Guaranteed access by the Defense Department’s Office of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD R&E) to annual data from Pentagon-sponsored Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) could help DoD better ensure that R&D centers are producing effective results, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
Currently, the OUSD R&E receives comprehensive reviews as part of its oversight of DoD-sponsored research and development centers, but it isn’t guaranteed access to the annual data from those centers, GAO said.
DoD needs to address that issue because “having access to annual data could help DoD ensure these centers are effective,” the watchdog agency said.
The Pentagon sponsors 10 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) – nonprofit, university-affiliated, or industry organizations – to help meet long-term research and development (R&D) needs for DoD.
Each FFRDC is managed by a primary sponsor who must conduct comprehensive reviews at least once every five years. The review process includes assessments of alternative sources and information about FFRDC performance that primary sponsors collect annually to support the contract award process.
“OUSD R&E is not assured of access to this information on an annual basis,” GAO noted, “Primary sponsors are required by DoD policy to report to OUSD R&E on the resources –including funding – they allocate to the FFRDCs each year. However, the policy does not expressly require primary sponsors to provide this office with performance information on an annual basis.”
The result of the current policy is that OUSD R&E must rely on the willingness of primary sponsors to share the information. But that method may not prove efficient because, according to GAO, OUSD R&E has encountered resistance to requests for additional information, such as obligations data at the project level.
“OUSD R&E’s visibility into performance information to determine the FFRDCs’ effectiveness could similarly be limited if a primary sponsor was reluctant to share the information,” GAO stated. “Assurance of access to annual performance and other relevant information about the effectiveness of the FFRDCs would better position OUSD R&E to assess the extent to which the FFRDCs continue to support DoD’s priorities.”
GAO recommended that DoD ensure that the OUSD R&E, in its next FFRDC policy update, require primary sponsors to provide performance and other relevant information about the effectiveness of the FFRDCs on an annual basis. DoD concurred with the recommendation.