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Issues on Establishing and Using Federally Funded Research and Development Centers

NSIAD-88-22: Published: Mar 7, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1988.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the national defense role of federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC), specifically: (1) the relationships of FFRDC with their sponsoring agencies; (2) compliance with government-wide policy on establishing and placing work with FFRDC; and (3) exemption of FFRDC from competitive procurement requirements.

GAO found that: (1) because sponsoring agencies generally regarded FFRDC as objective, competent, flexible, and convenient, they generally did not place work with FFRDC on a competitive basis; (2) FFRDC generally carried out their research work within their charters; (3) the lack of competition limited the government's ability to know whether entities other than FFRDC could do work better or at less cost; and (4) some agencies successfully use Broad Agency Announcements to invite proposals for research.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A draft plan to strengthen DOD control over FFRDC it sponsors was prepared in 1991 in place of the proposed directive. As of March 1991, this plan was being reviewed by senior DOD management. The proposed plan does not directly address the recommendation and, as far as GAO knows, DOD has no plans to do so.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should implement a program to test the use of Broad Agency Announcements to determine whether the use of such announcements improves its ability to assess whether some non-FFRDC can collaborate meaningfully with FFRDC to pursue Department of Defense (DOD) research goals. If Broad Agency Announcements prove useful, they should be made a permanent part of the FFRDC program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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