Science and Technology:

A Long-Term Plan Is Needed To Guide DOE and Multiprogram Laboratory Research and Development Activities

RCED-84-30: Published: Jan 16, 1984. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 1984.

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John W. Sprague
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A review was completed of the Department of Energy's (DOE) research and development (R&D) planning activities to determine whether DOE provided sufficient planning direction to its nine contractor-operated research laboratories and whether this direction was based on long-term DOE R&D goals, objectives, and priorities.

In March 1982, DOE initiated efforts to develop a 5-year R&D plan to identify its long-term goals for R&D, including products to be delivered, and to estimate funding requirements. The plan was not completed because, in mid-1982, the DOE staff that was working on the plan was reassigned to work on the annual budget process, and the plan was deferred until the budget process was completed. Although any long-term plan is to some degree speculative, such a plan is important for energy and research activities because DOE must both maintain support for ongoing projects and initiate work on new issues and potential technologies. GAO found that, in the absence of a DOE long-term plan, each laboratory prepares its multiyear plan based on the annual DOE budget process and ongoing work, rather than on work that will be needed to meet the its long-term R&D goals.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In the past year, DOE has improved its coordination of national laboratories' R&D program planning efforts through other means than recommended. DOE has implemented a better system for obtaining consistent information on the laboratories' activities and soliciting proposals for future R&D work.

    Recommendation: The Department of Energy should develop a long-term R&D plan to guide and facilitate decisions on developing future energy technologies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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