Research and development spending faces particularly acute budget cuts, as the Department of Defense and other agencies look to cut billions in discretionary spending thanks to sequestration. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee leaders with the defense department’s research and engineering department outlined the limitations they’ll face, including impacts on personnel.

“Because of the way the sequester was implemented, we will be very limited in hiring new scientists this year, and the [next] several years,” said Alan R. Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

Defense leaders are concerned with retention if the defense department moves forward with mandatory furloughs. Struggles to retain top talent will be magnified in a budget environment that puts projects on hold and limits the number of hours researchers are able to work. Scholarship programs for science and math may be completely eliminated, as well.

Despite the limitations, Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, emphasized that their goals and objectives remain the same even in a cash-strapped environment. Her testimony did emphasize the role of affordability, both today and in future operation.

With discretionary spending decreasing across the board research and development spending is expected to take a hit across government agencies, not just the defense department. Defense contractors in the private sector who survive on their ability to provide cutting-edge solutions to government customers are also likely to decrease some spending on advanced projects. Perhaps the one exception to this is cybersecurity, where competition for new contracts means defense contractors will be putting new talent and investing new resources to garner a share of the cyber market.

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