Government Relations Update

I-O psychologist delivers APA’s Senate Defense testimony

APA calls for military labs to support broad program of behavioral research.

By Heather O'Beirne Kelly

William Strickland, president of the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), delivered the American Psychological Association’s oral testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on June 6, 2012. Strickland is an industrial-organizational psychologist with particular expertise in military personnel recruitment, selection and training. 

APA requested and was given a slot to testify before the Subcommittee again this year, focusing on the Department of Defense (DoD) research portfolio for Fiscal Year 2013. (Longer written testimony [PDF, 213KB] was entered into the Congressional record). Strickland noted that for decades, psychologists have played vital roles within DoD as providers of clinical services to military personnel and their families and as scientific researchers investigating mission-targeted issues ranging from airplane cockpit design to counterterrorism.

Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) hear public witness testimony for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Within DoD, the majority of behavioral, cognitive and social science is funded through the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Research Laboratory, with additional, smaller human systems research programs funded through the Office of the Secretary of Defense  and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The military service laboratories conduct and sponsor research and development in three general categories: fundamental research (code 6.1), applied/exploratory development (6.2) and advanced development (6.3). All of the services fund human-related research in the broad areas of personnel; training and leader development; warfighter protection; sustainment and physical performance; and system interfaces and cognitive processing.

For Fiscal Year 2013, Strickland urged the Senate to reverse another round of Administration cuts to the DoD Science and Technology budget. In the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request, the overall level of fundamental and applied DoD research in military laboratories would decrease, and some psychological research programs would take a substantial hit. APA encouraged the Subcommittee to support human-centered research vital to sustaining warfighter superiority, in line with recommendations of both the National Academies and the Defense Science Board.

The National Academies 2008 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” and specifically called for enhanced research in six areas: intercultural competence, teams in complex environments, technology-based training, nonverbal behavior, emotion and behavioral neurophysiology.  Behavioral and social science research programs eliminated from the mission labs due to cuts or flat funding are extremely unlikely to be picked up by industry, which focuses on short-term, profit-driven product development.  Once the expertise is gone, there is absolutely no way to “catch up” when defense mission needs for critical human-oriented research develop. 

At the June hearing, Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) reiterated his Subcommittee’s strong, bipartisan support for behavioral research at DoD in support of mission needs. The APA Science Directorate’s Government Relations Office will continue to monitor the behavioral research portfolio within DoD and advocate for federal funds in support of military personnel, veterans and their families.

Heather O’Beirne Kelly, PhD is a Senior Legislative & Federal Affairs Officer in the Government Relations Office of the Science Directorate at the American Psychological Association.