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Defense > 4. Defense Studies and Analysis Research

To address fragmentation in the processes used across the department to request studies and analysis research and limit the potential for overlap and duplication in research activities, the Department of Defense should establish a mechanism that requires the military services and other departmental offices to formally coordinate their annual research requests.

Why This Area Is Important

The Department of Defense (DOD) funds several types of research. This includes studies and analysis research, which DOD characterizes as research conducted in support of policy development, decision making, and alternative approaches on issues of importance to the DOD community. Various organizations conduct studies and analysis research for DOD. For example, DOD’s colleges and universities throughout the country provide academic instruction in Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) and also conduct studies and analysis research at specifically dedicated research institutions.[1] In fiscal year 2013, DOD provided $40.6 million in funding to these JPME research institutions for their operations, including their research activities. Additionally, other DOD-funded research organizations, such as Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, conduct studies and analysis research for DOD.[2]

In a March 2014 report, GAO identified a total of 34 organizations—20 JPME research institutions and 14 other DOD-funded organizations—that conduct studies and analysis research to support the annual research requirements of the military services or other departmental offices. Managing and coordinating the studies and analysis research requests sent to these multiple research organizations represents one of the challenges DOD faces in reducing potential overlap and duplication in studies and analysis research activities.



[1]DOD relies on joint professional military education (JPME), a subset of professional military education, to educate servicemembers throughout their careers, broaden their knowledge, improve performance during joint assignments, and foster collaboration across the military services. DOD’s colleges and universities that provide JPME certification include the Army War College, Army Command and General Staff College, Naval War College, Air University, Marine Corps University, and the National Defense University. In its March 2014 report, GAO focused on research institutions affiliated with DOD colleges and universities that provide JPME certification, which GAO referred to as JPME research institutions. GAO included in the scope of its review research institutions that conduct research as a primary mission and have dedicated personnel to do so.

[2]GAO is categorizing Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, service-affiliated research organizations such as the Center for Army Analysis, and DOD’s Regional Centers for Security Studies that conduct studies and analysis research as “other DOD-funded research organizations.” The scope of GAO’s March 2014 review included analyzing financial information for JPME research institutions, but GAO did not collect financial information from all DOD-funded organizations that conduct studies and analysis research. Therefore, GAO is not reporting financial information for other DOD-funded research organizations.

What GAO Found

GAO reported in March 2014 that DOD uses separate processes to request studies and analysis research and does not formally coordinate requests for research conducted by multiple JPME research institutions and other DOD-funded research organizations, even though many of these organizations have missions to conduct work in similar topic areas. This fragmentation occurs in the absence of a DOD requirement for the military services and other departmental offices to coordinate on research requestsand formal mechanisms to facilitate such coordination, thereby exposing DOD to the risk of potential overlap and duplication of studies and analysis research. The figure below summarizes the results of GAO’s analysis of similarities in research topic areas for the 20 JPME research institutions and 14 other DOD-funded research organizations, according to 23 areas of concentration.[1] A check mark indicates a research institution’s mission statement identified that category is a topic area in which it conducts research.[2]

Similarities in Research Topic Areas for 34 Research Organizations, According to Mission Statements

Similarities in Research Topic Areas for 34 Research Organizations, According to Mission Statements

Notes: Abbreviations are as follows: Center for Complex Operations (CCO); Center for Strategic Research (CSR); Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs (CSCMA); Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD); Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC); Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP); Center for Transatlantic Security Studies (CTSS); Air Force Research Institute, Air Force Counterproliferation Center (AFCPC); Center for Strategy and Technology (CSAT); Strategic Research Department (SRD); China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI); International Law Department (ILD); Strategic Studies Group (SSG); History Department (HD); Middle East Studies (MES); Translational Research Group at Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (TRG); Strategic Studies Institute (SSI); Center for Army Leadership (CAL); Combat Studies Institute (CSI); RAND Project Air Force (RAND PAF); RAND National Defense Research Institute (RAND NDRI); RAND Arroyo; Center for Naval Analyses (CNA); Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA); George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (Marshall Center); Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA); William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (Perry Center); Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS); Naval Postgraduate School Cebrowski Institute for Information and Innovation (NPS: CI); Naval Postgraduate School Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute (NPS: MOVES); Naval Postgraduate School Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies (NPS: CIRPAS); Center for Army Analysis (CAA); U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center (TRAC).

The results do not include the following three areas of concentration: (1) Public affairs and communication’, (2) Other; and (3) Unable to code. “Public affairs and communication” is not included because GAO did not code a mission statement into that area of concentration. “Other” and “Unable to code” were not included because these are not areas of concentration intended to show similarity. Rather, “Other” is intended for project titles or mission statements that do not fit into the other areas of concentration, and “Unable to code” is used for methodological purposes to categorize incomplete information.

aArmy Command and General Staff College.

In its March 2014 report, GAO identified several separate processes used by JPME research institutions or DOD offices to manage requests for studies and analysis research. For example, JPME research institutions individually manage their own research activities. At these institutions, researchers have the discretion to determine on their own whether research has been or is being conducted on a given topic. Officials representing JPME research institutions reported that while it is not a requirement, they may contact other subject matter experts or conduct literature reviews to understand the existing research on a topic as part of the research process to determine whether similar work is being conducted at another JPME research institution. These officials also stated that they may review completed research projects that are contained in the Defense Technical Information Center database to see whether DOD has funded past studies.[3] However, that database does not contain information on ongoing research efforts and GAO was unable to identify any other formal mechanism for sharing information on ongoing studies and analysis research activities within DOD.

Within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, multiple offices generate requests annually for studies and analysis research, but these research requests are determined based on individual offices’ research requirements and are not formally coordinated with other departmental offices. For example, research requests for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics are managed at the Office of the Secretary of Defense Studies and Federally Funded Research and Development Center Management office. Officials with this office explained that they do not formally coordinate with other DOD offices to determine whether they are funding similar research requests.

Similarly, the military departments’ processes for requesting studies and analysis research are based on their individual research needs. While the military departments have their own respective internal processes for requesting studies and analysis research, absent a DOD requirement to do so, these processes are not used to coordinate research requests among the military departments or with other DOD offices. For example:

  •  According to a senior Air Force official, the Air Staff’s Analyses, Assessments and Lessons Learned directorate is responsible for collecting annual research requests from across the Air Force and for ensuring that the contracted studies are not duplicative. However, according to this official, the directorate generally does not formally coordinate with offices outside the Air Force on annual research requests.
  • The Army Study Program Management Office within Headquarters, Department of the Army, issues an annual call for research requests from Army commands, and in turn funds the research requests according to Army priorities. A senior Army official in this office reported that its process is focused on reviewing Army-specific research requests and does not include other DOD offices that request or conduct studies and analysis research.
  • The Navy’s annual research requests are administered through the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, which compiles and prioritizes research needs identified from across the Navy. According to an official in this office, the Navy generally does not coordinate with other DOD-funded research organizations or JPME research institutions with regard to these annual research requests.

DOD officials within the studies and analysis research community reported that there are benefits to the department’s decentralized approach to requesting studies and analysis research. For example, one official said decentralization generates creativity and diversity of thought in DOD’s studies and analysis community, which can prove useful in informing DOD decision makers. However, officials also reported there are risks with DOD’s current approach. For example, officials reported that limited coordination among the multiple offices that request studies and analysis research puts DOD at risk for funding overlapping research activities and that the current approach also makes it difficult for DOD to have a complete picture of how much money is being spent on studies and analysis research.

In contrast to how it manages requests for studies and analysis research, DOD has established mechanisms to coordinate science and technology–specific research efforts across multiple departmental offices engaged in similar missions.[4] Specifically, the science and technology research community has executive committees to facilitate coordination. A senior official responsible for coordinating DOD’s science and technology research efforts explained that the executive committees do not require additional resources. Rather, these committees are intended to bring together the multiple departmental offices that sponsor research to share existing annual research plans and provide opportunities to leverage resources in a fiscally constrained environment.

This practice is consistent with GAO’s work on results-oriented management practices, which states establishing a means to operate across organizational boundaries helps enhance and sustain coordination.[5] Furthermore, organizations involved in similar missions should coordinate and share relevant information to avoid unnecessary duplication of work.[6]

GAO’s March 2014 report recognizes that there are notable differences among research organizations with seemingly similar missions and that there may be benefits to DOD’s current approach to requesting studies and analysis research. Nonetheless, GAO concluded that DOD could improve coordination of studies and analysis research requests to better ensure that its resources are used efficiently at its JPME research institutions and other DOD-funded research organizations in support of department-wide priorities.In particular, the absence of a mechanism for bridging DOD’s multiple processes for managing requests for studies and analysis research exposes DOD to the risk of potential overlap and duplication of studies and analysis research.Furthermore, making information on department-wide annual research requests available to JPME research institutions would provide the institutions with an opportunity to further understand department-wide research needs and align some of the institutions’ research with DOD’s strategic priorities.



[1]The topic areas represent 23 broad categories of research activities and are based on the general topic areas in which JPME research institutions and other DOD-funded research organizations categorize their research.

[2]GAO’s March 2014 report focused on assessing the similarities of research organizations as opposed to individual research projects. Therefore, GAO did not review the content of individual research projects and their respective methodologies or assess the extent to which individual research projects and their findings overlapped or were duplicative with other research projects.

[3]The Defense Technical Information Center manages an online database that makes past DOD-funded research studies available to the research community to enable future researchers to understand the purpose, scope, approach, results or outcomes, and conclusions or recommendations of prior work before undertaking new studies.

[4]According to testimony in April 2013 by the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Defense Research & Engineering, science and technology research is funded to mitigate new or emerging capabilities that could degrade U.S. capabilities, enable new or extended capabilities in existing military systems, and develop new concepts and technologies through science and engineering applications to military problems.

[5]GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO‑06‑15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).

[6]GAO, Interagency Collaboration: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight of National Security Strategies, Organizations, Workforce, and Information Sharing, GAO‑09‑904SP (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 25, 2009).

Actions Needed

To improve the coordination of requests for studies and analysis research within the department and to reduce the risk of potential overlap and duplication in research activities, GAO recommended in March 2014 that the Secretary of Defense take the following action:

  • establish and implement a departmental mechanism that requires leadership from the military services and departmental offices responsible for managing requests for studies and analysis research to coordinate their annual research requests and ongoing research efforts.

GAO conducted the work underlying this analysis in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.[1] In conducting its work, GAO reviewed the number, funding, and size of JPME research institutions as well as the extent to which DOD assesses JPME research institution performance and coordinates research requests of these and other DOD-funded research organizations. To address its research objectives and meet the reporting date specified by the law, GAO collected financial information from JPME research institutions and not from other organizations that DOD funds to conduct studies and analysis research. Moreover, GAO analyzed the missions of JPME research institutions and other DOD-funded research organizations, but not the costs or content of individual research projects and their respective methodologies. Therefore, GAO is unable to estimate the financial benefits associated with this action. However, implementation of this recommendation would help DOD ensure that its resources are used efficiently in support of department-wide research priorities and reduce the risk of requesting potentially overlapping studies and analysis research.



[1]Pub. L. No. 112–239, § 547(b) (2013).

How GAO Conducted Its Work

The information contained in this analysis is based on findings from the products listed in the related GAO product section. GAO assessed similarities among the 20 JPME research institutions and 14 other DOD-funded research organizations by categorizing research organizations’ mission statements into topical areas of concentration. GAO gathered DOD documentation and canvassed knowledgeable DOD officials in offices responsible for requesting research, such as the military departments, studies and analysis research program managers, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, including the offices of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. These steps enabled GAO to determine the processes for requesting and coordinating studies and analysis research from JPME institutions and other DOD-funded research organizations.

Table 3 in appendix IV lists JPME research institutions GAO identified that might have similar or overlapping objectives, provide similar services, or be fragmented across government missions. Overlap and fragmentation might not necessarily lead to actual duplication, and some degree of overlap and duplication may be justified.

Agency Comments & GAO Contact

In commenting on the March 2014 report on which this analysis is based, DOD stated that the department agreed with GAO’s recommendation. DOD noted that to improve coordination of research requests, the department plans to establish a Studies and Analysis Executive Committee by the end of fiscal year 2014 with regional and topical “communities of interest.” The committee will be a combined effort organized through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, with other representation from the JPME and PME community, as appropriate. GAO believes the department’s plan is an important first step that, if effectively implemented, will establish a framework for promoting the efficient use of DOD’s resources by allowing DOD to share information on department-wide research priorities and reducing the risk of requesting potentially overlapping studies and analysis research.

GAO provided a draft of this report section to DOD for review and comment. DOD provided no additional comments on this issue.

For additional information about this area, contact Johana R. Ayers at (202) 512-5741 or ayersj@gao.gov.

Related Products

Joint Professional Military Education:

Opportunities Exist for Greater Oversight and Coordination of Associated Research Institutions
GAO-14-216:
Published: Mar 10, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2014.

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