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2018 Federal Budget Overview

Friday, April 27, 2018  
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SAMPE Washington Report

2018 Federal Budget Overview

A considerable amount of advanced materials research and development is supported by several agencies across the federal government.  With the newly enacted fiscal year 2018 (October 2017-September 2018) budget, the Trump Administration and Congress have made substantial-and in some instances, historical- increases to programs that fund materials research.

On March 21, 2018 Congress passed with bipartisan votes the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 1625), a $1.3 trillion spending package to fund the federal government through September 30, 2018. The measure increases fiscal 2018 appropriations by $143 billion over and above previous fund levels. Science and technology (S&T) received a massive boost, ranging from +4% at NSF to +26% at NIST. The Department of Energy (DoE) will enjoy trying to digest its $34.5 billion FY18 budget before the end of the fiscal year. DoE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, which has been witnessing substantial cuts over the past few years-mostly in solar and renewable energy research areas- is enjoying its coffers being replenished. Funding for wind energy R&D is increasing 2 percent to $92 million, with no less than $15 million allocated to “early stage research on materials and manufacturing methods and advanced components.” The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) received $14 million despite being originally “zeroed-out” in early versions of the FY18 Appropriations Bill. Information regarding these funding levels and planned activities for several other federal agencies and programs can be found here.

The Department of Defense, the largest of all federal agency budgets, enjoyed historic increases in S&T. In the aggregate, DoD S&T reached $14.8 billion, an increase of 6.2 percent or $865 million above FY 2017 and a full 12.2 percent or $1.6 billion above the Pentagon's request. This included modest increases for basic research, and larger funding amounts for applied research and advanced technology. In short, DoD S&T is funded at its highest point since FY 2006.

Previous versions of the Senate and House bill’s showed considerable interest in materials research and development, with the House report calling for the DOD to “survey and prioritize future needs with advanced materials for national security applications, assess material sustainment issues across Department of Defense platforms, identify solutions capable of improving military readiness and reducing cost, identify gaps in the knowledge base, and provide recommendations to improve the talent pipeline in the advanced materials field.”

Consistent with the DOD’s and congressional interest in accelerating the transition of advanced technologies from R&D into acquisition, the largest percentage increases are in the large, late-stage accounts for technology prototyping, testing, and evaluation. Most of these are now funded at levels not witnessed in nearly twenty years.

Funding for DOD’s earlier-stage Science and Technology accounts — Basic Research, Applied Research, and Advanced Technology Development — had been set to decrease under the spending bills originally advanced in the House and Senate. However, in the final appropriations agreement, S&T spending is rising 6 percent to almost $15 billion, a very large increase by recent standards.

SBIR/STTR Prime Contractor Summit

On April 11-12, attendees of the Department of the Navy’s 3rd Annual SBIR/STTR Primes Summit discussed advances in and challenges with small business innovation research as it pertains to naval readiness, modernization, and cost reduction. Strengthening industrial base capabilities; modernizing naval fleets and forces; expanding university, lab, and manufacturing partnerships; and catalyzing innovation delivery to warfighters were among the many topics discussed over the course of the two-day event held in Arlington, VA. The Summit followed the 18th Annual Forum for SBIR/STTR Transition (FST), which brought together over 80 companies to showcase their products, key military decision makers, and representatives of the defense industrial base to connect “SBIR/STTR-funded technologies with warfighters, government acquisition and technical personnel, large primes, system integrators,” as well as other potential partners and collaborators. Panels reviewed innovative technology partnerships, technology transfer, government contracting, and other topics related to the FST’s theme of “Tomorrow’s Technology, Today.” Two SBIR Program Directors from both the Naval Air Warfare Center and the Naval Surface Warfare Center are invited speakers at the FLC’s SBIR Workshop on April 19, which will review the financial support SBIR grants afford inventors and start-ups.

Unleashing American Innovation

The Unleashing American Innovation Symposium united subject-matter experts on April 19, from diverse disciplines—including government, the private sector, and academia—to dive headfirst into the most urgent questions regarding America’s status as the world leader in innovation. What barriers inhibit progress? How can the U.S. maintain its standing with increased competition from China and other global powers? Is the $150 billion from taxpayer-funded research and development (R&D) being used effectively and efficiently?

Thought leaders convened to discuss models, approaches, and best practices to expand industry access to federal R&D, as well as the economic, societal, and security benefits that a more open exchange would offer. The three panel discussions were divided into federal, industry, and university contexts to provide specialized perspectives on methods for converting federally funded R&D and intellectual property into new products, companies, and industries. In addition to panels, the symposium featured lecturers such as Wilbur L. Ross, Secretary of Commerce, who will address strategies to accelerate American leadership. The event, which was held at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in Washington DC, was organized by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

U.S. Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Study

In September 2017, Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson tasked the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) with updating the Science and Technology Strategy of the United States Air Force.  This Air Force S&T 2030 Study is providing guidance for research and development over the next decade that prepares the Air Force for the national security challenges of 2030 and beyond and that ensures its technological advantage. 

Recently U.S. Department of Defense leadership have been concerned about the rapid technological advancement of our adversaries.  Per the 2018 United States National Defense Strategy, "The security environment is also affected by rapid technological advancements and the changing character of war. The drive to develop new technologies is relentless, expanding to more actors with lower barriers of entry, and moving at accelerating speed. New technologies... [will] ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.” 

The three key questions being addressed by the Air Force S&T Study are:

1.       What basic and applied research areas should the AF focus on to ensure US national security advantage in the air, space and cyber domains in 2030?

2.       What methods, processes, and organizational structures best enable the AF scientific enterprise to effectively manage an exceptional research enterprise and effectively engage university and industry partners?

3.       How do large innovative organizations exploit rapidly developing science and technology, and how should the AF adjust processes and organizational structures to improve rapid adoption?

AFRL is currently in the middle of the strategy development and is hosting "listening events" around the country seeking external input on potential new basic and applied research areas.  One such “listening event” will be held at SAMPE Long Beach.  Dr. John Russell of AFRL (SAMPE North America Vice President) will be briefing this on Wednesday, May 23 at 8:00 am as a part of the SAMPE program.  Please make sure you stop by and see how you can provide input to take the Air Force into the future. These events are open to the public. You can also visit AFResearchLab.com to obtain more information about Air Force S&T 2030 and find a complete schedule of the events.

NASA’s ALSTAR Act

The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act (H.R. 5345) was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Vice Chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who said “This bill will ensure the long-term stability of the rocket propulsion industry through better coordination and collaboration between all relevant stakeholders. With Marshall leading the charge to explore and develop new rocket propulsion technology in conjunction with its partners, NASA can inspire the next generation to look to the stars and aspire to do the impossible.” The bill was introduced on March 20 and ordered to be reported on March 22 by a voice vote. The ALSTAR Act accompanies a 6.9 percent increase in funding for NASA in FY18 for a total of $6.6 billion.

“Mach 5” Funding for Hypersonics

According to several Department of Defense officials, including Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s new Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the U.S. is falling behind in the area of “hypersonics”- primarily China and Russia, which have invested heavily in Hypersonics in hopes of rendering U.S. missile defenses obsolete.

Moving at Mach 5 or more, a hypersonic weapon would combine the maneuverability and low altitude of a cruise missile with speeds approaching those of a ballistic missile. That makes it a much harder target for interceptors like Patriot, THAAD, or GBI.

The Pentagon will ramp up research on hypersonic weapons with a stunning 136 percent increase in the 2019 budget request presently being worked on in Congress. In FY17, Congress appropriated $85.5 million for hypersonics. That went up to $108.6 million in the FY18 request, a 27 percent increase. The current breakdown of the $257 million is:

• $139.4 million, the lion’s share, goes to the Air Force-DARPA collaboration on rocket-propelled hypersonics, Tactical Boost Glide (TBG), which will produce an “operational prototype” by 2023;

• $14.3 million goes to Air-Force work on jet-propelled hypersonics, the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), which DARPA is hoping the Navy will join.

• $50 million goes to a new joint venture with the Army called Operational Fires (OPFIRES), part of the Army’s new emphasis on long-range artillery and missiles; and

• $53 million goes to the Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) for future hypersonic several vehicles.

The Defense Department is taking an approach that incorporates a "family of hypersonic systems” that work without necessarily trying to close all the technology pieces on the front end". As stated above, hypersonic technology offers highly supersonic speeds of Mach 5 or above. However, it presents two big problems: channeling the excess energy generated by the weapon and maintaining control at those speeds. Researchers are working to develop a hypersonic vehicle or weapon that is survivable and maneuverable.


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