Joseph Walder's rambling diatribe against accepting research funds from the Department of Defense (Eos, December 28, 1982, p. 1346) deserves some rebuttal. In particular, I would like to respond to his question, ‘Does acceptance of financial support from military sources make individuals and institutions dependent clients of the Pentagon?’ The answer is: of course not, unless they want to be.
As an Air Force scientist and research contract manager, I can state categorically that we put no pressure upon our contractors to become our ‘clients.’ Indeed, we caution them not to become too dependent upon Air Force funds for continued funding of research projects, due to year-to-year changes in programs of interest to the Air Force and availability of funds. The only ‘control’ that we exert over contractors is their voluntary agreement to perform the work that they have unilaterally proposed to do by submitting an unsolicited proposal to us. These proposals are reviewed in-house, and funding is determined purely on relevance, availability of funds, and our estimate of the quality of the proposed research (investigators, facilities, etc.).