Strategic Defense Initiative Program:

Expert's Views on DOD's Organizational Options and Plans for SDI Technical Support

NSIAD-87-43: Published: Nov 19, 1986. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request and a legislative requirement, GAO reported on the Department of Defense's (DOD) proposal for establishing a new federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Institute, to provide the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) with technical support.

GAO found that: (1) in November 1985, DOD formed a technical support group to identify and assess possible organizational approaches to provide SDIO with technical support; and (2) the group developed a list of characteristics to evaluate organizational alternatives and determined that establishing FFRDC was the best option. The consultants that GAO selected to review the group's decision assigned their highest overall rankings to the option of either creating a new FFRDC or a new division in an existing FFRDC. GAO also found that: (1) 9 of the 11 consultants said that a peer review of the proposals from contractors to operate the Institute was necessary to best guarantee the Institute's independence and objectivity; (2) five consultants felt that SDIO veto power over staff selections would compromise the Institute's independence and objectivity; (3) in response to a DOD proposal that SDIO would review the Institute's work plan every 6 months, all the FFRDC directors that GAO questioned agreed that SDIO and the Institute must develop work plans through mutual agreement and consultation; (4) all FFRDC that GAO interviewed had provisions for independent or self-initiated research; and (5) DOD plans to address real or apparent conflicts of interest through restrictions on outside work and on Institute employees. GAO noted that: (1) the Institute's professional staffing level would start at about 50 and increase to about 150 to 200, with a maximum of about 300; and (2) funding is expected to constitute less than 1 percent of the SDIO total budget.

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