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Administration Plans to Eliminate DOD Social Science Research Program

While the majority of the details of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request were made public the week of February 10 (read COSSA’s analysis), full details for some agencies and departments—including the Department of Defense (DoD)—were delayed until the following week.

The DoD budget request reflects over $5 billion in cuts made as a result of the FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review. The FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review is a major DoD initiative led by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “to improve alignment of time, money, and people to [National Defense Strategy] priorities,” including finding budget cuts at DoD. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest contributor to federal research and development expenditures, supports research and development, along with many other programs, through what are known as Defense-Wide accounts. The three branches of the military, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, also individually contribute to funding research and development and were not affected by the review.

The cuts identified by the review affected programs across the Department—from warfighting support, to logistics, to personnel and benefits—and did not spare Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, through which the bulk of research and development funds are administered.

The FY 2021 DoD budget request directs the Basic Research Office to discontinue funding the Minerva Research Initiative (MRI), a university-based social science research program that seeks to “improve DOD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.”

The Minerva Research Initiative is not provided with a dedicated appropriation from Congress, but rather receives funds from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Basic Research Office (a Defense-Wide account), totaling about $13 million each year. In FY 2019 and FY 2020, MRI also received an additional $2 million in the final DoD appropriations bill to support research on “peer/near-peer competition” and “foreign malign influence,” respectively.

MRI includes three primary components: (1) a university-based social science basic research grant program, funded in partnership with Air Force and Navy University Research Initiatives; (2) the Defense Education and Civilian University Research (DECUR) Partnership program for professional military education (PME) institutions; and (3) a collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace to award research support to advanced graduate students and early career scholars working on security and peace. As a result of the Defense-Wide Review, the Department recommends ending the Minerva Research Initiative in FY 2021.

The budget request clarifies that researchers participating in the 2019 award cycle of the first two components will be notified that new awards will not be made and existing awards will be terminated early (note: MRI awards operate on calendar years, not fiscal years). Additionally, the request says that awards will made in response to the university funding opportunity announcement on the topics of peer/near-peer competition and foreign malign influence, which Congress provided funding for in FY 2019 and FY 2020. However, new awards on these topics will only be made with directly appropriated congressional funds and Service (military branch) contributions – which, together, make up about a third of the MRI budget. No additional awards will be made on any other topics formerly supported by the MRI.

No additional details, including when awards will be terminated, are provided. Because the Minerva Initiative does not receive a direct Congressional appropriation, the Department has the authority to terminate it unless Congress affirmatively acts to prevent it (unlike the majority of the changes proposed in the President’s budget request). Should Congressional appropriators wish to maintain the MRI, they would need to include specific language in their FY 2021 appropriations bill stipulating that funding for the program continue.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 18), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Hosts Official Launch of Decadal Survey for the Social and Behavioral Science for Advancing Intelligence Analysis

The National Academies of Sciences’ Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) held a report launch event for the Decadal Survey of the Social and Behavioral Science: A Research Agenda for Advancing Intelligence Analysis on September 30. This event brought together members of the survey committee, representatives from the federal government, and research organizations to discuss findings, recommendations, and next steps for collaboration between research communities and the intelligence community. The report was published in March 2019 and was featured on COSSA Headlines in May. The September report launch event will be archived on the BBCSS website.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 1), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

National Academies Releases Decadal Survey of Social and Behavioral Science Applications to National Security

On March 5, the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences of the National Academies of Science released a Consensus Study Report of the Decadal Survey of Social and Behavioral Science for Applications to National Security. A decadal survey is a method of engaging members of a scholarly community to identify lines of research with the greatest potential to be used over a 10-year period in pursuit of a particular goal. This is the first decadal survey to attempt to set a research agenda for the social and behavioral sciences or the intelligence community.

The report, A Research Agenda for Advancing Intelligence Analysis, recommends that the intelligence community make sustained collaboration with research in the social and behavioral sciences as a central part of the 10-year research agenda. The report highlights ways to promote interdisciplinary collaboration so that the insights from social and behavioral science research are more fully integrated with the needs and objectives of the intelligence community. The report also includes opportunities for social and behavioral science research to help strengthen, plan, and design intelligence analysis. The full report can be read on the National Academies’ website.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 19), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Academies Decadal Survey Seeking Social Science Research Ideas to Improve Intelligence Analysis

As part of the Decadal Survey of Social and Behavioral Science for Applications to National Security, the Committee for the Decadal Survey has opened a call for input from the scientific community to share innovative scientific approaches and research concepts. More specifically, the focus of this call for information is to identify cutting-edge research that might improve intelligence analysis within the next ten years. The Committee has created an IdeaBuzz website to allow the social and behavioral science research community to share ideas and engage in meaningful discussions about current and future trends in the social and behavioral sciences.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 14), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Decadal Survey of Social Science Applications to National Security Releases Workshop Dates and Topics

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences is sponsoring a decadal survey of social and behavioral sciences for applications to national security. The committee conducting the decadal survey will hold six workshops for the purposes of bringing together scholars, members of the intelligence community, members of the federal government, and other stakeholders to examine the state of research and future applications in particular areas. On October 11, 2017, the committee will host separate workshops on culture, language, and behavior; political and strategic reasoning; and network thinking. On January 24, 2018, the committee will host separate workshops on sensory, cognitive, and decision sciences; workforce development; and narratives. Each of these workshops will be held in Washington, DC. More information can be found here and staff can be contacted at SBSDecadalSurvey@nas.edu.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

National Security Decadal Survey Issues Second Call for White Papers

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has announced its second call for white papers to inform its decadal survey on applications of social and behavioral sciences for national security, which is sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Academies is seeking white papers that “identify research concepts, methods, tools, techniques, and new ideas that could advance knowledge” across a range national security-relevant areas. More information and submission instructions are available on the Academies website. Responses are requested by June 12, 2017. Submissions from the first call for white papers, which focused on the needs of the intelligence community, can be accessed here.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 16), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Deadline Extended: Call for White Papers: Social and Behavioral Science for National Security

The Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is leading a decadal survey to identify opportunities for the social and behavioral sciences to contribute to the analytic responsibilities of the intelligence community. This survey, sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, includes two separate calls for white papers. The deadline for the current call has been extended to February 15, 2017. This call is seeking input from academics and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences with experience in intelligence and/or insight into the needs and challenges of the intelligence community with respect to the use of social and behavioral science research. Complete instructions can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 24), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Call for White Papers: Social and Behavioral Sciences for National Security

The Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is leading a decadal survey to identify opportunities for the social and behavioral sciences to contribute to the analytic responsibilities of the intelligence community. This survey, sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, includes two separate calls for white papers. The Board is currently calling for input from academics and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences with experience in intelligence and/or insight into the needs and challenges of the intelligence community with respect to the use of social and behavioral science research. Complete instructions can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 23 (December 13), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

National Academies, Director of National Intelligence, Host Summit on Social and Behavioral Sciences for National Security

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a Summit on Social and Behavioral Science for National Security on October 4 and 5. The Summit marked the beginning of a decadal survey, sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, to identify potential contributions by the social and behavioral science to national security. The sponsors are seeking input on what research is relevant to the topic of the study and suggestions regarding town halls and conferences as the study begins. More information and updates about the decadal study can be found on its website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Academies National Security Study Committee Seeks Nominations

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is conducting a decadal survey to identify opportunities from the social and behavioral sciences that can assist the intelligence community in its analytic responsibilities and contribute to national security. The project, which sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will be launched at a summit in early October. The Academies is seeking nominations for members to serve on the study committee for the survey, particularly those with expertise in the social and behavioral sciences, national security, intelligence analysis, related professional disciplines, and interdisciplinary approaches to science. More information is available on the project website. Nominations are due by September 30, 2016.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 6), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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