Wiki grain of salt.)

          2010 US Per Capita Income: ~$40k
          2010 US Population: ~300 Million
          2010 US Income Tax receipts: $900 Billion
          (Sourced from here [unm.edu], here [census.gov], and here [wikipedia.org], respectively.

          Putting on our big boy hats and doing some math, here are some interesting facts we can get from those statistics. First, defense spending is one of only three major pillars of our deficit, and it's project to expand at a far slower rate than Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid. Second, taxpayers rake in ~$12 Trillion in income but only pay $900 Billion currently, so we could easily run a surplus by raising taxes. Third, people with no knowledge of orders of magnitude should not spew FUD that will further confuse a public that has little knowledge of how much money comes into and goes out of government coffers.

      • We killed Osama Bin Laden by flying our commandos in on a STEALTH HELICOPTER with intelligence provided by a STEALTH UAV. Night vision let the commandos zerg rush unsuspecting defenders while the entire deal with quarterbacked using GPS, which requires a system of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Meanwhile, we're incinerating (literally) tons of insurgents (and more than a few innocents) using remotely-piloted drones that didn't exist when the conflict began. The bad guys performed their own R&D to c

    • by khallow (566160)

      A large part of all R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.

      FTFY.

      The only problem with this correction is that it isn't true. Sometimes R&D is expensive because one has to deal with expensive gadgets, materials, manpower, etc. And sometimes it's expensive because Congress decided a certain amount of money had to be spent [youtube.com].

    • Re:R&D (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SETIGuy (33768) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:57PM (#38533886) Homepage

      Does free software count as a very expensive gadget? I know many form of R&D that use existing gadgets based on sound technology. Just because it's never been done before doesn't mean you need a $50M laser to do it.

      A because of the lack of oversight in the DOD, questionable research gets done. But I'm not going to say that's entirely a bad thing. NSF and NASA are open to Congressional questioning about every dollar. Some Congressman is going to use important research to win political points if there's anything unusual about it. (The most famous recent case being "Effects of Major Oil Spills on the Multibillion Dollar Gulf Shrimp Industry", which is known to imbeciles as "Shrimp on a Treadmill") If someone at the Naval Research Lab or the Army Research Lab is doing the exact same thing, you'll never hear about it. The downside it there are ventures that don't have a chance in hell of working or finding anything new that get funded.

      But as a researcher, if I were trying to launch a climate research instrument, for example, I'd probably be looking for opportunities on military spacecraft rather than NASA spacecraft. If a 4-star General goes to the Hill and tells Congress we need to be prepared for the strategic implications of global warming, they listen intently. If the NASA administrator says the same thing, they'll tell him we can't possibly know anything about the climate, and then cancel the project to make sure.

    • Re:R&D (Score:5, Interesting)

      by datavirtue (1104259) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:58PM (#38535566)

      Military R&D is often utilized to retain top talent and preserve experience and knowledge as it relates to the technology. People get worked up over "wasteful" projects that cost billions and supposedly never yield any direct benefit. You have to have jobs here in this country for researchers and technical specialists or you will lose the talent. One day when you need that talent it will not be available. Furthermore, if you do not constantly have a project going, for instance an aircraft carrier, you will lose the ability to build them since no one with the knowledge to do so will be available. It is like a legacy enterprise app in which no one has opened the code for ten years and then all the sudden you need to maintain it for some reason. Someone then has to RELEARN the whole thing to be able to work on it. The same goes for military hardware, you simply cannot let knowledge of these types of projects and systems go stale. The public doesn't understand these requirements so there are interesting stories about "wasteful " projects in the media that are publicly debated. The truth is, these projects are never going to cease and the "waste" will continue because the people in charge of our military readiness understand this aspect. It isn't waste, it is Research and Development; it is necessary though benefits are rarely ever immediately tangible and those in power who do not realize this are dangerous (cough...HP CEOs...cough).

  • Couldn't agree more (Score:5, Informative)

    by gadzook33 (740455) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:06PM (#38533274)
    I see this first hand every day. A big part is the government not having any engineers on it's staff and being led around by the nose by contractors every day (hence my sig).
    • by gadzook33 (740455)
      Ug, I can't believe I used "it's"...sorry
    • by 1369IC (935113)
      Not sure where you're getting your numbers, but the Army RD&E command has thousands of engineers. I work in the command, but I'm not working this week so I can't quote a good number. However, the usual statistic we put out is something like more than 10,000 scientists and engineers.
      • by gadzook33 (740455)
        How many are contractors versus staff? Regardless, I'm getting my numbers from years of experience. Maybe there are pockets of government where it doesn't hold but I guarantee you they are few and far between.
  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:08PM (#38533292) Journal

    Which is why we buy these expensive, unsound, unnecessary gadgets... it's congress idiots bringing money home to local defense contractors.

    The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors.

    • by Nadaka (224565) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:16PM (#38533418)

      This is something I have long argued for. Congress gets to determine most of what the DoD gets to spend money on without regard to what the DoD needs to have to perform its mission. And this artificially inflates the minimum required defense budget.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Riiiight ..

        Because there could NEVER be corrupt generals involved in procurement / budgeting - only legislators.

        Everyone in the army is on the up & up. 100%.

        good one!

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          One of the big differences is that it is perfectly legal to bribe an elected official if you do it the right way. Bribing the military brass is illegal no matter how you spin it.

    • by demachina (71715)

      Yea that will probably be better, let the Pentagon do their contracts without any oversight, people who will jump to the private sector and work for the company they just steered that big defense contract too for a high six or seven figure compensation package as soon as its awarded. And of course they will be throwing the contract to their former bosses/generals who are already working at said contractor. The defense/security/industrial complex is riddled with corruption all the way through, it isn't jus

      • by drnb (2434720) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:22PM (#38534628)

        Just look at Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 programs for sterling examples of why the U.S. is going broke buying weapons we really don't need, that don't work right, cost vastly more than Lockheed said they would when they won the contracts, and are years to decades late being delivered.

        For those too young to remember. Those were *exactly* the same complaints made about the F-15 back in the day. You know the F-15, the fighter that has a 150 to zero win/loss aerial combat record.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bongey (974911)

          Those were *exactly* the same complaints

          Citation needed
          The F-22 contract award was in 1991, went into service in 2003 . 12 years
          The F-15 contract award was 1969, first delivery was 1973, went into service 1976. 7 years on the high side.
          The F-15 recorded its first combat kill in 1979 , only 10 years after the contract award.
          The F-15 program has just been better overall and the F-22 is still sitting in the garage looking pretty.

        • Just look at Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 programs for sterling examples of why the U.S. is going broke buying weapons we really don't need, that don't work right, cost vastly more than Lockheed said they would when they won the contracts, and are years to decades late being delivered.

          For those too young to remember. Those were *exactly* the same complaints made about the F-15 back in the day. You know the F-15, the fighter that has a 150 to zero win/loss aerial combat record.

          Not just the F-15. The B-17

        • by demachina (71715) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:04AM (#38535908)

          The Air Force in partnership with Lockjeed has been on a parabolic trajectory of extravagent spending, waste and abuse. The F-15 was a little extravagant, the F-22 was really extravagent especially on per unit cost and the F-35 is insane primarily because some idiot decided to make every service use basically the same air frame for everything so the price tag would be at least $1 trillion though they are already starting to talk about slashing the numbers produced. If everyone is using one airplane what happens when it gets grounded like the F-22 has been reacently because of its oxygen problems.

          Someone realized you don't actually need EVERY plane in your inventory to be an expensive 5th generation stealth model especially when most of the time they are bombing mud huts in Afghanistan.

          The Israeli's are making contingency plans to buy used American F-15's because they are losing confidence in the F-35 being delivered in a reasonable time, in a functioning state and at a price anyone can afford. The F-15 is still good enough for air to air for just about everything short of an all out war between the U.S., China and or Russia which is fairly improbable in the nuclear age. The Navy is starting to look at a new version of the F-18 for the same reason.

          • by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday December 30, 2011 @04:00AM (#38536518)

            The F-35 was and still is poised to be the best investment in fighter aircraft the US has ever made. It will simplify supply chains, parts management and the best part of all is that we are selling a boat load of them to every Tier1 ally we have thus spreading the immense R&D costs (which are already spent) out over thousands of planes.

            The problem with the F-35 isn't Lockheed, the plane or cost, it's Congress. That's the story that everyone's missing. It's crap like Congress forcing the military to design and test a second engine (that DOD didn't want and repeatedly asked Congress to kill) for the F-35 because a well connected defense contractor didn't win the original engine contract. After spending 3 BILLION dollars they finally got Congress to kill it after it was revealed another 30 billion dollars would be needed to finish the design (which finally got the other congress critters to kill it over the objections of the ones pushing it). The worst part is that the second engine didn't just waste money, it delayed the whole project and increased costs because of the inflation and additional delays to the production line.

            Yes there have been technical challenges that have increased costs, such as the Class C VTOL variant that was extremely difficult to design. But the cost escalations on the F-35 tie almost completely to Congress, such as scaling back the total number purchased (which spreads R&D over fewer planes increasing unit cost), the second engine and a dozen other areas where Congress has deliberately fucked with the procurement process. The F-35 will likely be the last major fighter aircraft the US ever designs and builds. That it will replace more than a dozen different and aging aircraft with a single airframe and parts chain and in addition will be shared among every branch was the smartest decision DOD ever made. Not only that but it puts the US and it's allies ahead of the international competition by a significant margin and the only nation with the funding and R&D to ever compete is China (and I consider that very debatable).

            People forget that the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-117, B1-B and all the aircraft in the US arsenal were designed or produced more than 30 years ago (the first flights of the F-117 Stealth were in the 70's). Even with modern avionics the craft are showing their age, most have no stealth capability at all, little to no mach capability and massive fuel usage. The F-35 closes the gap, equalizes all the aircraft in the arsenal with equivalent capability, unifies the supply chain (greatly simplifying things were a major conflict ever to break out), provides stealth capabilities to the entire fleet, improved fuel usage, mach speed cruise, stand-off firepower and most importantly of all provides a modern airframe to every branch of the military and puts almost every Tier 1 ally into the same airframe.

            Although the F-22 might not be needed, the unification of the air power of the US into a single (I'd like to see the A-10 retained as it's a very sturdy close combat airframe that's very effective against Armor) more powerful airframe used across all branches should NOT be squandered and it would be a terrible mistake to kill it. The defense department spends far to much money we don't have, the budget should be cut but those cuts should come from personal, not R&D and purchase of the new weapons system underway. The F-35 and New DDX Naval Ships are critical components of defense of the mainland US. Lets cut the ground troops and streamline the US fighting force, not squander the defense of the US itself. Consider that salary for active and reserve military members accounts for the vast majority of the DOD expenses. Clinton and the Republican Congress balanced the budget by cutting active military personal about 10%, something Bush Jr and his neoCon Congress immediately reversed.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      I think its hard to define 'actual, military need'

      I would certainly support slashing the entire military spending by 65%, keeping us on top but not so over the god damned top.
      • I think its hard to define 'actual, military need' I would certainly support slashing the entire military spending by 65%, keeping us on top but not so over the god damned top.

        I'm certainly against waste and fraud but 65% sounds like you may be trading blood for gold. Making it an unfair fight saves US lives, merely being on top may be too close to a fair fight.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:47PM (#38534862)

      "The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors."

      Don't presume the cliques in DoD have the OVERALL best interests of the troops in clear focus and aren't fighting over DIFFERENT rice bowls.

      We went to war in Iraq with SOFT-SKINNED support vehicles and HMMWVs despite the lessons of Viet Nam and Somalia. Troops had to RE-learn how to build gun trucks, and RE-install gun shields on our APCs.

      SFC Paul R. Smith died firing an OPEN machine gun from an unprotected M113:

      http://www.combatartfund.org/Images/MOH.PatrickHaskett.jpg [combatartfund.org]

      (Most of the ACAV armor kits were REMOVED from M113s in the US inventory before it was realized Iraqis figured out what the VC did in the battle of Ap Bac many years ago. They are back, with the addition of TAGS windowed gunshields. As for the anti-RPG bar armor so common now, it was invented in the 1960s but rejected because it got tangled in Southeast Asian jungle. Tested on an M113, it was forgotten for decadesâ¦)

      Viet Nam 113 with gunshields:

      http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2570/4115742434_26c7ccf501_z.jpg [staticflickr.com]

      EARMARKS helped field uparmor kits, MRAPs, armored trucks, etc which save many Soldier lives. The stopgap HMMWV armor kits were better than nothing, but HWWWV are still merely light trucks and not armored fighting vehicles like MRAP.

      The military is complex and so are its internal politics. If you want ethical earmarks, ask for oversight, but they've done a lot of good.

      http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2007-09-03-congressmrap_N.htm [usatoday.com]

      http://cnsnews.com/news/article/sen-lindsey-graham-defends-certain-congressional-earmarks-us-military [cnsnews.com]

    • The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors.

      And, by and large, it is written by DoD administrative staff based on perceived needs. But those parts don't get any press so ignorant people don't believe it exists.

      For example, if you don't read the specialized press or live in an area effected by the contract (as producers or consumers) you probably don't know that Congress recently ap

  • I WAS A MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX—article ARTHUR T. HADLEY
    Playboy May 1979 Magazine
    ISSN: 0032-1478
    Volume 26 Issue # 5

  • whats really wrong (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The majority of the funding goes to ridiculous rules, regulations and policy's in the DoD. There's no incentive to be efficient but tons of politics to set rules. So to buy a computer mouse, it has to go through a 5 level approval process all the way back to DC and takes 2 months. I wish I was joking.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:25PM (#38534652)

      I've been part of the military-industrial complex for the past ten years. The real waste is not in risky projects that sometimes fail. We need more of that, especially as today's wars wind down and we reset the force to handle a full spectrum of threats and missions, from terrorism to a major conflict with a "near peer" competitor like China or Russia.

      The real waste is in the mind-numbing, innovation-stifling bureaucracy. For every person (usually a contractor, despite the bad press) trying to actually *do* something, there are 10 people (government and contractor) worrying about budgets, funding, politics, endless layers of architecture and governance, ineffective security protocols, and, most of all, territorial "rice bowls." Almost every time I've tried to actually *do* something, I would promptly run into someone who claimed that it was their responsibility:

      "OK, great! The war fighters I'm supporting need a thing that does exactly that. What do you have?"

      "I have this PowerPoint presentation that shows my charter, my org chart, my budget, my made-up timeline, and some hand-waving architectural diagrams that don't even meet the [overwrought] DODAF standards never mind speak to the actual need."

      "What about the actual [widget]?"

      "It should be done in 2017."

      At this point, an actual military officer (not a civilian bureaucrat), usually with boots-on-the-ground combat experience, points out that the present wars will be over in 2017. He already knows that I could build a 70% solution in a few weeks if people would just get out of the way. We depart, shaking our heads in disgust.

      But woe be unto us if we try to solve our own problem or find someone else to help us. The bureaucrat, marking time until his retirement in 2016, safely before his project craters in 2017, will raise holy hell: "Hey, it's my job to not do that!"

      The lack of technical guidance and leadership is also appalling. Some new initiatives are improving this, but too often there are no concrete guidelines at a hands-on technical level to even follow. The technical leadership role is in the hands of career bureaucrats who know their way around the org chart, but haven't a clue about the tech. Compare this to an environment like Google App Engine or the various Web 2.0/Web services ecosystems around Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and the like where your options are clear, there is tangible guidance on what you can and cannot do, and can often go from zero to an end-to-end proof-of-concept in a few days, if not hours.

      I've tried to help, but I can't stomach it anymore and am executing a "strategic re-deployment" to the Internet/mobile consumer and professional market, where innovation and agility is welcomed, nigh demanded, instead of smothered.

  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:13PM (#38533372)
    It's all about scamming up those DoD contracts. Who cares if they ever deliver a viable weapon system, they can make payroll with feasibility studies all day long. The most hillarious of the 'urban legend' proposals I ever heard of was a couple physicists talking at a party during the Ronny Ray-Gun years, when 'Star Wars' funding was damned near bottomless. Their idea was, develop a tachyon beam weapon, deployed in space, that would shoot down enemy missiles 20 minutes before they were launched.

    Rumor has it, they copped a cool 50 mil for a feasibility study before somebody at the Five-Sided Funny Farm figured it out.
  • That is research (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:20PM (#38533484)

    'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'

    I thought that was the definition of practical research?

    Copyright © 2011 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    Oh no, it isn't research in the pure scientific sense. It's the damned military: they don't do research in the sense you want. In the practical field, a failure is a success, of a sort. You now know what doesn't work. I mention this because TFA specifically brings it up. The military did a missile test that failed, and called it a success because it was the first of it's kind, and now they know what went wrong and how to fix it. TFA criticizes them for it. Maybe the program is a waste: faulty arguments like that do little to convince me of it.

    There is a crapload of waste in the defense department, but this doesn't exactly seem the most sound way of attacking it. And as producing little of value: well, I'm not exactly in a position to judge, but things like the Keyhole program, GPS advancements, UAVs, even the F-22 (as bloated as it was) seem like they are pretty valuable. And that is all we know about: the stealth helicopters that were supposedly used in assassinating Osama seem like, well, like a massive advantage.

    I'm also aware that Mr. Subrata Ghoshroy is far more well informed than I am. This just seems like a really lousy argument.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "There is a crapload of waste in the defense department, "

      I hear that; but whenever an example comes up, it's bullshit; usually a person not understanding something, or an outright lie.

      I'm not saying there isn't 'waste', but I have yet to see real waste. I have yet to see any Federal program have more waste the the private sector. I mean, holy crap.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:44PM (#38533762)

      "I mention this because TFA specifically brings it up. The military did a missile test that failed, and called it a success because it was the first of it's kind, and now they know what went wrong and how to fix it."

      No, the article doesn't say that at all. The article says: "When the $100 million test of a ground-based missile defense system failed PDF in 1997, the contractors called it a "success" because there were no benchmarks." You're making things up, which means I probably shouldn't have bothered to read the rest of your post, but I did anyway.

      The issue is that the government spends too much money doing "research" that isn't actually research. The military is treating piss-poor engineering projects as "research" when they are, in fact, projects. It's the equivalent of Boeing spending an enormous amount of money on a new plane and calling it "research" rather then "building a new plane". There is a difference because building something new based on already proven principles is not research, even if it is an improvement over a previous device.

      The entire article says that there is not enough money spent on actual research and too much spent on things disguised as research.

      • This. I RTFA and I got the same result. Projects hidden under research budgets plus contracts to do the same, with no oversight. Sounds like wasted resources to me.

      • A classic example is payment upon the successful completion of a test.

        Scientists types therefore design a test, run through the test procedure, collect data, pronounce "the test was a success".

        Unfortunately the test completely failed to achieve the desired result, but that's NOT what they were paid for.
    • No kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:11PM (#38534032)

      The thing to attack in terms of defense spending is wasteful spending, or just over all spending levels. There are plenty of times when the military buys or develops things it doesn't need, or gets ripped off by contractors. Also you can make a very valid argument that we simply have more military than we need, that we should downsize it and spend less.

      However that the R&D gadgets often fail? Well duh. The military is willing to do real, long term, R&D which often means a ton of failures before you have success. It can be very lengthy, expensive, have lots of false starts, and so. That is life when you are doing long term research.

      However for all that, we get things that are often useful, and not just to the military. GPS and the Internet would be the two greatest recent examples. GPS in particular because it was the kind of thing no private enterprise would try. Massively expensive and hard to do, and yet now it is the navigation system used the world 'round, everything else is a fallback for if GPS fails. It is so important that Europe has recognized the need for one outside of US control and for all that the technical and monetary challenges have been enough they STILL haven't gotten theirs working. Yet the military did it, and back when nobody had done it before.

      I don't mind failures in any R&D. They happen. All I mind is waste. If the military tries to develop something it needs, like say a better rifle, and fails, I'm ok with that. I'm ok with them continuing to try until they get it right. Where I get annoyed is if the military spends money on something they don't need, or more often if contractors rip them off on the things they get.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:26PM (#38533546)

    On one hand, yeah, of course the stuff fails to perform. That's why it's research. That's why it's experimental. For every "Fat Man" there's a "Thin Man [wikipedia.org]" that didn't work. On the other hand, just how much of this stuff is wasteful pork and how much of it is really needed even if it does work?

  • by ockers (7928) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:39PM (#38533696) Homepage

    "...very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required..." Somehow this reminds me of the new TSA budget too.

  • by arisvega (1414195) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:39PM (#38533704)

    So, how many times you recon can a manned mission to Mars move back and forth between Mars and Earth under a $76 billion per year budget?

    That is seventy-six BILLION dollars, of which twelve BILLION are JUST for research. Per year.

  • The goal of every government agency in any given year is to need 10% more funds than their current budget. You always need more, and never less, because cuts to your budget will mean you are under greater scrutiny the next fiscal year.

    So you throw money at every half-baked idea the lab coats present. If something works out, great. If not, that just clearly shows that you need a greater budget next year, since more money = better ideas.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:51PM (#38533832) Homepage Journal
    What if we developed a catapult to hurl FLAMING GOAT HEADS at our enemies? You don't look very interested... Well what if that catapult were NUCLEAR POWERED! Ahh... Ahhh... now we're getting somewhere! Testing can start as soon as I can find a source for thousands of goat heads!
    • Testing can start as soon as I can find a source for thousands of goat heads!

      Duh. Thousands of goats. Distributed over influential congressmen's districts, of course.

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:10PM (#38534016)
    I think one of Obama's best ideas was to have DoD do research on solar energy. Like many of his talking points, it was not implemented.

    What does solar energy have to do with defense? Well, nothing. But you know what? We have a giant defense infrastructure and do you really think we can take it apart easily? No, we should just re-purpose it.

    The US economy is based on Military Keynesianism. (Which is an economic policy based on the acknowledgement that the New Deal works, but Americans hate all that mushy helping people bullshit. The drawback of implementing Keynesianism through military spending is that it generally does not produce anything of value, so it is a policy based on the broken window fallacy. ) If they take apart military spending overnight, the whole world's economy will collapse, so they just need to shift it.
    • by hax4bux (209237)

      Solar energy has everything to do w/defense. More self sufficiency means less stuff to bring.

      • Because acres of solar cells are more defendable than a small generator / reactor.

        • Like a convoy of vehicles constantly carrying fuel is more defendable than a fixed position solar array. There are more variables to consider you know.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Alternative energy such as solar power has a lot to do with defense. Nearly everything runs on oil and if something happened in the middle east and we lost our main oil supply it would only be a matter of time before our economy collapsed when gas prices go through the roof. This is why we are spending so much to keep peace in the middle east now, imagine if we took that money and put it towards R&D on other alternative sources of fuel and came up with something that worked just as well as oil. We wo

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Nearly everything runs on oil and if something happened in the middle east and we lost our main oil supply it would only be a matter of time before our economy collapsed when gas prices go through the roof.

        Considering that country that America imports the most oil from is Canada, perhaps as an alternative you could just not prevent them from building new pipelines to supply more oil to you?

    • by 1369IC (935113)
      Just one example [army.mil]. There are others, but I'm not at work to have easy access to anything. Power and energy in general is a major push for the Army, and they've worked on hydrogen, solar, better batteries, etc. Full disclosure: I work for the Army R&D command in public affairs.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:12PM (#38534044)
    In other words someone just discovered that R&D is not merely basic scientific research but also engineering.
  • by BobandMax (95054) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:37PM (#38534240)

    Mr. Ghoshroy has a long record of disagreement with Defense contractors and programs. I am not saying that he is wrong on this one. However, other people do say that he is. To accept Mr. Ghoshroy's assertions without adequate rebuttal or background knowledge is, well, ignant. Note also that Mr. Ghoshroy has been very happy to allow some well known anti-defense agitators to exploit him in the name of making his case. This really has the smell of a personal vendetta. He may be right, but his approach does his credibility no good.

    http://www.nriinternet.com/NRI_Sciectists/USA/A_Z/G/Subrata%20Ghoshroy/index.htm [nriinternet.com]
    http://openmediaboston.org/node/1084 [openmediaboston.org]

  • Biggest problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @10:33PM (#38535112) Homepage

    The biggest problem is it's used to destroy stuff, not to build things up, heal or cure.
    I don't mean this to troll or flame. It goes for any "defence" budget.
    It's money I'd rather see spent on healthcare, education, science.
    Hell. Even handing out food to those who really need it is a better use of that money.

    • by dwillden (521345)
      It is? All of it? That's the only purpose for it? And the only way any of it is ever used? We should debate this point, good thing we have the interwebs. Where did the initial funding for that come from? DARPA.

      Maybe we could get together to debate it, we can use our GPS enabled smart phones to find each other. Where did we get GPS? DARPA again.

      As to healing and curing, you realize nothing presses medical technology forward faster than war.
  • It's how much is funneled back into the DOD.
    I worked at a government research center and ~40% of all our funding that was awarded to us for research went back to the DoD in the form of non-lab associated salaries and renting space.

    How? Extremely high facilities payments (you wouldn't believe how much it costs for space in an 80 year old research facility), administration (you pay for secretaries, their supervisors, anyone within a mile of your lab, it doesn't matter if you need them or not), soldiers (you c

  • by 1369IC (935113) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:28PM (#38535388)

    Full disclosure: I do public affairs for the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

    I can't speak for the other services, but the Army created RDECOM about 8 years ago to make RD&E work better for Soldiers. One big task is having what they call a balanced portfolio that spans basic research through engineering work. The command has more than 16,000 people, more than 10,000 of them civilian engineers or scientists. A lot of smart people put a lot of thought into this. It is not transparent, even to me, for a lot of reasons. Some of it is secret, but some of it is just so particular to the military, or even one part of the Army. For example, under-body explosions. There's a lot of research into head-on collisions, etc., but who else would need to study how to protect people from an under-body explosion? And how transparent is that, and should that be, to people outside the military? And who else is going to work on a material that might be suitable for that kind of thing? And how, pre-Iraq/Afghanistan, do you see that coming as the next big threat or design a research program that can respond to something like that which no one sees coming?

    Which is not to say none of our research transfers into the civilian economy, for example flexible display technology, robotics and nanotechnology. We're working on moving our basic overview onto the web, but it shows we have more than 1,000 partnerships of one kind or another with everything from universities and foreign defense agencies to individual researchers and at least one time two guys in a garage.

    As it happens, the Army just finished another study on how RD&E should work. The results should be out soon and may mean some level of reorganization. Stay tuned if you're interested.

  • The color of money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you can't explain 6.1, 6.2,6.3, and 6.4 money, then you have no right to make a comment about military R&D
    6.1 money is basic research. GUT, life the universe and everything. This pretty much doesn't exist anymore. The stuff we're building now is based on 6.1 research from the 70's to the 80's
    6.2 money is to take basic research results and explore it further. Since 6.1 money is gone, 6.2 money isn't relevant.
    6.3 money is to take stuff that turned up in 6.2 research and develop an exploitable applicati

  • A lot of Department of Defense research is really being done by the Department of Energy.

    This is also a handy way to make it seem like the Defense budget is smaller than it really is.

    National defense is just a byproduct (hopefully) of a money-laundering scheme designed to benefit military contractors.

  • by um... Lucas (13147) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:27AM (#38535734) Homepage Journal

    Because the private sector is completely unwilling to dump research dollars into anything. They just sit on their hands waiting for government innovations to occur so they can step in and monetize. Witness where all the cutting edge cancer research is occurring: not at big pharma, but in public universities. And government research, masquerading as military spending, is what brought us the Internet, satellite communications (gps, direct tv, sat radio, say phones, sat imaging, and weather forecasting), cell phones, solar panels and so much more. Pretty much every tech item you have had its roots in military spending. Because private industry is both unwilling and incapable of devoting that much money to research. And in order to find advancements, you have to go through a lot of bad ideas first.

    If you're wasting your time complaing, you're just unaware of reality.

  • A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.

    Clearly an infringement on their business model.

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