Here we will explore how military research agendas changed after 9/11, in the era of the War on Terrorism. Even before 9/11, the Bush administration was considering troop cuts to free up money for modernization. Personnel are the most expensive part of the military.(1) The military has always been looking for more high-tech ways of fighting war, and now they had a chance with a new type of war.
After 9/11 the military put out an unusual plea to private companies and universities for help in developing technologies to meet the challenges in the war in Afghanistan against the Taleban and Al Qaeda and the broader War on Terrorism. Some of the areas they looked for were defeating mobile forces or underground targets difficult to locate and strike, conducting extended commando operations in remote, rugged environments, countering weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and increasing antiterrorism capabilities overall. (2) The Pentagon admitted they needed new weapons and help in fighting this new war, and asked contractors to make weapons in a shorter amount of time.
One company is Raytheon, based in Lexington. They manufacture the GBU-28 “bunker buster” 5000 pound bomb used in Afghanistan. They provide communications, intelligence, and command and control systems for the Pentagon, and capaple of developing systems for “emerging targets,” that is targets that are not stationary.
The Pentagon request includes “technologies for locating, characterizing, planning and practicing mission options, destroying, and damage assessment of underground facilities, highly camouflaged (natural or artificial), or otherwise hidden targets that may house terrorists or terrorist activities.” Afghanistan used smaller military units to raid supposed terrorist camps, and they were looking for technologies to use for these secret missions. The War on Terrorism was going to be more or less permanent, and research agendas would be directed by it.
The federal government was also looking to strengthen its ties overall with the nations scientific elite. Ties created during the Cold War declined after the communist threat was gone, and agencies dropped many scientists. The War on Terrorism was seen as rejuvenating the partnerships that existed before and after World War II, and during the Cold War when the government financed much of the nations basic scientific work.(3) A big emphasis on this is the National Academies of the United States, the umbrella term for the nations most prestigious scientific organizations.
The federal government put its money where its mouth was. Congress authorized $1.5 billion on terrorism-related R&D in 2002 for several different federal agencies. This was 157 percent above the previous budget of $579 million spent in 2001. The Department of Defense received $353 million more solely for terrorism research, a 50 percent increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got $1 billion overall for security-related expenses, including $130 million for studying anthrax and other bioweapons, a 256 percent increase. The National Institutes of Health had its bioterrorism budget increase 500 percent to $289 million, including $75 million for a new highly secure lab for dangerous pathogens. The Department of Agriculture got $73 million for an animal biocontainment facility at the National Animal Disease Laboratory in Ames, Iowa and inprovements at the controversial Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The Department of Energy got $78 million of its $126 million in new funds to prevent nuclear terrorism. NASA got $33 million to create information systems inpenetrable by terrorists, and for imaging systems and other technology to detect enemies. The EPA got $33 million to develop cleanup methods from bioweapons.(4)
The overall defense budget for 2002 was increased so it would be $379 billion, the largest increase in 20 years. There was an emphasis on precision weapons like smart bombs, unmanned aircraft, missile defense, and high tech gear for troops. During the war Predator drones were equipped with weapons for the first time. There was also emphasis on faster communications and information systems.(5)
All this influx of cash got into many companies. In San Diego a consortium created to encourage technologies related to crisis and consequence management supported 11 companies with market research and mini-grants to accelerate development. The Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technologies, based in San Diego State University, received $5.8 million in Pentagon funding for crisis management and homeland defense. The Navy’s Space and Warfare Systems Center was part of this consortium.(6)
In 2002 the Defense Department held a “Scientists Helping America” meeting in March for 200 selected individuals. It was co-sponsored by the U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to focus on technical areas the military needs help in, and to look at 21st century warfare. They stressed nine key technical areas: Directed energy weapons; remote sensing; unmanned systems; batteries and fuel cells; advanced training systems; bioengineering and chemical/biological defense; wide-bandwidth reach-back communications; signature reduction; and underwater communications.(7) Even non-defense research could be used by the military. Emphasis was on space-based systems, unmanned systems, robotic systems, and micro and nano technology. Also more use of lasers and satellites. They were looking again for non-traditional experts who didn’t normally work with the military.
Most of these projects would be managed through the Defense Contract Management Agency. It oversees a majority of DOD contracts, and is a freestanding defense agency that specializes in managing billions worth of contracts led primarily by military services. It employs 12,000 people.(8)
One effect on universities is the increase in classified research. MIT took a review of its policies on classified research. It advocated enhanced tracking of international students at U.S. schools, to define “sensitive areas of study” that the government should not grant visas to students from certain countries, and securing scientific research and materials appropriately. The third is most complicated, and a committee chaired by Shiela A Widnall, former secretary of the Air Force and aeronatics professor advocated that classified research move off campus to Lincoln Labs. Other universities are likely to build labs off campus to meet these needs.(9)
Overall the post-9/11 environment ushered in a new era of military research. Yet it remains what it has always had been, technological dominance. Victory in war does not depend on technological superiority, and this gamble will be seen in the future. More research to military needs will affect openness in science. Terrorism is multi-faceted, and the idea that new high-tech toys will defeat it is a naive one.
1. Burns, Robert. “Bush Considering Troop Cuts, Aide Says.” Albuquerque Tribune. August 9, 2001. P. A10.
2. Bender, Bryan. “Fighting Terror/Seeking An Edge: The Pentagon Puts Out a Call for Technology to Help in Fight.” Boston Globe. October 26, 2001. P. A1.
3. “Feds Moving to Repair Ties With Nations’s Science Elite.” New York Times. November 22, 2001.
4. “Spending Triples on Terrorism R&D.” Science Magazine. Janurary 11, 2002. Vol. 295. P. 254.
5. Allen, Mike and Ricks, Thomas E. “Bush Seeks Major Defense Boost: $379 Billion Request Could Revive Military Reform Effort.” Washington Post. January 24, 2002. P. A01.
6. Bigelow, Bruce V. “11 Companies In Area Get Grants or Services for Anti-Terrorism Work.” San Diego Union-Tribune. January 22, 2002. P. C3.
7. David, Leonard. “Call for Scientists, Technologists to Fight Terrorism.” Space.com. http://www.space.com/scieneastronomy/generalscience/darpa_dod_020129.html
8. “Military Buildup: District Defense Contractors Watching, Waiting.” http://minneapolisfed.org/pubs/fedgaz/02-01/defense.html (accessed March 4, 2002)
9. Dupont, Daniel. G. “Staying Open.” Scientific American. September 2002. p. 23-24.