The news that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will serve for at least a year in the new Administration should be good news for basic science funded by the military. Since coming to the Pentagon, Gates has actively pursued an increase in the Department of Defense’s funding for basic research. Last year, he asked one of his top officials to produce a memo outlining a 5-year plan to grow the Pentagon’s basic research portfolio from $1.5 billion to $2 billion. The first installment of that increase was granted by Congress this year, boosting the basic research budget by $208 million to $1.7 billion in 2009. In a recent interview with Science, a Pentagon administrator said that "Gates is personally committed to science. He gets it."
Gates's extended tenure will also likely bolster ongoing efforts within the Pentagon to invest in more social science research and apply its results on the battlefield. Earlier this year, Gates launched Minerva, a 5-year, $100 million effort to advance sociological, cultural, and anthropological knowledge that could help the U.S. not just fight, but also avert wars.