Federally Funded R&D Centers:

Information on the Size and Scope of DOD-Sponsored Centers

NSIAD-96-54: Published: Apr 24, 1996. Publicly Released: May 22, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) 11 federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC), focusing on: (1) their funding and staff size; (2) the extent of subcontracted work; (3) their parent organizations; (4) their missions, core competencies, and capabilities; and (5) sponsors' criteria for defining core work and oversight mechanisms and responsibilities.

GAO found that: (1) overall funding for DOD's FFRDCs increased by about 23 percent between fiscal years (FY) 1985 and 1990, after which it decreased by almost 26 percent to about $1.3 billion in FY 1995; (2) between FY 1990 and 1995, funding and members of technical staff (MTS) for the three categories of FFRDCs were not reduced proportionately, with smaller funding reductions made to the studies and analyses centers in contrast to the systems engineering centers and the laboratories; (3) the majority of resources, about 57 percent of funding and 62 percent of MTS, in FY 1995 were used in DOD's two systems engineering and integration centers; (4) subcontracting at DOD's FFRDCs totaled 7 percent, or about $83 million, of FFRDC funding in FY 1995, and Lincoln Laboratory had the most subcontracts, approximately 29 percent or about $78.4 million of its total expenditures in that year; (5) six of the eight parent organizations that operate DOD's FFRDCs also operate organizations outside the FFRDC structure; (6) for four of the six that operate other organizations, DOD's FFRDCs constitute the majority of their total revenue; (7) each of DOD's FFRDC's stated mission and core competencies are focused on supporting the sponsor's requirements, with the mission reflecting the characteristics of the special or strategic relationship between the DOD sponsor and the FFRDC and the core competencies including a wide range of research and technical areas that are related to their missions; (8) DOD defines core work as that which is consistent with an FFRDC's purpose, mission, capabilities, core competencies, and its special relationship with the sponsor; (9) according to the DOD sponsoring agencies, FFRDC oversight is conducted at several levels, which generally include the DOD primary sponsor, an advisory group, and an executive agent as well as by other groups such as the Defense Contract Audit Agency, Defense Contract Management Command, DOD Inspector General's office, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense; (10) for each FFRDC, the primary sponsor is responsible for: (a) providing guidance on its needs and priorities; (b) approving and overseeing research; and (c) continually reviewing the FFRDC's work to oversee its quality, efficiency, and appropriateness; (11) the DOD advisory group is expected to: (a) provide information to the FFRDC on the sponsor's interests and priorities; (b) provide guidance on the scope of work; and (c) review, evaluate, and approve the FFRDC's research and technical program; and (12) the responsibilities of the DOD executive agent generally include administering and providing guidance to the FFRDC and serving as a liaison between the advisory group and the FFRDC.

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