DOD Still Needs To Clarify Policies for Performing Research and Development for Other Agencies

PSAD-80-44: Published: Apr 21, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 1980.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Department of Defense (DOD), compared with other Government agencies, has the most extensive array of Federal research and development facilities. In a previous GAO report it was noted that in spite of overall departmental policy statements encouraging interagency cooperation, the laboratory directors and researchers perceived other policies, directives, and administrative requirements as restrictive and discouraging measures. Some DOD research and development officials believed that the DOD laboratories should do only defense work. DOD did not address the issue GAO raised concerning the need for DOD to clarify and renew its policy for nondefense work in the laboratories and widely promulgate it throughout the DOD research and development establishment.

Recent actions taken at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) confirm that policy clarification is still needed. An interagency agreement for nondefense research and development work being performed at the request of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was canceled. Although the cancellation was due to staff shortages, the NRL commanding officer was also concerned about the legality of entering into the agreement with the agency. The officer then reviewed other interagency agreements to perform nondefense work and found many inconsistencies in the format, content, approval level, and the legal basis used for entering into the agreements. Many of the instructions predated more recent legislative changes, and applicable guidelines depended on how interagency work is defined. The cancellation of the agreement could discourage other agencies from requesting work from NRL and prevent future interagency cooperation. This could be detrimental to agencies like NRC, which by legislation, are forced to rely on other Federal laboratories for their vital research and development needs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should make known the policies and legal boundaries for performing research and development for others. The Secretary should have the DOD policies and instructions reviewed and clarified to prevent conflicting interpretation and inconsistent implementation leading to discouragement or denial of other agencies' requests for essential research and development work.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Feb 8, 2018

Sep 28, 2017

Jun 29, 2017

May 24, 2017

Apr 27, 2017

Jul 20, 2016

Apr 8, 2016

Jan 20, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here