Security blindness

Interesting editorial in MIT Technology review about the long term implications of siphoning off research funding to support a narrow security agenda. Excerpt:

American technology—just like its foreign policy, domestic politics, and popular culture—has been swept up into what Presi­dent George W. Bush calls “the global war on terror.” The U.S. R&D establishment has narrowed its interests in the years since September 11, 2001, concentrating its resources on technologies that provide security: weapons systems, defenses against biological weapons, biometrics, network security. The U.S. government’s research-and-development budget is now bluntly militaristic. In fiscal year 2005, federal R&D spending rose 4.8 percent to $132.2 billion, but 80 percent of that increase went to defense research. And most of that increase is committed to the development of new weaponry, like the ­ballistic-missile defense system. In all, the government will spend 57 percent of its R&D budget for 2005, or a record $75 billion, on defense-related projects. President Bush’s proposed 2006 budget, now being debated in Congress, would introduce cuts to many civilian programs but spend an additional $600 million on defense research.

The author (Jason Pontin) goes on to point out that organisations like the Natiional Science Foundation and the national Institutes of Health are being correspondingly starved of federal funding.