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05/10/2005

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J.

I understand your point but let me add a cynical note from my experience, not that it's representative of the whole. In the CB defense world, we had these annual TARA reviews - technical area review assessments - where OSD and some university reps came in to "judge" the science and technology projects. While this seems like a good, independent review idea, what really happened was the universities got to see all that was going on so they could submit grants to get a piece of the action. It's as if the universities feel they are entitled to a cut of the action, usually 3-5 percent of the S&T budget, or they go to Congress and complain. And the results have been underwhelming. I think the universities have gotten complacent and they don't really understand the military business enough to really contribute.

As for DARPA - hah. They've been working on how to protect a building from terrorist CB attacks for at least 6-10 years. It's a continuous science project that has never released any practical applications. Whenever they're questioned, they trot out the "we gave birth to the Internet" story and say how they're engaged in cutting edge, high risk tech studies. Again, where's the beef? I haven't seen any since 1980.

But I'm a cynic. I think the smart engineers and scientists go to industry now and much of the good ideas come from them - more pricey, but at least they're motivated to give the military what it wants. Or what they think the military thinks they want. You know what I mean.

Kingdaddy

Believe me, I have no illusions about academia. In my time in the ivory tower, I saw my share of research that didn't seem to go anywhere (or have a purpose), knee-jerk reactions to DoD or corporate money, and extremely silly behavior around grant submissions. Still, I'd rather have the foot in the door than not, even if people ultimately leave the university for private work. The DoD benefits from the openness, the access to pure science (both its products and its process), and the occasional good project within the academic setting. The universities get more benefits than some academics care to admit, but I sympathize with their caution.

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