The State of Basic Research in DOD Laboratories

Gao ID: MASAD-81-5 February 19, 1981

In a government-wide study of research and development (R&D) laboratories, some Department of Defense (DOD) laboratory directors expressed concern about their laboratories' loss of opportunity to perform long-term basic research because DOD has placed emphasis on solving near-term problems. Therefore, GAO reviewed the levels and trends of in-house basic research and the extent that the levels have declined in recent years to determine what impact this might have on the future health and vitality of the DOD laboratories.

GAO found that Defense R&D provides the technological foundation for national security. DOD in-house laboratories play a vital role in striving for technological leads in areas important to defense, guarding against technological surprise by the adversary, and providing options which shape the U.S. military posture. Doing basic research is essential to the laboratories' vitality because it helps them to attract good scientists, keep up with and use advances in science, and increase the overall level of technical ability. The level of basic research performed at the in-house laboratories has seriously declined, and the DOD research growth is planned for the external research community. Allowing the laboratories to remain at the current level of basic research performance could erode their long-term ability to perform those functions which are basic to supporting a mission organization.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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