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Pentagon to Significantly Cut CS Research 408

Posted by timothy
from the how-dare-they-take-away-the-free-money dept.
GabrielF writes "Over the last few decades, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded some of the most successful computer science research projects in history, such as the Internet. However, according to the New York Times, DARPA has recently decided to significantly cut funding of open-ended computer science research projects in favor of projects that will yield short-term military results. Leading computer scientists, such as David Patterson, the head of the ACM are outraged and worried."
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Pentagon to Significantly Cut CS Research

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  • Technology (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikeleemm (462460) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @02:59PM (#12120690)
    Since the whole .COM bust, technology has been slow moving. Doesn't come as a surprise funding will be cut on such either. Pretty sad unfortunately, but just look at the slowdown in any research, new products and innovation.
    • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:01PM (#12120699)
      It seems to go in a cycle, innovation followed by consolidation. Someone will make a breakthrough somewhere and we'll see the process start over again.
      • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aix (218662) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @06:25PM (#12122021) Homepage
        Agreed, but the US government should be asking itself whether it can afford to have that breakthrough happen somewhere else. It is extremely foolish (and yet commonplace) to think that Americans have a monopoly on innovation.
        • Re:Technology (Score:3, Insightful)

          by quarkscat (697644)
          The solution to every Defense Department effort
          to get more bang for the buck -- outsourcing!
          We can always rely upon the Chinese and the
          Indians (and whoever comes cheapest next) for
          the core R&D in CS and IT we will need, right?

          The DoD has been in love with outsourcing since
          before some Pentagon stuffed shirts decided to
          buy uniforms (berets) from the PRC. For example:

          (a) they are having problems getting enough
          new USA-borne recruits -- solution (1) is to
          raise enlistment bonuses and pay (too much $$$);
          whi
    • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dnoyeb (547705) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:06PM (#12120737) Homepage Journal
      Don't think so. This was there before the bust, so why is there any relation to the bust.

      Not saying there is anything special about this president but next time try to pick one who has friends in industries you want to see funded because thats how this game works.

    • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @04:33PM (#12121250) Homepage Journal
      The role of government in costly downcycles is to reinvest in stabilizing the cycle. Especially when the cycle has been so integrated with government spending, and when it returns so well on investment. 50% of American economic growth is technology. And American defense depends on retaining our tech edge - so tech investment is an essential role for the DoD. They might have made a more persuasive argument for weaning the tech R&D community from DoD money when it was booming. But cutting it when the DoD budget is booming, and American tech is busting, is to kick this essential industry when it's down.
  • sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ocularDeathRay (760450) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:00PM (#12120694) Journal
    I am not surprised but this is kind of sad. Lets stop open ended research that may help people in the future... instead we will spend that money on killing people in the short term.

    as great as this country is, it is sometimes frustrating to be an American
    • Re:sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rostin (691447) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:14PM (#12120782)
      There are at least two false dilemmas, here.

      First, why do you assume that short-term military spending won't help people in the future? It's not at all obvious that having a powerful, technologically advanced military prevents us from helping people in the future. I would hope that the reverse is true, in fact.

      Second, do you think there's a compelling reason to believe that in the absence of military research, people would stop killing one another? Isn't it true that (at least in theory) having better, more accurate weapons means that we kill *fewer* people?
      • Re:sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snarkh (118018) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:25PM (#12120868)
        It's not at all obvious that having a powerful, technologically advanced military prevents us from helping people in the future. I would hope that the reverse is true, in fact.


        The US already has the most advanced military and by far the largest military spending. Why is such an increase in military research nececessary at this point in time?

        Second, do you think there's a compelling reason to believe that in the absence of military research, people would stop killing one another?


        Who said anything about the absense of military research. The question is about the purpose of redirecting funds from long term CS research into short-term military spending.
        • Re:sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

          The US already has the most advanced military and by far the largest military spending. Why is such an increase in military research nececessary at this point in time?

          Mainly because much of what we have is designed to fight a straight up war with the (then) USSR. While that equipment is second to none in a normal fight, as the Iraqi's found out; it's not as well equipped for the future. Many of the thing sthat make it good for the cold war are less useful in urban fighting or fast reaction situation.

          Ta
        • Re:sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pilkul (667659)
          The US already has the most advanced military and by far the largest military spending. Why is such an increase in military research nececessary at this point in time?

          The US military is currently overstreched doing peacekeeping in two medium-sized countries. "Most advanced military" in the world doesn't necessarily cut it when you're up against several opponents at once and when you have more complex objectives than merely destroying your enemies (crushing Saddam's army was trivial, building a democracy

    • Re:sigh... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:25PM (#12120859) Homepage Journal
      +5 insightful? People, this is *CompSci* we're talking about here. Think for a moment. What materials does a CompSci researcher need? A few thousand dollars worth of computing equipment? Maybe ten thousand a year in custom board manufacturing costs? Beyond that you're just talking about people's wages. This isn't chemistry or rocket science where rare and expensive materials are needed for experiments! This is computer science where 90-99% of the research is intellectual!

      Just think for a moment here. If they've got massive multi-million dollar budgets, where is all the research money going?
      • Re:sigh... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lysander (31017)
        Beyond that you're just talking about people's wages.

        I think you're forgetting that a lot goes into this. If a professor gets a grant, he pays the school and his department for hosting him, for his own time, and for post-doc, graduate, and undergraduate students to work on the project. I would guess that the majority of the cost isn't in hardware, but in people's time. Who cares what kind of hardware is available if the project won't help pay your tuition? No money, no students, no research.

      • Re:sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @04:02PM (#12121086) Homepage
        I fail to see how funding people's wages is any different than funding chemistry research. Where does most of the cost of refining chemicals come from? Wages to people for the slow and ardruous task of making them.

        If anything because the "90-99%" of the research is intellectual, it can be argued that more of the money goes to exactly what it is that you want more of.

        Plus you now have the problem that as more and more money goes into the corporate sector, fewer and fewer people benefit. While the military's relationship with higher education has always had a little tension, it's the right place for the funding to flow to. If you fund research into advanced data mining techniques using quantum computers at a college, the money goes to creating research that can be used by everyone, including corporations, individuals, and other research institutions. You contribute to the education of more computer science students. If you decide to go elsewhere for your follow-up project, you can take the body of research that was done and go anywhere. By relying on private corporations, all you're doing is subsidizing the CEO's golf club memberships and tying yourself to a single vendor.

        If they've got massive multi-million dollar budgets, where is all the research money going?

        I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "research." I've never seen an educational institution that was wasteful about it's funding (Maybe Harvard). The professors and grad students are paid wages that nobody in the private sector would accept. They don't have crazy offices or private jets or 100,000 dollar golf club memberships. When was the last time the head of a college recieved a 30 million dollar golden parachute?

        If you can't phathom where the research money is going, you are in no position to say that it is being wasted.

        DARPA has always been the blue-sky arm of the military funding group, and it has served the country well in that respect. The internet is it's most obvious triumph (which is also comp sci), and that took something like 30 years to catch on. They also funded BSD, nuclear test detection research, and a whole lot else [wikipedia.org]. To say that they're going to fund practical immediate research for making weapons instead is a little silly, we have branches of the military and civillian companies who do this regularly. DARPA, however, funds projects that have a 1 in 100 chance of taking off and changing the world. And DARPA funds hundreds of them.

        • Re:sigh... (Score:3, Informative)

          by servognome (738846)
          I fail to see how funding people's wages is any different than funding chemistry research. Where does most of the cost of refining chemicals come from? Wages to people for the slow and ardruous task of making them.

          There is a big difference in initial and iterative costs for physical sciences vs computer science.
          For initial startup for CS a university may invest millions on new computer equipment for students to build and test their programs. In physical sciences a university may invest millions on a p
        • Re:sigh... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tbo (35008) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:00PM (#12122202) Journal
          Disclosure: I'm a graduate student at a major research university, doing public research that happens to be funded in part by DARPA and the DoD. The research is long-term, but is in a field that will clearly have national security implications.

          I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "research." I've never seen an educational institution that was wasteful about it's funding (Maybe Harvard).

          Then you've never seen how research happens at a major university. Waste happens *differently* than at major corporations, but it happens in vast amounts, often in the form of wasted time.

          At a private company I used to work at, when there was a minor problem with my working environment (too cold), it took a day or two to fix. At a top-rated university, a more serious problem (lights that turn off by themselves every ten minutes) took seven months to fix.

          At the same company, security was taken very seriously. When the door to the server room was being repainted, we had a security guard stand there, literally watching paint dry. At the major university, we had five break-ins to our building last semester and yet it's still possible to break in in 15 seconds with nothing more than a newspaper. (The last of those break-ins cost the university about $10,000 in computer equipment, and it took four months to get the computers replaced and running again).

          I haven't even started on the amount of time wasted on pointless administrative tasks (e.g. two weeks telling payroll how to do their jobs).

          The professors and grad students are paid wages that nobody in the private sector would accept. They don't have crazy offices or private jets or 100,000 dollar golf club memberships.

          Professors don't get crazy bonuses, but the top administrators get pretty hefty salaries and bonuses (like a beautiful house on campus). Compensation for administrators is approaching corporate levels.

          Plus, universities find lots of ways to sphon off federal grant money. Any major purchase or salary coming from a federal grant gets a ~50% "overhead" charge tacked on--that money goes to the university.

          It literally hurts me to see DARPA cut funding to universities (my group took a hit), but I can understand why it's happening.
          • Re:sigh... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Dun Malg (230075)
            At a private company I used to work at, when there was a minor problem with my working environment (too cold), it took a day or two to fix. At a top-rated university, a more serious problem (lights that turn off by themselves every ten minutes) took seven months to fix.

            Total tangent here, but my father used to work for Hughes Aircraft Company (back when they still existed) and the numbnuts facilities manager of the building in which he worked, in an attempt to "save electricity" and earn some brownnose po

  • Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sabernet (751826) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:00PM (#12120695) Homepage
    While this does royally suck, we cannot forgot DARPA is a defense agency after all. And in the modern, "Make war, not talk" times of the current administration, this was almost forseeable.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:37PM (#12120929)
      Well, like they say, it's killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Maybe this move can get some new weapons system out there a few months earlier, but in the meantime, you're not inventing the technologies which permit whole new classes of weapons systems.

      I'll put it in StarCraft terms: you're spending your minerals on upgrading your Zealots, and failing to invest in the pylons and tech structures that would allow you to build a whole frickin' fleet of Protoss Carriers.

      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Stonehand (71085) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:43PM (#12120963) Homepage
        The military does not really have a problem finding "whole new classes of weapons systems" to research for the long term. It's rather the other way around, if you look at something like Future Combat Systems -- an extremely expensive, quite possibly pie-in-the-sky redesign that goes against decades of military thinking which will require success in a rather large number of utterly unproven technologies to work. Lightweight, lightly armored heavily networked vehicles complimented by large numbers of mobile attack / recon robots?

        It's the people outside the Pentagon pointing out that the money spent on futuristic weapons systems will hurt the ability to find funding for shorter-term but still rather useful projects.
      • "I'll put it in StarCraft terms: you're spending your minerals on upgrading your Zealots, and failing to invest in the pylons and tech structures that would allow you to build a whole frickin' fleet of Protoss Carriers."

        I've never seen America's entire long-term defense planning reduced down to one sentence about StarCraft.

        Apt analogy though.
      • I'd always try to get Protoss carriers as fast as possible, but usually I got wiped out first by a zealot rush. Maybe your analogy is more apt than you realize.
      • by billstewart (78916) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @07:49PM (#12122573) Journal
        Government-funded research almost always works on the wrong problems - it's inherently working on problems the government wants solved, rather than on problems that Real People want solved. This not only takes tax money out of citizens' pockets, which they would have spent on things they wanted instead of things the government wants, but it also has the far worse effect that it takes bright researchers who could have been working on problems that the real world wanted solved and directs them toward problems that the government wants solved - partly the military, partly the military-industrial complex that feeds off the military, and in general toward directions that support big centralized businesses that support big governments.

        We do occasionally get good things out of it, and it does let bright people develop ideas and technologies that have broader uses, but mostly it develops better and better technology for killing people. Sure, we've gotten communications satellites, and the Internet does things that UUCP-net didn't do. But there's a huge amount of solar energy research that simply didn't get done because the college kids who were good at thermodynamics went to work developing aerospace technology instead. And while that aerospace technology has civilian applications, much more of it is for jumbo jets than for small private aircraft and free-flight navigation that would make air travel more practical and decentralized. (I *still* want my flying car :-)

        Some of the agricultural research has been seriously useful. But too much of it has been directed in ways that support big agribusiness quasi-industrial farms instead of family farms, and towards pesticides that enable mass production, toward genetically modifying plants to make them more resistant to pesticides so that they're more practical for pesticide-based farming, and towards monocultures rather than increased diversity. And if you thought software patents were nasty, you should go look at the biological patent explosions of the last 20-30 years.

        Medical research seems like it wouldn't have this problem, and while it's nowhere near as bad, it's still a mixed bag. Most medical techniques that are useful on battlefields are useful on other trauma, and more Americans are still killed every year by the side-effects of the War on Drugs than the wars for oil, and far more by car accidents than either one. But government-funded medical research has unfortunate interactions with the FDA's regulation of new drug development - the regulatory barriers make it economically difficult to develop drugs that have less than a billion-dollar market, and the government funding tends to encourage large labs, and make up for some of the regulatory problems by funding universities which can avoid the regulatory barriers rather than fixing the regulatory barriers.

        Short-term military-focused research is far more of an interference to the evolution of our economy than long-term mixed-use research. But they're both bad.

  • excellent. (Score:4, Funny)

    by notque (636838) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:01PM (#12120702) Homepage Journal
    This means they are going to use this money instead of fund the radically out of control social security right?

    It's in serious need... They should get to that.
    • "It's in serious need... They should get to that."

      Indeed, it is in serious need. After all, it will only last another 30 years on this system.

      Now, how could we get enough money to keep something solvent thirty years from now...hmmm...that seems like a rather long-term goal...hmmm...oh, wait, we could fund something open-ended, as we did with the internet, and start up another economic boom through innovation somewhere down the line, like around ten years from now when the whole system stops resulting in p
      • Indeed, it is in serious need. After all, it will only last another 30 years on this system.

        It doesn't suddenly die in 30 years. It will remain for long after that as long as the egotistic and selfish among us don't kill it.
        • Perhaps you did not catch the sarcasm?

          However: after another thirty years, it will no longer be completely solvent, assuming that population and income projections hold true. Up until that point, all social security payments will be made on time. Thus, that's when it no longer is a working system, as the purpose of the system is to make all the payments, not just a few.
  • zerg (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Omlette (124579) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:01PM (#12120709) Homepage
    Great! We didn't want to compete w/ India anyway...
    • Re:zerg (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NitsujTPU (19263)
      There's a big difference between funding CS research, and competing with the code for hire shops in India.

      DARPA funds quite a bit of research that is a long way from becoming technology that we use in our homes. Many papers that I read that are funded by DARPA, I read with the realization that I won't see a practical system do these things for at least 10 years, probably much longer.

      That said, there are a few other things to say:
      1) The D in DARPA is for defense... many of these projects get into places
    • Great! We didn't want to compete w/ India anyway...
      You don't get it. With reduced funding, all your defense research are belong to India.
  • by PrvtBurrito (557287) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:02PM (#12120711)
    I believe strongly that the feds should consolidate their IT into a department of Technology or IT. I know that the NIH (HHS), the NSF, the DoD and the DOE commonly fund IT research, but it often doesn't fit into their missions. Our gov't should support Technology development and infrastructure just like it supports health (HHS), transportation (DoT), Energy (DoE), Science (NSF), security (HS) and defense (DoD). Who is going to build the next public cyberinfrastructure if it isn't appropriate for the other departments?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:03PM (#12120725)
    all 3 Terminator movies in a row and clued in after a night of hard thinking that "Skynet v0.8" was too suspiciouly named to continue to v1.0.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:04PM (#12120728) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that Computer Science hasn't advanced much since the 80's. All the core concepts have been long established, and precious little groundbreaking research has emerged. I hate to say it, but most of the valuable work being done today is at the commercial level. i.e. Building upon the CompSci foundations to create useful, real world products.

    The biggest area that I see research being useful is in artificial intelligence. There's so much that we;re still trying to comprehend about emergent behaviors. Unfortunately, AI is very much like Fusion. It's only 20 years away (for the next century). :-) Not that I begrudge the AI research. It's fascinating stuff and deserves to be done. Just don't expect any sort of immediate results.
    • Yeah that's right, nothing came out of CS research in the last 20 years, everything's been already invented. To take just one example, this whole web [wikipedia.org] thing of the 90s should not count for anything. CS research is worthless, real progress comes from companies like Google [google.com] or Akamai [mit.edu]. Oh wait... both came to us straight from the university (Stanford and MIT, respectively).
      • To take just one example, this whole web thing of the 90s should not count for anything.

        *Ahem* From your own link: The Web can be traced back to a project at CERN in 1989.

        CS research is worthless

        Didn't say that. I did say that there's not as much value as their used to be. The field is well saturated, and therefore is less likely to be much to be gained through expensive research. And as I also said, there's still research that's valuable, just far less overall.

        real progress comes from companies li
        • And 1989 isn't in the last 20 years?

          Anybody in the computing industry who thinks CS research has been stagnent for 20 years is most likely one of those moronic "computer engineers" that's still trying to get their heads around 1980s concepts, and ignoring all the new stuff. The sad state of commercial products today is fair testament to that.
    • Computer science has had unbelievable advances in the past decades, and not just in AI:

      - parallel computing and supercomputing
      - the Web
      - scalable clusters and Internet services
      - mobile computing
      - breakthroughs in graphics
      - breakthroughs in vision
      - stunning advancements in computer architecture
      - fundamental advances in theory, algorithms, etc.

      It's true that the 50s, 60s, and 70s were wonderful in that many concepts were first discovered, but computer science had its greatest impact over the
      • - parallel computing and supercomputing

        Experimented with and designed in the 70's and 80's. Commercially available in the 90's.

        - the Web

        Experimented with and designed in the 80's. Commercially available in the 90's.

        - scalable clusters and Internet services

        Experimented with and designed in the 80's. Commercially available in the 90's.

        - mobile computing

        Commercially available since the 80's. Lowering costs of commercial hardware made mobile devices more popular in the 90's and 00's.

        - breakth
        • by braindead (33893) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:54PM (#12121040)
          It looks like we found the root of the problem. You're looking at technology that's widely available today and say "all that was invented 20 years ago, there's nothing new going on".

          The problem is that it takes 20 years for many fundamental advances to make it into mainstream. So the fundamental research that you claim is not happening? You'll see it in 20 years, when it will be mainstream.
        • That you have no idea what you're talking about does not appear to have dissuaded you from doing so:

          >>> - breakthroughs in graphics
          >
          >All designed in the 60's through 80's, but lacking in powerful enough hardware until the late 90's.

          Total nonsense. Most of the recent advances---such as fluid sims, deformable objects, motion capture, and the like---were made possible because of better algorithms---i.e., research---rather than any advance in hardware. I can guarantee you running algori

    • by kb9vcr (127764) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:33PM (#12120913)
      The whole purpose of long-term research isn't to bang out invention after invention. It's an investment in the future of the technology.

      Inventioning things that aren't apparent and obvious but which are useful and ground breaking is all about funding ideas which usually don't pan out. If your not willing to spend money to try risky ideas then the technology that might have been 20 or 60 years off will NEVER come.
      • The whole purpose of long-term research isn't to bang out invention after invention. It's an investment in the future of the technology.

        I understand that quite well. But I'm still not seeing amazing new algorithms that have future potential in many areas. AI seems to be the most promising, with most other areas of research trying to tackle the same sorts of problems without AI.

        Beyond AI, I have a very difficult time coming up with CompSci advances in the last decade. The BWT algo, Bayesian Filters, and
        • by CharlesEGrant (465919) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @04:17PM (#12121158)
          Beyond AI, I have a very difficult time coming up with CompSci advances in the last decade. The BWT algo, Bayesian Filters, and that's about where I run out.
          There is a difference between saying that you don't know of any important CompSci advances and saying that there have been no such advances. What field do you work in? What other fields do you follow? What research journals do you read on a regular basis? If you are just reading textbooks and the popular and semi-popular press you are only going to hear about the ideas that have been pretty well thrashed out in the research literature and so are probably already 5-10 years old.

          How about the entire field of non-supervised machine learning: support vector machines, and training of hidden Markov models? These methods are finding application in everything from spam filtering to speech recognition to genome analysis.
    • Fusion research... (Score:5, Informative)

      by gnuman99 (746007) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:54PM (#12121044)
      Unfortunately, AI is very much like Fusion. It's only 20 years away (for the next century)

      No, AI is nothing like fusion. We *don't* know what is required (software-wise) to make a robot alive. We *do* know how to make fusion energy efficient and it was done.

      The perception that fusion doesn't work is from the early days of fusion research. Without doing any actual testing, physicists just though if you put the plasma in a magnetic bottle, you get fusion. When they actually done the experiment, they discovered more is going on in the plasma. You can't treat it as a gas. You can't treat it as a liquid. It is kind of a combination of both. Virtually everything in physics with regards to fluid/gas flow, as well as electromagnetism is part of the fusion reactor. Only NOW, after the experiments were done, do we understand WHAT is required to make fusion work and HOW to make it work.

      Unlike AI, fusion research has been done. It works. It is here now. All that is needed is money to build a test reactor based on *current* knowledge (no pun intended :), work out final nicks in application of the theory, and then we can build the first commercial fusion reactor.

      The obstacle to fusion is not science (or lack thereof), but lack of funding. You see, what people heard in the 60s about fusion, they still think it applies today.

  • by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:08PM (#12120746)
    Basic CS research ought to be funded, IMO, but there's no reason completely open-ended CS research should be funded by DARPA---that's what the National Science Foundation is for.

    Of course, this cut in DARPA funding is unlikely to be matched by a commensurate increase in NSF funding, which is the real problem...
    • by wodgy7 (850851) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:57PM (#12121055)
      You're right, fundamental CS research would be funded by the NSF, in an ideal world.

      The problem is that things haven't worked that way in the real world, not for a long time. Since the late '70s there has been an assumption that DARPA will fund the bulk of CS fundamental research. Partly because of that, is has historically been *very* difficult to get a grant approved by the NSF for CS research unless it's very targeted towards the pure end of the research spectrum. Computer architecture (except very low-level engineering), graphics, human-computer interaction, even databases, etc. are all fields that the NSF has been reluctant to fund because by their nature, even the basic research has an "applied" component.

      Without an increase in NSF funding, the DARPA cuts are going to devastate many areas of CS research. It's really disheartening.

    • Basic CS research ought to be funded, IMO, but there's no reason completely open-ended CS research should be funded by DARPA---that's what the National Science Foundation is for.

      Let's be frank, there are certain things in basic long term CS research that DARPA is going to be a lot more interested in than the NSF. It makes sense for DARPA, then, to bother to make sure that research is getting done. The best way to make sure that research is getting done is to pay for it.

      What sort of research should DARP
  • This Makes Sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967)
    While it sucks for the CS people in the Pentagon, it just makes sense right now to divert money to things that will benefit the troops in Afganistan and Iraq. I'm sure that some of the CS projects help soliders on the ground, but as we know, 95% of IT projects aren't completed on time. So why not deliver better weapons, vehicles, body armor, and other technology that has the capability of saving lives right now.

    Once we're completely out of Iraq and Afganistan, hopefully they'll put the money back into lo
    • While it sucks for the CS people in the Pentagon, it just makes sense right now to divert money to things that will benefit the troops in Afganistan and Iraq. I'm sure that some of the CS projects help soliders on the ground, but as we know, 95% of IT projects aren't completed on time. So why not deliver better weapons, vehicles, body armor, and other technology that has the capability of saving lives right now.

      Once we're completely out of Iraq and Afganistan, hopefully they'll put the money back into long
    • Once we're completely out of Iraq and Afganistan, hopefully they'll put the money back into long term research.

      yeah. good point. I'll start holding my breath now........

      /me passes out while clicking submit
    • by be-fan (61476) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:44PM (#12120968)
      Yes, because defense contractors are known for being punctual.
    • by localman (111171) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:49PM (#12121005) Homepage
      You're relatively new to this world, right? :)

      We can put a pile of high-tech weapons and defense systems in the hands of our troops. It won't make a spit of difference. The issues there are political and social. Decades of killing hasn't made any progress at all. I just gets worse. If we kill people more efficiently that's not very likely to change.

      Why do you think there are so many countries that have been terrorized for decadees? Lack of good enough weapons? I would tend to think it runs deeper than that.

      This is different from a regular war where you've got a leader of a cohesive nation invading other nations. In that case you can "win". This stuff is based on centuries of internal religious conflict amont the people themselves. It's unlikely we'll make a high enough percentage of the people there happy in the near future.

      Ah well. Let's just nuke the whole area and let God sort them out. Because weapons will help. Right?

      Cheers.
  • by Anonymous Coward


    Report Says Pentagon Spending on Weapons to Soar
    By TIM WEINER

    Published: April 1, 2005

    A new report by the Government Accountability Office warned yesterday that the costs of the Pentagon's arsenal could soar by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

    The Pentagon has said it is building more than 70 major weapons systems at a cost of at least $1.3 trillion. But the Pentagon generally understates the time and money spent on weapons programs by 20 to 50 percent, the new report said.

    A survey o
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:12PM (#12120770)
    So the gist is that DARPA wants to fund companies, and not universities. And when they do fund .edus, they have outrageous restrictions, like requiring all help on a project be US citizens.

    As a CS students, I can tell you: finding hack US coders is easy; find qualified US students who can do research is hard. It's like they don't teach math or science in US schools anymore or something. Kids from Greece or China or wherever come over here, and run circles around US students in formal predicate logic, discrete math, and other subjects that Ken and Barbie found too hard. It's no exaggeration to say that over 70% of all research students are foreign--simply because there are not many qualified US students. (It's a different story if we needed literature or communication students--we've got tons of those.)

    America is a country where companies don't make anything anymore. Instead, they just own the IP, and outsource the *production* to China/Taiwan/India. Hell, look at Transmeta, also in /. news today: they are switching to a pure IP model. Exactly what makes use sure that this model is sane for a country? Production capacity is not very mobile, but intellectual talent does not have to stay put in the US. The engineers who invent the IP can just as easily be located (and will soon be born, educated, and working entirely) overseas.

    US Companies went through a similar cylce of eating-the-seed corn in the 80s. What happened was they got their asses handed to them by Japan, where R&D was focused on basic science, and not the "short term" deliverables. Now, it seems DARPA is going to try to repeat the same experiment in failure.

    Don't get me wrong. This is not the last straw for the US R&D system, but merely one more straw in what has to be the last bundle. It's twilight of the empire, folks. If you're young, start learning another language.

    A far better solution is to let all students in US institutions work on projects. (If a project is truly classified, then just use one of the many defense contractors.) When foreign students graduate, most of them (not all) want to become US citizens. What better way to recruit new talented citizens for a country? With the *reeeediculous* DARPA restrictions, many of the foreign students I know are going home. They expect (rightly) that in 10-15 years, their countries will dominate in the industries they've trained for.
    • The sky is falling!
    • by lsmeg (529105) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @04:22PM (#12121180)
      It's no exaggeration to say that over 70% of all research students are foreign--simply because there are not many qualified US students. (It's a different story if we needed literature or communication students--we've got tons of those.)

      Id say were loosing on that front 2

    • America is a country where companies don't make anything anymore.

      Agriculture, entertainment and industry account for a huge chunk of the US economy [doc.gov].

      It's twilight of the empire, folks. If you're young, start learning another language.

      Half empty, eh?
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit@yEIN ... minus physicist> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:12PM (#12120774)
    True to form, our military is preparing to fight the last war. In 2014, we'll probably be hearing about brigades getting lost or forgotten about, blue on blue airstrikes meant for ground support, and other results of a massive attack on military information networks conducted by cells from around the world.

    On the plus side, by the time we fight the Mongolian Khanate in 2037 we'll have the best network firewalls in the world. :)

  • by jc42 (318812) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:14PM (#12120780) Homepage Journal
    ... in favor of projects that will yield short-term military results.

    If they can predict beforehand what a project will yield, then it's not research; it's engineering. So they should change their name from DARPA to DAPA.

    • No. It's merely directed research with a heavy emphasis on real-world applicability.

      If you leaf through modern comp-sci disserations and research projects, you'll find that it's unusual for them to say "we really don't know what the hell is going to happen if we try". Instead, they state specific objectives and methods such as improving database performance through reordering lock queues or aggregating transactions that work with shared code or data. It's no less engineering than what DoD likes to see.
  • We don't need the military to drive computer innovation..we're doing fine.
  • short sighted (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sfcat (872532)
    This reminds me of the time the patent office was closed in the 19th century because someone proclaimed that everything that could be invented, had been invented. This is very short signed. The number of advances from DARPA research is quite impressive. Many top CS schools get quite a bit of money from DARPA. I don't know how they'll make up this shortfall. Of all the things to cut from the government budget, this is one of the worst. I'm not going to mention the B-word but how many stupid decisions i
  • My experience of DARPA's funding of "CS" is putting all 64 bit alternatives to the 32-bit (segmented) IP address plus 16-bit port out of business.

    Aside from Xerox's 64 bit MAC address which was shelved as the basis for IP addresses, there was another standard promoted by a group of companies from Apple to Atari to Western Electric/Bell Labs to Packet Cable to Knight-Ridder circa 1982 which consisted of an unsegmented system identifier and object identifier combined in an 64 bit address -- the SID growing

  • Budget Defecit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mike1024 (184871) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:17PM (#12120812)
    In these times of budget shortfalls and spiralling national debt, money has to be saved somewhere. Things with unknown results a long way in the future are an obvious target.

    Does it suck? Sure. But America has shown in elections it doesn't want European-style high taxes to pay for stuff, and when you can't pay for stuff, you can't have stuff.

    Blah blah economy blah blah free market forces blah blah alledgedly unpatriotic intellectuals blah blah small government blah blah starve the beast blah blah 9-11 blah blah blah.

    Michael
    • In times of budget shortfalls and spiralling national debt, long-term research is the last thing you want to cut. To use a programming analogy, if you have a project that is running late, and you're starting to hurt for cash, you don't cut the programming team in half...
  • Not Customer Service.

    Why isn't it an editor's requirement to define every TLA in a headline?
  • Pure Research (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jameth (664111) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:19PM (#12120823)
    Without even DARPA funding pure research, the US will really be screwed. AT&T, while it was a monopoly, had enough money that it did a lot of rather open ended research. That's gone. XEROX had the PARC for a while. That's gone. We got wonderful benefits from all the research they did for the space program, and now that's nearly gone.

    Pure research is what makes for major innovations. It's what keeps a nation on top. The fact the the US invented the internet is one of the major reasons that the US is still so dominant in the IT field. If the US keeps funding some open-ended goals, it might manage to stay on top through these recessions due to inventing something the rest of the world just doesn't have. With the way things are now, the US will have trouble competing against India and China if it sticks to the same jobs that everyone else does.
    • Re:Pure Research (Score:3, Interesting)

      Pure research is a fraction of what it was 20 years ago. Bell-labs is a shadow of its former self, PARC a wisp, and a very senior IBM fellow said in a seminar that Yorktown Heights has gone from "R&D" to "D&D". ( I think he means development and development, but I get the image of scientists with torches chasing blue-suited accountants through the halls)

      Our basic research situation was bad enough 10 years ago that NEC started buying up the scientists from the other labs that were laying them off
  • Brains at the top (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:19PM (#12120825) Journal
    This is another moronic desicions i have seen come from the current US administration in the field of scientific research.
    What worrys me most is the fact they are diverting the funding into short term yield millitary research project ... Which given the current administrations track record is not a positive sign for world peace .
    The 20th centuary can be rememberd for many many things and i think DARPA deserves alot of respect for some of the CS projects it funded , however near totaly ignoring the long term benefits of CS research projects in favour of short term gains will just lead to problems further down the line .
    I was angry enough when the US gouvernemt decided to halt funding to Stem-cell research and other things , now here is another nail.
  • by bennomatic (691188) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:22PM (#12120845) Homepage
    With advances in communications technology, our Defense Department can outsource this sort of research to universities in countries where the cost is much lower. Countries like Iran, Yemen and North Korea are on the forefront of nuclear defense research, and would be happy to accept our funds for these sorts of purposes.
  • by slashdot_commentator (444053) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:29PM (#12120888) Journal
    Leading computer scientists, such as David Patterson, the head of the ACM are outraged and worried."

    Outraged? Perhaps you may be outraged, but you slander individuals when you attribute them for saying things they did not say. Nowhere in the article did I read that anyone was outraged.

    The military has decided not to put as much money into basic CS research as they did in the past. "Basic CS research" means theoretical research. By its nature, that means the Pentagon cannot turn around in 3 years and produce a tangible return on its investment. How dare those officials decide to not spend money that's not directly related to killing people or keeping personnel from getting killed! How dare those officials prevent foreign enemies from directly profiting from US funded military research! Why not attack your private sector employer? Most of them have been cutting back funding on basic research.

    It certainly is unfortunate. But if you think basic CS research is critical to the US's well being (or more likely, your well being), bitch out your congressman for not funding research, not the military for doing its job. (Good for you for getting a CS degree, but the world does not owe you a living.)

    • Okay, perhaps the word outrage was incorrect. Certainly Patterson is quoted as being "worried and depressed" and other computer scientists also express frustration, both at the loss of funding and at the change in DARPA's policies. Maybe I chose the wrong word, but I certainly felt a tinge of outrage from those quoted. I apologize if I was mistaken. As for myself, I'm not outraged (nor do I have a CS degree). As far as I am concerned this is simply a wrongheaded change of policy. Certainly during a time of
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:40PM (#12120948)
    > Leading computer scientists, such as David
    > Patterson, the head of the ACM are outraged and
    > worried.

    Everyone who's budget is cut is outraged and worried.

    --
    Toby
  • Makes sense.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by otis wildflower (4889)
    ... When you're not at war, keep your techies on the payroll doing whatever will keep 'em interested, but when you're at war, refocus.

    The US is at war. Get used to it.

    If you don't like the strings that are attached with the money, don't accept the money. Theo didn't, which is fine, and his posse whined about it somewhat, which is annoying but also fine.

    Besides, given how much stuff DoD is buying COTS, it looks like private industry and academia can handle 'pure' research anyway, and if you're gonna fi
    • Re:Makes sense.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jdunn14 (455930)
      The US is at war. Get used to it.

      Let's see is it Eastasia or Eurasia. Which enemy is it again? I forget. Who is it that when defeated we can declare peace and not just always move though continual war?

      Anyway, as a side note for those people asking, "What has darpa research done for us recently?" Well, keep in mind that when academic research into the original internet protocols and such was in progress you could have asked the same thing, not knowing what was coming. Also realize that the skill set
  • by Paradox (13555) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:52PM (#12121024) Homepage Journal
    So, I program for Lockheed, and therefore for the Air Force directly, and I can tell you the kind of feedback we've been getting. I can also tell about the kind of feedback we got when I was hanging around the Computer Security groups at UCSB's graduate labs.

    The Government seems fed up with Computers. They need them, they need them incredibly badly, but they can't seem to get exactly what they want. This goes for both contract work and research work. I'll adress it in two parts.

    For Research Work: Two major factors are at work here. First is the rule of 80/20. We can do 80 percent of what DARPA (or whatever they're named this week) wants, but that last 20% ("Now make it distributed!" or "Now make it fault tolerant!" or "Now make it cryptographically secure!") needed to make the system usable is really really hard. Lots of research projects have hit dead ends. You expect this to happen in research, of course, but still...

    Also, I always got the vibe that DARPA was more than slightly pissed off with us Open Sourcing everything left and right. Maybe it was just us they seemed cross at (and by cross I mean grants and funding tended to shift away from projects with lots of open source offerings), but I've heard other folks doing research mention this too.

    I mean, you can easily get the impression that the Government has an attitude of, "You're supposed to be working for us!" Every time a group open sources DARPA-funded stuff (or the components of it, which is usually the case), other people benefit from the research. This may leave a sour taste in the mouth of the accountants over there.

    For Contract Work: The US Government's policy is horribly broken. "Cost Plus" contracts may have been great in the 50's for jets and stuff, but we're reaching the point with computer systems and software where we're proving that Design Up Front does not work for large projects.

    But, the various millitary branches have so much CYA (Cover Your Ass) paperwork, precedent and process that they cannot disentangle themselves. It's a really bad situation for them, because they have to adapt or die, and they're dying. This is not to say that the Army or Air Force will "go out of business," it's that projects... multi-billion dollar projects... are failing every year now. New projects, huge projects that even a lightweight process would need hundreds of people to deal with, are starting at costs that are so low they'd barely turn a profit for a contractor, because the Army/Navy/Air Force expects to fail.

    What I think the Government really needs to do is become more tech-savvy in general. They need to start paying top dollar to hire the best engineers. No more of this "We Give Good Benefits" junk. The Government needs to have its own research groups and they need to be driven by results, technical excellence, and they need to have open-ended budgets (that are limited by results).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @05:38PM (#12121713)
    When you see changes in govenment funding of high-tech research like this, you can go back in history of ther super powers, for instance, this mirrors the gradual wind-down and collapse of the british empire. The british empire had the biggest high-tech navy in the early 20th century and the competitive pressures brought on by other competing super powers of the day, and the pressures of fighting the first world war was too much to sustain this empire. The first things to go when an empire is winding down, is the government funding for basic science and applied sciences (both of which are big requirements of military industrial complexes). The fact that a lot of high tech that a country needs to grow its future can only be funded by govenment (industry is too short sighted in most western countries because their profit models don't support such long term thinking). It can be seen that the asian countries (in this century) will eclipse the United State and the western world in economic growth in high-tech such as biotech, nanotech and the development of super AI's etc, all of which will have massive applications in future computer and keeping people perpetually young (ie: biotech developments in stem cell research and making of custom stem cells from scratch and nanotech). Of course, all these technologies can have military applications too (so we will find better ways of blowing eache other up (boring)). If you cut back on basic research, you lose the long-term (25 year or more) race to stay ahead of the technological curve.
  • There's hope (Score:3, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @05:46PM (#12121774)
    The U.S. Navy has for a while been working under this new model: focus on short-term-beneficial research rather than the longer-term stuff. (This applies to all Naval research, not just computer science.)

    I've spoken with a sponsor in the Office of Naval Research (ONR). He said that that they're starting to realize the weakness of this approach, and expect to ramp-up longer term research investments in the next few years.

    Perhaps the same thing will happen with DARPA-funded research in a while.
  • by alispguru (72689) <bane@gs[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:04PM (#12122694) Journal
    Someone at DARPA has forgotten that DOD AI research has been worth every penny spent on it. Very little of it turned directly into military applications, but the stuff that did was spectacularly successful. Look here [doc.gov] (emphasis added):

    AI systems proved their strategic value in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. For example, DART (Dynamic Analysis and Replanning Tool) solved the logistical nightmare of moving the U.S. military assets to the Saudi Desert. The application was developed to schedule the transportation of all U.S. personnel and materials such as vehicles, food, and ammunition from Europe to Saudi Arabia. This one application alone reportedly more than offset all the money the Advanced Research Projects Agency had funneled into AI research in the last 30 years.
  • by geekee (591277) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:59PM (#12123055)
    If we just outsource the work to India, the budget cuts can be absorbed without loss in productivity.

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