University of Maryland Report Addresses the Challenges that face DoD Independent Research and Development (IR&D)

22 Dec, 2015, 13:45 ET from University of Maryland Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Dec. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers at the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise (CPPPE), located in the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, recently released their report examining the challenges surrounding the Department of Defense's (DoD) Independent Research and Development (IR&D) policies.  This timely report comes at a time in which the nation faces increasing challenges that put at risk its military superiority, demanding a renewed commitment to innovation.

Research Need and Background

The DoD defines IR&D as research and development that is not sponsored, or required, in the performance of a contract or grant, but that is ultimately recovered through the firm's overhead rate. The objective of IR&D policy is to support the emergence of transformative defense technologies in the absence of a traditional market.

Beginning in the 1990s, the DoD began to limit its technical exchanges with industry to ensure the independence of IR&D. The result has been "a loss of linkage between funding and technological purpose." Some recently-proposed changes to IR&D policy have aimed to repair this linkage through new oversight procedures, renewing debate over just how "independent" IR&D efforts should be. Indeed, there is legitimate concern that the policy changes could stifle private-sector innovation by derailing promising lines of research that may have significant, if not clearly discernable, defense applications.

IR&D policies, new and old, reflect attempts to achieve the right balance between firms' autonomy on one hand and government involvement on the other. Because innovation is inherently unpredictable, it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of these policies, leaving them open to frequent revision and, in some cases, reversal. As a result, defense firms have come to view the government's policy approach as erratic and are reluctant to invest in the DoD; in fact, IR&D spending has decreased by a third since 1999. This comes at a time in which the nation faces increasing challenges that put at risk its military superiority, demanding a renewed commitment to innovation.

This timely report on an issue of critical importance focuses primarily on improving the implementation of the DoD's IR&D program.  To that end, it examines current trends in IR&D in an effort to better understand the benefits and drawbacks of IR&D policy.  Based on this analysis, the Center made a number of specific recommendations, bundled into three overarching themes:

  • Promote Stability and Consistency in the IR&D Program
  • Promote Creative Solutions to Strategic Threats
  • Improve IR&D Program Inputs and Outputs

For more information on the report, please contact Dawn Pulliam, Director of Outreach, Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise, at 301.405.8258 or by email at cpulliam@umd.edu.

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SOURCE University of Maryland Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise