Today, defense contracts are the lifeblood of the College of Engineering. Entire centers are devoted to military research, and DOD dollars reach even into such distant corners of the university as the School of Information and the mathematics department. In 2007, the U-M received $596 million in federal research money—with 6.2 percent of that ($37 million) from the Pentagon.
Since 9/11 the DOD has poured money into anything that might be even remotely related to the war on terror, like Shyy’s insect fliers. Other research seeks to improve conventional war fighting, like designing a new navy landing craft. And some, like the cancer research, is “military” only because it may improve how military personnel are cared for.
All the research is open to public scrutiny. The university’s current policy, adopted in 1987, allows classified research, but none has been conducted at the U-M for many years, says Judith Nowack, associate vice-president for research.
“Faculty members don’t like to do classified research,” says Nowack. “It puts too many restraints on them.”