Defense Research & Development: From the Warfighter to American Consumers, Redefining Everyday Lives Through Innovation

Federal investments in science and technology research and development are threatened by the current budget environment. The Aerospace Industries Association is embarking on an education effort to inform policymakers, elected leaders and the American public on the impact of federal R&D dollars on the innovations that redefine our everyday lives.

This report – the first in a series that examines the impact of federal investment programs – highlights four case studies of private sector technologies and products that have been largely defined or influenced by defense R&D spending. These case studies include the cellular smart phone, the hospital operating room, the modern automobile and the flat screen television. Each case study provides a narrated illustration of
the product and its connections to defense R&D.

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2015 requests a reduction in science and technology funding across both defense and non-defense discretionary accounts. This would reinforce existing reductions from the past several budget cycles. If sequestration is not addressed in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, this downward angle could turn into a nosedive. AIA believes policymakers must ensure a robust and balanced defense
research program, not only for the substantial benefits it provides to America’s warfighters, but also for the resulting commercial innovations that help grow our productivity and our economy.

Over the past six decades, federal investment in R&D programs has acted as an incubator for innovation, producing an immeasurable array of technological advancements that have come to define modern life and society at large. These investments have provided the basis for a revolution in electronic systems, communications, materials and medical science, the results of which have served as the building blocks for today’s most common technologies, including transistors, the Internet, GPS navigation and liquid crystal technology, to name a few.

The connection between research programs and commercial deployment of technologies is often multi-faceted. Program requirements can provide both the research impetus and critical opportunity for technology to mature through production and continual improvement. However, not all technologies that follow this path spill into the private market. Those that do are defined both by market demand and by calculated private investments that enable them to emerge as profitable products. These disparate paths demonstrate how investments made in advanced research can result in enormous contributions to the nation’s economy and industrial competitiveness.

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