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Wisconsin University System Joins Consortium to Compete for Defense R&D Funds

March 21, 2005

As trends in federal funding priorities shift from domestic R&D to defense-related R&D, universities are scrambling to get their piece of the pie. The president's fiscal year 2006 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) includes increased funding of 6.6 percent over the fiscal year 2005 appropriation (see the Feb. 14 issue of the Digest). In comparison, increased funding requested for research-related activities within the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are not proposed even to keep pace with inflation.

Maneuvering around a decades-old policy banning classified and sensitive military projects, the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, The Medical College of Wisconsin, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and the Marshfield Clinic announced earlier this month the formation of the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium. The independent nonprofit entity will allow the institutions to bid for funding available for military and high-security projects from federal agencies such as DHS.

An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that UW has a policy against bidding for federal military and high-security projects that dates back to the 1970s following the bombing of a Army Research Center by student protestors. However, to get around the policy, grants would be channeled through the consortium, which will remain formally independent from the campus.

The Wisconsin Technology Council (WTC), a private nonprofit group created by the legislature to act as a science and technology advisor to lawmakers, would serve as the administrative headquarters for the consortium, according to the Associated Press. The goal is to facilitate matches between the federal government and research resources in Wisconsin, especially in classified and sensitive areas that may require off-campus work, said WTC president Tom Still.

The consortium initially plans to catalog all the research strengths of its members, according to the Medical College. It is currently soliciting federal funding for the project.