DoD Sees Need to Expand Social Sciences

March 22, 2013

by Paula Skedsvold

As the social sciences come under attack, the Department of Department of Defense (DoD) is calling for the social sciences to play an “ever-expanding role” across defense operations and planning. 

In a white paper released in March 2013, “Operational Relevance of Behavioral & Social Science to DoD Missions,” the social sciences are described as a “necessary element” for DoD because “the world cannot be fully understood without considering human psychology, social processes and cultural differences, social change dynamics, and decision-making tendencies.”

In 2009, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Understanding Human Dynamics suggested that the DoD institutionalize best practices across military operations that draw upon the social sciences.

The white paper grew out of a conference held in November 2012, “A World in Transformation: Challenges and Opportunities.” The meeting was developed to discuss emerging challenges in the 21st century and how best to address them. The conference was organized by the Strategic Multi-layer Assessment unit within the Office of the Secretary for Defense.

While the DoD is calling for the application of social science knowledge, tools, and methods, the foundation for the development of the social sciences – the knowledge gained through fundamental research at the National Science Foundation – may be threatened as members of Congress call for the eliminating federal funding. We hope that wiser minds prevail.

Read the white paper » [PDF]