Pentagon cuts science and technology funding request

Artificial intelligence, space technology projects and integrated sensing and cyber efforts make up the majority of the Pentagon's S&T budget request.

The Defense Department is seeking $17.2 billion to fund its science and technology initiatives in 2025, a 3.4% decrease from last year’s request.

Last year, the department requested $17.8 billion — its largest-ever ask for science and technology initiatives.

Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu said it is due to the department’s shifting priorities from basic and applied research to expediting technology transition from the laboratory into operational use.

“That is primarily driven by the fact that a lot more of the requests in terms of priorities went into the 6.4 bin as opposed to 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3,” Shyu said during the National Defense Industrial Association event.

The 2025 S&T budget request is 2% of the total budget request at just under $850 billion, a 0.1% drop from the previous year. That total is only 1% more than the department requested in 2024, which aligns with the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by Congress in 2023. 

Almost half of the $17.2 billion request for S&T projects would fund Shyu’s office, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office, the Missile Defense Agency and the Test Resource Management Center.

Additionally, 16% of the total S&T funding would go toward projects within the Army, another 16% would fund initiatives within the Air Force, 15% of the budget would fund S&T projects within the Navy and 5% is allocated for the Space Force.

Almost half of the funding would go toward the development of advanced technologies budget activity. Only 14% is set aside for basic research and 34% for applied research. 

Funding for basic research across the department would remain at $2.5 billion while funding for applied research would drop from $6 billion in 2024 to $5.8 billion in fiscal 2025. 

Almost $5 billion of the total funding would go toward trusted artificial intelligence and autonomy efforts.  Last year, the department requested $629 million for its AI projects.

“That’s not going to be surprising,” said Shyu.

A large portion of the request is allocated to space technology projects and integrated sensing and cyber efforts. 

Those three categories of funding make up almost 65% of the S&T budget. At the same time, the department is asking Congress for $752 million for its four emerging technology areas, including $414 million for advanced materials, $224 million for biotechnology, $38 million for future-generation wireless technology and $76 million for quantum sciences. 

In 2023, the department allocated about $2.6 billion to the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Unsurprisingly, most of this funding went toward artificial intelligence, sensing and cyber projects and space technologies.

Shyu also said there has been a 33% increase in the number of small businesses participating in the SBIR and STTR programs that have transitioned their technologies to SBIR and STTR Phase III, or commercialization phase, since 2021.

“This is where we are focusing on transitioning more of the technologies that we’re developing from with small businesses as well as universities to push it over into the services. The 33% increase in SBIR/STTR transition into Phase III since 2021 shows an increase of $954 million in fiscal 23 — that’s a really good story,” Shyu said.

There has also been a 53% increase of new vendors participating in SBIR and STTR programs since 2021, Shyu added.

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