The American university purports to be an institution dedicated to dispassionate inquiry and the pursuit of wisdom. Since the 1960s, many Americans have identified universities with anti-American radicalism, sexual libertinism, and moral relativism. That is certainly part of the crisis of American higher education. Less publicly, though, scientific and technical research has been coopted to a remarkable extent by the Department of Defense.
As usual, money tells the story. $277 million of Carnegie Mellon’s $315 2006 research budget came from the federal government, and 23% of that total is from the Department of Defense (DoD). In March, the Air Force granted University of Dayton Research Institute $45 million for research in the “Quick Reaction Evaluation of Materials and Processes Program” ( http://www.udri.udayton.edu/News/2013/Pages/Quickresponseevaluation.aspx [accessed March 30, 2013]). Penn State received $149 million in defense grants in 2003. A 2002 study found that over three hundred colleges and universities engage in Pentagon-funded research, universities receive more than half of the DoD research funds, and over half of the funding for university research in electrical engineering and computer science comes from the DoD. The DoD funds Duke research in mathematics, engineering, and biology. According to the DoD, “expenditures at Duke University increased from $17.7 million in fiscal year 2008 to more than $30 million by 2011” (http://www.defense.gov/News/newsarticle.aspx?ID=118918).
One doesn’t need to be a pacifist to find it disquieting to learn that the DoD holds the purse strings of American higher ed.