UA could lose research grants in defense cuts

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Millions of dollars in UA research grants may be at stake if the U.S. Deparment of Defense research budget is slashed.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked President Clinton in December to eliminate $1.5 billion for university and medical research grants funded through the Department of Defense. The funding would be used to improve military prepartion.

University of Arizona President Manuel T. Pacheco wrote in a letter to McCain last week that "such action would be a severe blow to many research institutions, including the University of Arizona, which play a vital role in developing the nation's ability to remain at the leading edge in technology."

The UA could lose between $10 million and $20 million per year if the grant money is eliminated, said Michael Cusanovich, vice president of research.

In 1993, the UA received $21.5 million from such contracts and the 1994 contracts totalled $10.9 million. About $15 million in defense department grant money is expected this year, Cusanovich


Although $10 million represents only about 5 percent of the university's $202 million annual research budget, the loss would be significant, Cusanovich said.

"It would not have a huge impact, but it is not insignificant either," he said. "The UA is not as dependent on grant money as some other universities, but the grants support a lot of important research projects."

Through grants from the Department of Defense, UA researchers are currently conducting breast- cancer research, studying the effects and treatment of smoke inhalation, developing security systems that are "less accessible to hackers," and exploring the effects of military inhabitation on ecosystems, Cusanovich said.

Both Cusanovich and Pacheco said they hope the federal government will continue funding at least the projects that have "direct military applications."

McCain could not be reached for comment.

"I fully understand, and appreciate, your position on the need to eliminate wasteful pork barrel spending," Pacheco wrote. "My concern here involves our shock over your suggestion to eliminate all university research through DOD, given that so much of it clearly has direct application to defense needs."

"It would be destructive to national defense and other interests to impose a blanket elimination of DOD funded research. It would be far wiser to give these projects individual consideration because many involve technologies that we cannot expect to develop rapidly once a crisis emerges."

Specifically, Pacheco cited the importance of current UA research projects developing an ability to distinguish between seismic waves generated by nuclear explosions and those caused by natural earthquakes.

"This is a technology of undoubted importance in an age of nuclear proliferation if our nation is to have the ability to detect threats and take appropriate measures," he wrote.

Both administrators suggested that the government should transfer the funding for projects that do not have direct military application "to a more appropriate agency" rather than cancel the funding.

Specifically, Cusanovich mentioned that the UA's breast - cancer research would be "more appropriately funded through the National Institutes of Health."

Although Cusanovich said he expects the defense department to "make some cuts," he does not expect the UA to lose grant money.

"I'm not expecting the university to get less money, since our projects are among the most relevant to the Defense Department and likely won't be cut," he said.

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