ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 28 -- The US Department of Defense has announced its annual Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for the upcoming fiscal year. The program allows small technology companies to gain access to the department's $556 million pool of grant capital for early-stage technology funding. The department will launch its first solicitation for the upcoming fiscal year on Oct. 2, and will begin accepting proposals on Dec. 1. Businesses interested in competing for funds can log onto www.acq.osd.mil/sadbu/sbir to view the new topics, ask questions and gain additional information to help them compete for SBIR awards. The SBIR program will contain hundreds of R&D topics submitted by the Air Force, Navy, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, National Imaging and Mapping Agency, Joint Chemical and Biological Defense and Special Operations Command.To meet the department's criteria a company must have 500 or fewer employees and conduct an R&D project that serves a need of the Department of Defense and has commercialization potential in both the private and military markets.