APA member presents APA’s defense appropriations testimony in the Senate

Psychologist Dan Putka urges the Senate to reverse proposed Administration cuts to behavioral research within the Department of Defense

By Heather O'Beirne Kelly

The APA Science Directorate tapped APA Member Dan Putka to deliver APA’s Fiscal Year 2011 testimony on Department of Defense (DoD) research funding before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on June 23, 2010. Putka, a member of APA Divisions 14 (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) and 19 (Society for Military Psychology), is a research psychologist on staff at the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) in Alexandria, Virginia, and his military-oriented research and consulting focus on recruitment and retention of high-performing military personnel.

APA member Dan Putka
   APA member Dan Putka

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is one of several that call for “public witness testimony” each year in early summer, prior to its own mark-up of the annual legislation providing funds to DoD. This is an opportunity for outside stakeholders to weigh in formally on the President’s proposed budget and to urge the Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee to take their priorities into consideration when formulating the Senate’s version of the funding bill. Each year APA has been successful in being granted an oral testimony slot before the Subcommittee in addition to the opportunity to enter longer, written testimony into the official record.

Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) 
   Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS)

In his oral testimony before Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), Putka urged the Senate to reverse proposed Administration cuts to applied research programs within DoD in Fiscal Year 2011and to maintain support for behavioral research throughout DoD’s military labs, DARPA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and various DoD centers and field activities. DoD supports a basic and applied research portfolio that includes substantial support for behavioral, cognitive, and social science. The majority of this research is funded through intramural and extramural programs within the Army Research Institute and Army Research Laboratory; the Office of Naval Research; the Air Force Office of Scientific Research; and the Air Force Research Laboratory. All of the services fund research in the broad categories of personnel, training and leader development; warfighter protection, sustainment and physical performance; and system interfaces and cognitive processing; as well as additional mission-specific areas of research.

The 2008 National Academies report on Human Behavior in Military Contexts recommended doubling the current budgets for basic and applied behavioral and social science research “across the U.S. military research agencies.” It specifically called for enhanced research in six areas:

  • intercultural competence
  • teams in complex environments
  • technology-based training
  • nonverbal behavior
  • emotion
  • behavioral neurophysiology

This emphasis on the importance of social and behavioral research within DoD is echoed by the Defense Science Board (DSB), an independent group of scientists and industry leaders whose charge is to advise the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on “scientific, technical, manufacturing, acquisition process, and other matters of special interest to the Department of Defense.” In its report on 21 st Century Strategic Technology Vectors (PDF, 1.1 MB), the DSB identified four priority areas for research to be funded by DoD. The first of these is “mapping the human terrain” – understanding the human side of warfare and national security. The report also called for technology to be “defined broadly, to include tools enabled by the social sciences as well as the physical and life sciences.”

Putka’s testimony is one piece of APA’s larger, ongoing advocacy strategy to maintain support for behavioral science within DoD, which includes sponsoring educational briefings on Capitol Hill, working with coalitions of other scientific disciplines and universities, and meeting regularly with House and Senate staff to encourage appropriate funding and infrastructure for scientific psychology within DoD.

Heather O’Beirne Kelly, PhD, is Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer in the APA Science Government Relations Office. Her work includes advocacy for psychological research at the Department of Defense.