Keep Funding Research

Article excerpt

A NUMBER of other nations rival the United States in the quality of scientific and engineering research. Taken together, they also match US research in scope. But American research universities remain the envy of the world. Now ill-considered action in Congress threatens this unique resource.

Following the lead of its chairman, Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania, the House defense appropriations subcommittee has voted to cut $900 million from the $1.46 billion that the Defense Department sought to fund university research in the next fiscal year. Last month, the entire House approved the cut. If such a sudden drastic funding cut were to become law, America's research universities would be devastated.

University administrators and their congressional backers considered this unthinkable. When Mr. Murtha made his move, they were confident that the Senate would restore the money. It now is apparent that many representatives and some senators find such a research cut thinkable and doable.

In the post-cold-war era, it may be sensible to scale back defense-supported university research. The danger lies in cutting too much too quickly. Defense money has been a key sustainer of university research in the physical sciences since the end of World War II. …