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The breadth of defense-related science is extraordinary...

By Joan Fuller 1997-99 AAAS Fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Science, Technology & Engineering

The breadth of defense-related science is extraordinary—accounting for approximately half of all federal investment in science and technology. This investment ripples through the Department of Defense (DoD), impacting research in universities, government labs, the commercial sector and, therefore, the entire global science community. My AAAS Defense Policy Fellowship provided an unparalleled opportunity to experience DoD’s breadth first hand.

During my first year as a Fellow, there was much to learn. However, my defense colleagues also expected me to contribute a lot and to be an expert in my field—which could provide validation for having spent all those years in graduate school. For me this challenge was a great motivator and my work eventually received recognition and respect: I was selected as the Air Force Civilian of the Year in 1998 for my fellowship contributions on the dual use technologies program. So what do Defense Fellows actually do? Well, I was assigned to the Office of the Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Science, Technology & Engineering. In this role, I assumed the duties of the deputy for the Air Force dual use science and technology program, an annual $40 million congressionally-mandated program that attempted to cost-share militarily relevant and commercially viable technologies. My responsibilities included developing the program’s policy, guidance, and education, marketing the program and, through staff briefings, defending it to Congress. I needed to look for support within the Air Force corporate structure and through briefings with new generals and laboratory senior management.

At the same time, I continued to seek a broader DoD experience by attending multi-agency conferences, classes, and reviews to learn about the various branches of science and technology policy. I was even occasionally called upon to handle unexpected tasks, such as answering press calls after a newspaper article questioned the reasons for using military aircraft to watch blueberry fields in Maine. This had nothing to do with my program but since the reporter had mentioned “dual use,” I was called in as the expert!

In addition to the dual use assignment, I assumed the responsibilities of the deputy of the Basic Research Sciences Program.  I provided a rationale for continuing investments in basic research to the Air Force corporate structure and to congressional staff. When budget reductions threatened basic research funding, I voiced counter-arguments to defend continuing investments to maintain the durability of the Air Force. But not all of the work related to the budget. I also worked on a Department-wide process to minimize duplication of science and technology efforts.

The AAAS Defense Policy Fellowship can provide qualified individuals with unique exposure to issues and programs that will assist with a future career in the science and technology defense community. It can also highlight professional strengths, reveal methods for improving in other areas, and lend experience through a variety of exciting challenges. The Defense Policy Fellowship can serve as a very effective launching pad for a career in science and technology policy.

Joan Fuller, who has a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, served as a Defense Policy Fellow from 1997 to 1999. Currently she is the program manager for ceramics and nonmetallic materials at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The deadline for the 2001–02 fellowship year just passed and we’ve been busy counting applications. The totals are up, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We immediately begin working toward next year’s deadline of January 10, 2002. Our goal is to let more people know about the value of a AAAS science and technology policy fellowship. Former AAAS science and technology policy Fellows are available to talk about their experiences at career workshops and similar events. If you would like a representative to meet with your group on campus, call the AAAS fellowship office at 202/326-6700.

Claudia J. Sturges - Director, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program

Disclaimer: The perspectives and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of AAAS, the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships, the U.S. Government, or the federal agencies/offices mentioned.