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Pentagon Turns to 'softer' Sciences

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By highlighting the limits of traditional military technology, the drawn-out conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have spurred the U.S. defense department to shake up its $12-billion science and technology research program. The defense research and engineering office, headquartered at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., is overseeing a budget shift away from applied research that supports weapons and into areas such as biology, computer science and the social sciences.

All of these have "a potential for being game-changers" on the battlefield, says Zachary Lemnios, the defense department's chief technology officer and director of defense research and engineering.

Lemnios, who is nearing the end of his first year as research director, recently testified before Congress for the first time since he was confirmed for his position, and answered questions from Nature about his scientific priorities. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) He says that the new emphasis will have reverberations outside the Pentagon, noting that U.S. universities will receive more than half of the $1.8 billion that the defense department will spend on basic research in the current fiscal year.

"Basic research funding not only leads to the next generation of technology but, just as importantly, supports a pipeline of researchers and graduate students," he says.

From Scientific American
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