Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure




Department of Defense Research,
Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E):
Appropriations Structure

Updated October 7, 2020
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R44711




Appropriations Structure of Defense RDT&E

Summary
The Department of Defense (DOD) conducts research, development, testing, and evaluation
(RDT&E) in support of its mission requirements. The work funded by these appropriations plays
a central role in the nation’s security and an important role in U.S. global leadership in science
and technology. DOD alone accounts for 41.4% of all federal R&D appropriations ($64.5 billion
of $156.0 billion in FY2020).
In its annual congressional budget requests, DOD presents its RDT&E requests by organization
and by its own unique taxonomy aligned to the character of the work to be performed.
More than 97% of DOD RDT&E funding is provided under Title IV of the annual defense
appropriations act. These funds are appropriated for RDT&E in the Army, Navy, Air Force, a
Defense-wide RDT&E account, and the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. RDT&E
funding is also provided for the Defense Health Program in Title VI; the Chemical Agents and
Munitions Destruction Program in Title VI; and previously the National Defense Sealift Fund in
Title V, though the President’s FY2020 budget does not request RDT&E funds for this purpose.
In some years, RDT&E funds also have been requested and appropriated as part of DOD’s
separate funding to support Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, formerly the Global War on
Terror (GWOT)). These funds have typically been appropriated for specific activities identified in
Title IV. Finally, some OCO funds have been appropriated for transfer funds (e.g., the Iraqi
Freedom Fund (IFF), Iraqi Security Forces Fund, Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and Pakistan
Counterinsurgency Capability Fund) which can be used to support RDT&E activities, among
other things, subject to certain limitations.
Parsing RDT&E funding by the character of the work, DOD has established seven categories
identified by a budget activity code (numbers 6.1-6.8) and a description. Budget activity code 6.1
is for basic research; 6.2 is for applied research; 6.3 is for advanced technology development; 6.4
is for advanced component development and prototypes; 6.5 is for systems development and
demonstration; 6.6 is for RDT&E management support; 6.7 is for operational system
development; and 6.8 is for software and digital technology pilot programs.
DOD uses crosswalks to report its RDT&E funding to the Office of Management and Budget and
to the National Science Foundation.

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Contents
Organization and Program Structure ............................................................................................... 1
Character of Work Structure ............................................................................................................ 3
Alignment with Other Federal R&D Taxonomies ........................................................................... 6
DOD RDT&E Funding ................................................................................................................... 7
Selected Issues ................................................................................................................................. 9
What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD RDT&E? .................................................... 9
Approach: DOD RDT&E as a Share of DOD Funding .................................................... 10
Related Data and Discussion ............................................................................................ 10

What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD Science and Technology? ......................... 12
Approach: DOD Science and Technology as a Share of Total DOD Funding .................. 12
Related Data and Discussion ............................................................................................ 13
Approach: DOD Science and Technology as a Share of DOD RDT&E .......................... 15
Related Data ...................................................................................................................... 15

What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD Basic Research? ....................................... 16
Approach: DOD Basic Research as a Share of DOD S&T ............................................... 16
Related Data ...................................................................................................................... 16

What Is the Appropriate Balance Between Investments in Incremental RDT&E and
Investments Directed Toward Revolutionary Technological Advancements? ..................... 17
Approach: Revolutionary Research as a Share of DOD S&T .......................................... 17
Related Data and Discussion ............................................................................................ 18
Approach: High Risk, High Payoff Research as a Share of RDT&E ............................... 19
Related Data and Discussion ............................................................................................ 19

Concluding Observations .............................................................................................................. 20

Figures
Figure 1. DOD Share of Federal R&D ............................................................................................ 1
Figure 2. DOD RDT&E Crosswalks to OMB, NSF Taxonomies ................................................... 6
Figure 3. Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work, FY1996-FY2020 ............................... 7
Figure 4. Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work, FY1996-FY2020 ............................... 8
Figure 5. FY2020 Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work ............................................... 8
Figure 6. Title IV FY2020 RDT&E Funding by Organization........................................................ 9
Figure 7. DOD Title IV RDT&E Funding ...................................................................................... 11
Figure 8. DOD Title IV RDT&E Funding as a Share of DOD Total Obligational

Authority ..................................................................................................................................... 11
Figure 9. DOD Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) Funding .......................................................... 14
Figure 10. DOD Science and Technology Funding as a Share of DOD TOA ............................... 14
Figure 11. DOD Science and Technology Funding as a Share of Title IV RDT&E...................... 15
Figure 12. DOD Basic Research Funding ..................................................................................... 16
Figure 13. DOD Basic Research Funding as a Share of S&T Funding ......................................... 17
Figure 14. DARPA Funding .......................................................................................................... 18
Figure 15. DARPA Funding as a Share of DOD S&T Funding .................................................... 19
Figure 16. DARPA Funding as a Share of DOD RDT&E Funding .............................................. 20
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Tables
Table 1. DOD RDT&E Budget Activity Codes and Descriptions ................................................... 3

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 20

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Appropriations Structure of Defense RDT&E

The Department of Defense (DOD) receives more than 41% of all federal research and
development (R&D) appropriations, and 58% more than that of the next largest federal recipient,
the Department of Health and Human Services.1
The research and development work funded by
Figure 1. DOD Share of Federal R&D
these appropriations plays a central role in the
nation’s security, contributes to the strength of
U.S. based researchers and firms in most science
and technology fields, and plays an important
role in U.S. global leadership in science and
technology.
This report provides an introduction to the
structure of DOD’s research, development, test,
and evaluation (RT&E) budget for staff
attempting to understand DOD RDT&E
appropriations. In its annual budget request to
Congress, DOD presents its RDT&E by
organization and program and by the character

of the work to be performed. The RDT&E
Source: CRS analysis of FY2020 enacting funding
request is summarized in a supporting budget
from Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United
document titled “Research, Development, Test,
States Government, Fiscal Year 2019.
& Evaluation Programs (R-1),” which is often
referred to simply as the R-1.2
DOD RDT&E by Appropriations Act Title


Title IV: Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation

Organization and
Army
• Navy
• Air Force
Program Structure
• Defense-wide
• Operational Test and Evaluation
DOD RDT&E appropriations are provided
Title V: Revolving and Management Funds
annually through the defense appropriations
• National Defense Sealift Fund
act, one of the 12 regular appropriations acts
Title VI: Other Defense Programs
that provide most of the discretionary funding
• Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction

for operation of the federal government.
Defense Health Program
3
Title IX: Overseas Contingency Operations
Generally, DOD RDT&E funding is provided
• Any of the above
in four of the act’s titles (see box). More than
• Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Fund
97% of DOD’s RDT&E funding is
• Transfer Funds


1 Based on FY2020 enacted funding levels as specified in Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and
Budget, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2021, February 10, 2020, 238
pp., https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/analytical-perspectives/. Beginning with the President’s FY2018 budget, the
Office of Management and Budget adopted a new R&D taxonomy for collecting and reporting federal R&D funding
that it asserts would better align its data with the survey data collected by the National Science Foundation, and to be
consistent with international standards. Under this taxonomy, OMB no longer counts certain DOD funding (budget
activities 6.6, RDT&E Management Support and 6.7, Operational System Development, discussed below) as a part of
total federal R&D. (Email communication from OMB to CRS, October 1, 2020.) Under the previous taxonomy, DOD
accounted for nearly half of total federal R&D. For more information on this change, see CRS Report R45150, Federal
Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2019
, coordinated by John F. Sargent Jr.
2 R-1s are available on the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) website at http://comptroller.defense.gov/Budget-
Materials.
3 Often two or more of these acts are included together in a consolidated or omnibus act. For further information, see
CRS Report RL32473, Omnibus Appropriations Acts: Overview of Recent Practices, by James V. Saturno and Jessica
Tollestrup.
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Appropriations Structure of Defense RDT&E

appropriated in Title IV (Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation), which includes RDT&E
appropriations for the Army, Navy, Air Force, a Defense-wide RDT&E account, and the Director
of Operational Test and Evaluation. Within each of these accounts are dozens of program
elements (PEs) that specify funding for particular activities (e.g., night vision technology, aviation
survivability, cyber operations technology development).
The remaining RDT&E funds are appropriated for programs in other parts of the act. For
example, RDT&E funds are appropriated as part of the Defense Health Program (DHP) and the
Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction Program, and sometimes as part of the National
Defense Sealift Fund.
The DHP supports the delivery of health care to DOD personnel and their families. DHP funds
(including any RDT&E funds) are appropriated in Title VI. The program’s RDT&E funds support
congressionally directed research on breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer; traumatic brain injuries;
orthotics and prosthetics; and other medical conditions.
The Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction Program supports activities to destroy the U.S.
inventory of lethal chemical agents and munitions. Funds for this program are requested through
the Defense-wide Procurement appropriations request. Congress appropriates funds for this
program in Title VI (Other Department of Defense Programs).
The National Defense Sealift Fund supports the procurement, operation and maintenance, and
research and development of the nation’s naval reserve fleet and supports a U.S.-flagged
merchant fleet that can serve in time of need. The RDT&E funding for this effort is requested in
the Navy’s Procurement request and appropriated in Title V (Revolving and Management Funds)
of the appropriation act.
RDT&E funds also have been requested and appropriated as part of DOD’s separate funding to
support Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, formerly the Global War on Terror (GWOT)).
Typically, the RDT&E funds appropriated for OCO activities in Title IX support specified PEs in
Title IV. However, they are requested and accounted for separately. The Bush Administration
requested these funds in separate GWOT emergency supplemental requests. The Obama
Administration included these funds as part of its regular budget request, not in emergency
supplemental requests, although it sometimes asked for additional OCO funds in supplemental
requests. The Trump Administration included these funds as part of its regular budget requests.
The Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Fund (JITDF, formerly the Joint Improvised Explosive
Device Defeat Fund) works to counter improvised threats (e.g., improvised explosive devices
(IEDs)) through tactical responsiveness and anticipatory, rapid acquisition. Some of the funds
appropriated to JIDF are used for RDT&E. Under the President’s FY2019 request, “In
accordance with congressional intent ... all appropriations requested for the [Joint Improvised-
Threat Defeat Organization] will be transitioned to Defense-wide appropriation accounts,”
including the RDT&E account.
In addition, OCO-related requests and appropriations have included funds for a number of
transfer accounts.4 In the past, these have included the Iraqi Freedom Fund (IFF), the Iraqi
Security Forces Fund, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency
Capability Fund. Congress typically makes a single appropriation to each of these funds and
authorizes the Secretary of Defense to make transfers to other accounts, including RDT&E,

4 To provide the Defense Department with greater flexibility in carrying out activities for which costs are likely to
fluctuate after funds have been appropriated, Congress has set up transfer accounts into which funding is appropriated
for subsequent transfer to regular appropriations accounts for execution.
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subject to certain limitations. These transfers are eventually reflected in prior-year funding figures
for DOD Title IV.5
Character of Work Structure
While DOD Title IV appropriations are made by organization (e.g., Research, Development, Test
and Evaluation, Army), the DOD R-1 and congressional appropriations reports and explanatory
statements also typically characterize this funding by the character of work to be performed. This
characterization is provided in seven categories, each with a budget activity code (6.1 through
6.8) and a description (see Table 1).
Table 1. DOD RDT&E Budget Activity Codes and Descriptions
Code
Description
6.1
Basic Research
6.2
Applied Research
6.3
Advanced Technology Development
6.4
Advanced Component Development and Prototypes
6.5
System Development and Demonstration
6.6
RDT&E Management Support
6.7
Operational System Development
6.8
Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs
Source: Department of Defense, Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R), Volume 2B, March 2016;
telephone conversations and email communications between CRS and Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
staff, most recently on October 1, 2020.
DOD’s Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R) provides a detailed description of
the types of activities supported in each budget activity category:6
[6.1] Basic Research. Basic research is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge
or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without
specific applications towards processes or products in mind. It includes all scientific study
and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and
understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental, and life sciences
related to long-term national security needs. It is farsighted high payoff research that
provides the basis for technological progress. Basic research may lead to: (a) subsequent
applied research and advanced technology developments in Defense-related technologies,
and (b) new and improved military functional capabilities in areas such as communications,
detection, tracking, surveillance, propulsion, mobility, guidance and control, navigation,
energy conversion, materials and structures, and personnel support. …
[6.2] Applied Research. Applied research is systematic study to understand the means to
meet a recognized and specific need. It is a systematic expansion and application of
knowledge to develop useful materials, devices, and systems or methods. It may be
oriented, ultimately, toward the design, development, and improvement of prototypes and

5 Generally, DOD’s annual budget requests provide three years of figures for obligational authority: for the coming
fiscal year (request), for the current fiscal year, and for the prior year. The data in this report is based on prior year data
from each R-1 (e.g., the FY2017 data is drawn from the FY2019 R-1).
6 Department of Defense, Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R), November 2017, Volume 2B, Chapter
5, pp. 5-4–5-6, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/fmr/Volume_02b.pdf.
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new processes to meet general mission area requirements. Applied research may translate
promising basic research into solutions for broadly defined military needs, short of system
development. This type of effort may vary from systematic mission-directed research
beyond that in [6.1] to sophisticated breadboard hardware, study, programming and
planning efforts that establish the initial feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions
to technological challenges. It includes studies, investigations, and non-system specific
technology efforts. The dominant characteristic is that applied research is directed toward
general military needs with a view toward developing and evaluating the feasibility and
practicality of proposed solutions and determining their parameters. Applied Research
precedes system specific technology investigations or development. …
[6.3] Advanced Technology Development (ATD). This budget activity includes
development of subsystems and components and efforts to integrate subsystems and
components into system prototypes for field experiments and/or tests in a simulated
environment. [6.3] includes concept and technology demonstrations of components and
subsystems or system models. The models may be form, fit, and function prototypes or
scaled models that serve the same demonstration purpose. The results of this type of effort
are proof of technological feasibility and assessment of subsystem and component
operability and producibility rather than the development of hardware for service use.
Projects in this category have a direct relevance to identified military needs. Advanced
Technology Development demonstrates the general military utility or cost reduction
potential of technology when applied to different types of military equipment or
techniques. Program elements in this category involve pre-Milestone B efforts, such as
system concept demonstration, joint and Service-specific experiments or Technology
Demonstrations and generally have Technology Readiness Levels of 4, 5, or 6. (For further
discussion on Technology Readiness Levels, see the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Research and Engineering’s Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guidance.)
Projects in this category do not necessarily lead to subsequent development or procurement
phases, but should have the goal of moving out of Science and Technology (S&T) and into
the acquisition process within the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). Upon successful
completion of projects that have military utility, the technology should be available for
transition.
[6.4] Advanced Component Development and Prototypes (ACD&P). Efforts necessary to
evaluate integrated technologies, representative modes, or prototype systems in a high
fidelity and realistic operating environment are funded in this budget activity. The ACD&P
phase includes system specific efforts that help expedite technology transition from the
laboratory to operational use. Emphasis is on proving component and subsystem maturity
prior to integration in major and complex systems and may involve risk reduction
initiatives. …
[6.5] System Development and Demonstration (SDD).
System Development and Demonstration (SDD) programs [conduct] engineering and
manufacturing development tasks aimed at meeting validated requirements prior to full-
rate production. This budget activity is characterized by major line item projects.…
Prototype performance is near or at planned operational system levels. Characteristics of
this budget activity involve mature system development, integration, demonstration …
conducting live fire test and evaluation, and initial operational test and evaluation of
production representative articles. …
[6.6] RDT&E Management Support. This budget activity includes management support
for research, development, test, and evaluation efforts and funds to sustain and/or
modernize the installations or operations required for general research, development, test,
and evaluation. Test ranges, military construction, maintenance support of laboratories,
operation and maintenance of test aircraft and ships, and studies and analyses in support of
the RDT&E program are funded in this budget activity. Costs of laboratory personnel,
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Appropriations Structure of Defense RDT&E

either in-house or contractor operated, would be assigned to appropriate projects or as a
line item in the Basic Research, Applied Research, or ATD program areas, as appropriate.
Military construction costs directly related to major development programs are included in
this budget activity.
[6.7] Operational System Development. This budget activity includes development efforts
to upgrade systems that have been fielded or have received approval for full rate production
and anticipate production funding in the current or subsequent fiscal year.
DOD’s Financial Management Regulation has not been updated to incorporate budget activity 6.8
and therefore does not include a description of the activities under this budget activity. The Office
of Management and Budget (OMB) has stated that budget activity 6.8 “includes program
elements that are directly related to DOD’s Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs.
These funds are intended to be used for expenses necessary for agile development, test and
evaluation, procurement and modification, and the operation and maintenance of these Pilot
initiatives.”7
Funding in budget activity codes 6.1-6.3 is referred to by DOD as the science and technology
(S&T) budget. This portion of DOD RDT&E is often singled out for attention by analysts as it is
seen as the pool of knowledge necessary for the development of future military systems. In
contrast, 6.4, 6.5, and 6.7 funds are focused on the application of existing scientific and technical
knowledge to meet current or near-term operational needs. The funds in 6.6 are for RDT&E
management and may support work in any of the other RDT&E budget accounts. Within the S&T
program, basic research (6.1) receives special attention, particularly by the nation’s universities,
which are recipients of 6.1 extramural funding. DOD is not a large supporter of basic research at
U.S. academic institutions when compared to the National Institutes of Health or the National
Science Foundation (NSF). However, nearly half of DOD’s basic research budget is spent at
universities. DOD funding represents a substantial source of federal funds for R&D at institutions
of higher education in some fields, including 60% of aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical
engineering R&D; 58% of electrical, electronic, and communications engineering R&D; 48% of
industrial and manufacturing engineering R&D; 46% of mechanical engineering R&D; and 44%
of computer and information sciences R&D.8
For FY2017 and subsequent years, the OMB replaced the R&D category “development” with a
subset referred to as “experimental development” in an effort that OMB asserts better aligns its
data with the survey data collected by NSF, and to be consistent with international standards.
OMB thus omits funding for DOD budget activities 6.7 and 6.8 (which it classifies as non-
experiment development) from the calculation of federal research and development funding. It
also omits funding for DOD budget activity 6.6, which it classifies as “non-investment activity,”
from the calculation of federal R&D funding. OMB (in conjunction with DOD) will continue to
evaluate the current approach of how 6.6 funding is captured that may result in future changes to
its categorization in relation to R&D funding, as appropriate.9


7 Email communication between OMB and CRS staff, June 1, 2020.
8 National Science Foundation, Higher Education Research and Development Survey, FY 2018, data tables, Table 13,
https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/herd/2018/.
9 Email communication and telephone conversation between CRS and OMB staff, October 1, 2020.
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Alignment with Other Federal R&D Taxonomies
OMB characterizes federal R&D funding in four categories: basic research, applied research,
development, and facilities and equipment. With respect to Title IV funding, in general, DOD 6.1
funding is reported under OMB’s basic research classification and 6.2 funding is reported as
applied research. Historically, 6.3-6.7 funding has been reported as development. However, OMB
no longer includes 6.6 or 6.7 funding in its R&D reporting.10 Funding for 6.8 is also not included
in federal R&D calculations. Some DOD 6.1-6.5 funding may be reported under OMB’s facilities
and equipment classification.
NSF collects R&D appropriations and performance data from all federal R&D agencies through
its annual Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development. The survey requests most
agencies to identify their R&D activities in three categories: basic research, applied research, and
development. NSF uses a modified survey for collecting DOD R&D data in which the
development category is divided into two subcategories: advanced technology development and
major systems development. DOD uses the following crosswalk to respond to the NSF survey:
6.1 funding is reported under NSF’s basic research category, 6.2 funding is reported as applied
research, 6.3 is reported as advanced technology development (experimental development), 6.4–
6.6 funding is reported as major systems development (experimental development), and 6.7 and
6.8 are reported as operational systems development (non-experimental development).
Figure 2. DOD RDT&E Crosswalks to OMB, NSF Taxonomies


Sources: CRS telephone and email communications with OMB and NSF, most recently October 1, 2020.
Notes: For FY2017 and subsequent years, OMB notes that budget activity 6.6, RDT&E Management Support, is
reported to OMB as ‘Non-Investment Activities’ under the RDT&E title and is currently not included in federal
calculations of R&D funding. OMB (in conjunction with DOD) wil continue to evaluate the current approach of

10 Email communication and telephone conversation between CRS and OMB staff, October 1, 2020.
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how 6.6 funding is captured that may result in future changes to its categorization in relation to R&D funding, as
appropriate. OMB classifies budget activity 6.7, Operational Systems Development, and budget activity 6.8,
Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs, as “Non-Experimental Development.” NSF reports budget
activity 6.3, Advanced Technology Development, and budget activities 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 (which it col ectively
refers to as Major Systems Development) as “Experimental Development,” and reports budget activity 6.7,
Operational Systems Development, and budget activity 6.8, Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs, as
“Non-Experimental Development.” OMB and NSF no longer report Non-Experimental Development as R&D;
NSF reports Non-Experimental Development as part of RDT&E.
* The NSF category “R&D Plant” includes R&D facilities and equipment. It remains unclear which of the DOD
budget activities (6.1-6.5) are included in NSF’s R&D Plant and whether funding provided to DOD through the
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MILCON) appropriations acts is included in the
NSF’s reporting of R&D Plant.
DOD RDT&E Funding
This section provides a number of figures that illustrate DOD RDT&E expenditure trends for the
FY1996-FY2020 period. Figure 3 illustrates DOD Title IV and OCO RDT&E expenditures in
current dollars by character of work. DOD RDT&E funding provided in other appropriations
titles are not included in the character of work (6.1-6.7) taxonomy; inclusion of these funds might
affect the balance among the categories. There was no 6.8 funding during the FY1996-FY2020
period.
Figure 3. Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work, FY1996-FY2020
obligational authority, in billions of current dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.


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Figure 4 illustrates DOD RDT&E funding for FY1996-FY2020 in constant FY2020 dollars.
Between FY2000 and FY2007, total DOD RDT&E funding rose by 73% in constant dollars,
remained flat through FY2010, then fell by 27% between FY2010 and FY2015. Between FY2015
and FY2020, total DOD RDT&E funding rose by 51% in constant dollars.
Figure 4. Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work, FY1996-FY2020
obligational authority, in billions of constant FY2020 dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998- FY2021.
Figure 5 illustrates the composition of RDT&E in FY2017 by character of work. Operational
System Development was the largest component (36.2%). Science and technology (6.1–6.3)
accounted for 15.2% of total RDT&E.
Figure 5. FY2020 Title IV RDT&E Funding by Character of Work

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY2021.
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Appropriations Structure of Defense RDT&E

Figure 6 illustrates the composition of Title IV RDT&E funding by organization in FY2020. Title
IV (base) and OCO appropriations provided $105.4 billion of $108.6 billion (97.1%) of total
DOD RDT&E in FY2020.
Figure 6. Title IV FY2020 RDT&E Funding by Organization

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY2021. Includes Title IV (base) plus Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) R&D appropriations.
Notes: Funding for Marine Corps-related RDT&E is included in the Navy total. DOD contains a number of
organizations that are not part of the Departments of the Army, Navy, or Air Force. Instead, Defensewide
organizations perform activities that support DOD as a whole. Defensewide organizations include the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, the Office of Secretary of Defense, the
Chemical and Biological Defense Program, and other organizations.
Selected Issues
Through the authorization and appropriations processes, Congress grapples with a wide-variety of
issues related to the magnitude, allocation, and strategic direction of defense RDT&E. These
decisions play an important role in U.S. national security and economic strength. This section
identifies several of these issues: the level of DOD RDT&E funding, the level of DOD S&T
funding, the level of DOD basic research, and the balance between incremental-focused and
revolutionary-focused DOD RDT&E.
While S&T and basic research are integral components of the DOD RDT&E whole, these
elements are treated separately in this analysis. In practice, appropriations decisions are generally
made about specific programs within the context of the available funding. The levels of RDT&E,
S&T, and basic research funding are the result of many decisions made during DOD budget
formulation and congressional appropriations, and in the end, are calculated on a post-facto basis.
Nevertheless, an analysis of the kind that follows may be useful in assessing the “big picture” and
in seeing funding trends in the context of an historical arc that may provide strategic insight and
guidance.
What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD RDT&E?
Each year Congress makes decisions about funding for DOD RDT&E. Authorization and
appropriations levels, as well as programmatic priorities, are influenced by a wide range of
factors, including current military engagements and international commitments, near-term
national security threats, the perceived need for technology capabilities to address emerging and
unanticipated threats, RDT&E funding and capabilities of adversaries and potential adversaries,
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RDT&E funding of allies, prior commitments to multi-year programs, competing demands for
resources to support non-RDT&E DOD (e.g., personnel, acquisitions) and other federal non-DOD
activities, the prior year’s funding level, anticipated government revenues, and appropriations
constraints (e.g., budget caps).
Approach: DOD RDT&E as a Share of DOD Funding
The question “What is the appropriate funding level for DOD RDT&E?” does not lend itself to a
clear objective answer, in part because such an assessment necessarily depends on subjective
assumptions about need and adequacy. Nevertheless, the question has been a focus of analysis
and debate in Congress and DOD for some time. For example, in June 1998, the Defense Science
Board (DSB) Task Force on the Defense Science and Technology Base for the 21st Century
proposed the use of a standard industry benchmark—R&D as a share of sales—substituting total
DOD funding for sales. The report stated:
Using the pharmaceutical industry as a model, [the data show] about 14% of revenue
devoted to research and development. With current DoD funding of about $250 billion, a
total DoD research and development funding level of about $35 billion is indicated or close
to the current DoD level.11
Related Data and Discussion
Figure 7 illustrates DOD Title IV RDT&E for the period FY1996-FY2017. Between FY1996 and
FY2001, RDT&E grew slowly. Between FY2000 and FY2010, RDT&E grew more rapidly, more
than doubling in current dollars from $38.8 billion to $80.7 billion. (In constant dollars, RDT&E
grew by 68.7% from FY2000 to FY2010.) Between FY2010 and FY2015, RDT&E fell 20.5% to
$64.1 billion, and then rose 64.5% to $105.4 billion in FY2020.
As a percentage of DOD’s total obligational authority (TOA), RDT&E generally ranged between
13% and 14% between FY1996 and FY2006, but then slid to around 11% in FY2011 and
remained there through FY2015. Between FY2015 and FY2020, RDT&E’s percentage of TOA
grew from 11.3% to 14.7%, its highest level in the FY1996-FY2020 period. (See Figure 8.)

11 Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Science and Technology Base
for the 21st Century
, June 1998.
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Figure 7. DOD Title IV RDT&E Funding
obligational authority, in billions of current dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998- FY2021.
Figure 8. DOD Title IV RDT&E Funding as a Share of DOD Total Obligational
Authority
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998- FY2021; DOD, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY2021 (Green Book), April 2020.
One challenge of using the metric of RDT&E as a share of DOD TOA is that during times of
conflict, DOD TOA can increase substantially due to the cost of operations, replacing expended
munitions, and increased force size. Thus even when RDT&E is increasing, it may decline as a
share of DOD TOA. This is illustrated in Figure 7 and Figure 8 between FY2004 and FY2008, a
period in which RDT&E grew by 23.4% and DOD TOA grew by 46.8% in support of U.S. post-
9/11 military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
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What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD Science and
Technology?
Congress and others have also expressed concerns about the adequacy of funding for the piece of
DOD RDT&E known as defense science and technology (6.1-6.3). The scientific and
technological insights that emerge from this funding, often referred to as the department’s “seed
corn,” are seen by many as the pool of knowledge available to DOD and the industrial base for
future defense technology development.12 For this reason, defense S&T funding has sometimes
been singled out for attention by Congress.
Approach: DOD Science and Technology as a Share of Total DOD Funding
As with overall RDT&E, the DSB’s June 1998 report suggested two conceptual frameworks for
S&T funding. The first approach, using industrial practice as a guide, proposed setting S&T
funding at 3.4% of total DOD funding:
The DoD S&T budget corresponds most closely to the research component of industrial
R&D. Using 3.4% of revenue (typical of high-tech industries shown [elsewhere in the
report]), the DoD S&T funding should be about $8.4 billion, which is a billion dollars
greater than the FY98 S&T funding.13
To address this perceived shortcoming in funding, the FY1999 defense authorization bill (P.L.
105-261, Section 214) expressed the sense of Congress that DOD S&T funding should be
increased by 2% or more above the inflation rate each year from FY2000 to FY2008.
Subsequently, the FY2000 defense authorization bill (P.L. 106-65) expressed the sense of
Congress that
the Secretary of Defense has failed to comply with the funding objective for the Defense
Science and Technology Program, especially the Air Force Science and Technology
Program, as stated [P.L. 105-261], thus jeopardizing the stability of the defense technology
base and increasing the risk of failure to maintain technological superiority in future
weapon systems.14
The act further expressed the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense should increase
DOD S&T, including the S&T programs within each military department, by 2% or more above
the inflation rate each year from FY2001 to FY2009.
In 2009, the Senate-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1390) included
a provision (Sec 217) that would have stated a sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense
should increase DOD S&T by a percent that is at least equal to inflation.
Congress embraced the DSB’s three percent recommendation and underlying rationale in the
conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003:
The conferees commend the Department of Defense commitment to a goal of three percent
of the budget request for the defense science and technology program and progress toward
this goal. The conferees also note the finding in the Defense Science Board report that

12 Seed corn has historically referred to the high quality kernels of corn (and other crops) to be used as seeds for
growing future corn crops. Thus, “seed corn” was essential to maintaining agricultural output. The term has
subsequently been extended to refer to an asset or investment that is expected to provide future returns.
13 Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Science and Technology Base
for the 21st Century
, June 1998.
14 P.L. 106-65.
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successful high technology industries invest about 3.5 percent of sales in research
(equivalent to the DOD S&T program) and the recommendation that S&T funding should
be increased to ensure the continued long-term technical superiority of U.S. military forces
in the 21st Century. The conferees believe that the Department must continue to provide
the necessary investments in research and technologies that ensure a strong, stable, and
robust science and technology program for our Armed Forces.15
Other organizations have proposed using the same metric, but with a 3% as the level for S&T
funding as a share of total DOD funding. A 2001 report based on the Quadrennial Defense
Review (QDR), a legislatively mandated review by DOD of its strategies and priorities, called for
“a significant increase in funding for S&T programs to a level of three percent of DOD spending
per year.”16 In 2004, the Council on Competitiveness, a leadership organization of corporate chief
executive officers, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors,
reiterated the 3% recommendation of the QDR.17
Related Data and Discussion
Following a period of strong growth in the early 2000s, S&T funding peaked in current dollars at
$13.3 billion in FY2006, then declined to $11.0 billion in FY2013 before rebounding to $16.0
billion in FY2020. (See Figure 9.) In constant dollars, S&T funding peaked in FY2005 before
falling 27.9% through FY2013; between FY2013 and FY2020, S&T funding recovered
somewhat, growing by 29.2%. Viewed as a share of DOD total obligational authority (TOA),
S&T declined from about 3.0% in the late 1990s to about 1.7% in 2011, rebounding steadily to
about 2.2% in FY2016 and remaining between 2.2% and 2.3% through FY2020. (See Figure 10.)
While the growth in the absolute amount of S&T funding that was sought in P.L. 105-261 (red
line, Figure 9) was achieved, S&T funding would have been higher under the QDR
recommendation (3% of DOD TOA, green line, Figure 9).

15 H.Rept. 107-772, p. 460, http://lis.gov/cgi-lis/t2gpo/https:/www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-107hrpt772/pdf/CRPT-
107hrpt772.pdf.
16 Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, September 30, 2001, p. 41,
archive.defense.gov/pubs/qdr2001.pdf.
17 Council on Competitiveness, Innovate America, 2004, p. 58, http://www.compete.org/storage/images/uploads/File/
PDF%20Files/NII_Innovate_America.pdf.
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Figure 9. DOD Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) Funding
in millions of current dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.
Note: For purposes of this chart, CRS used the GDP (Chained) Price Index from Table 10.1 of the Historical
Tables in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2019, to determine an “inflation” level as this is the index used by
the Office of Management and Budget to convert federal research and development outlays from current dol ars
to constant dol ars. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/hist10z1_fy21.xlsx.
Figure 10. DOD Science and Technology Funding as a Share of DOD TOA
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021; DOD, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY2021 (Green Book), April 2020.


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Approach: DOD Science and Technology as a Share of DOD RDT&E
The DSB’s second proposed framework, also based on industrial practice, was to use the metric
of S&T as a share of DOD RDT&E:
Another approach to this question is to note that the ratio of research funding to total R&D
funding in high-technology industries, such as pharmaceuticals, is about 24%. When this
percentage ratio is applied to the FY98 R&D funding of about $36 billion, the result is
about $8.6 billion, well above the actual S&T funding.18
In 2015, a coalition of industry, research universities, and associations, the Coalition for National
Security Research, asserted that DOD S&T funding should be 20% of DOD RDT&E.19
Related Data
Figure 11 illustrates S&T’s share of DOD RDT&E for FY1996-FY2017. At the time of the DSB
report (FY1998), S&T’s share of DOD RDT&E was 20.7%. After rising to 21.5% in FY2000, the
share fell to 15.2% in FY2011, recovering to 18.8% in FY2015, then falling back to 15.2% in
FY2020.
Figure 11. DOD Science and Technology Funding as a Share of Title IV RDT&E
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.

18 Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Science and Technology Base
for the 21st Century
, June 1998. CRS analysis of the FY1999 DOD R-1 shows $7.8 billion in defense S&T funding for
FY1998. Some analysts may disagree with DSB’s implicit assumption about the applicability of a ratio drawn from the
R&D investment behavior of private firms competing in a commercial market to DOD S&T spending.
19 Richard M. Jones, “Coalition Recommends Higher Level of Defense S&T Funding than Administration Request,”
FYI: Science Policy News from AIP, April 13, 2015, https://www.aip.org/fyi/2015/coalition-recommends-higher-level-
defense-st-funding-administration-request.
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What Is the Appropriate Funding Level for DOD Basic Research?
Within the S&T program, basic research (6.1) is singled out for additional attention, due in part to
its perceived value in advancing breakthrough technologies and in part to the substantial role it
plays in supporting university-based research in certain physical sciences and engineering
disciplines. Basic research funding is seen by some to be particularly vulnerable to budget cuts or
reallocation to other priorities because of the generally long time it takes for basic research
investments to result in tangible products and other outcomes (i.e., reductions in funding can be
made with minimal short term consequences) and to the uncertainty of the benefits that will be
derived from the results of basic research.
Approach: DOD Basic Research as a Share of DOD S&T
In 2004, the Council on Competitiveness asserted that DOD basic research should be at least 20%
of DOD S&T.20 In 2015, the Coalition for National Security Research also recommended 20% of
DOD S&T.21
Related Data
In general, DOD basic research funding has grown steadily from FY1998 through FY2020,
growing by 157.3%. (See Figure 12.) As a share of S&T, basic research declined from 14.6% in
FY1996 to 11.0% in FY2006, then began a steady rise to 18.4% in FY2015, its highest level in 20
years, then fell to 15.5% in FY2018 an ticked up again to 16.3% in FY2020. (See Figure 13.)
Figure 12. DOD Basic Research Funding
obligational authority, in billions of current dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.

20 Council on Competitiveness, Innovate America, 2004, p. 58.
21 Richard M. Jones, “Coalition Recommends Higher Level of Defense S&T Funding than Administration Request,”
FYI: Science Policy News from AIP, April 13, 2015.
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Figure 13. DOD Basic Research Funding as a Share of S&T Funding
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998- FY2021.
What Is the Appropriate Balance Between Investments in
Incremental RDT&E and Investments Directed Toward
Revolutionary Technological Advancements?
Another key issue of concern to Congress is the balance in the RDT&E portfolio between funding
focused on incremental or evolutionary improvements and funding focused on exploratory
research that might lead to revolutionary technologies. The latter is frequently referred to as “high
risk, high reward” research as it involves R&D activities that have low or unknown likelihood of
success, but that, if successful, may yield revolutionary technological advances.22
Approach: Revolutionary Research as a Share of DOD S&T
The DSB’s 1998 report noted industry’s practice of
allocating about 1/3 of the total available research funding to exploratory or potentially
revolutionary projects. The other 2/3 of the effort is typically focused on identified product
needs in the form of evolutionary improvements in current product lines.23
In accordance with this industrial practice, DSB recommended that DOD
[ensure] that approximately 1/3 of the S&T program elements are devoted to revolutionary
technology initiatives. DARPA should play a major role in executing these efforts along
with the Services.24

22 Historical examples of defense-led, science and technology-enabled, revolutionary advances include nuclear
weapons, integrated circuits, jet aircraft, precision munitions enabled by the Global Positioning System (GPS), and the
internet.
23 Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Science and Technology Base
for the 21st Century
, June 1998.
24 Ibid, p. 45.
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Applied to the FY2017 S&T budget, this formula would allocate approximately $4.5 billion to
revolutionary technology initiatives.
In 2004, S.Rept. 108-46 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2004 (S. 1050) expressed the committee’s concerns that the DOD “investment in basic research
has remained stagnant and is too focused on near-term demands.”
Related Data and Discussion
DOD does not report funding for revolutionary research. The Defense Advanced Projects
Research Agency (DARPA) has been the lead DOD agency focused on revolutionary R&D since
its establishment in 1958 following the Soviet launch of the first human-made satellite, Sputnik,
in 1957. For this report, CRS examined DARPA funding as a surrogate measure of at least a
portion of DOD’s investments in revolutionary research.25
DARPA describes its mission as making “pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for
national security.”26 DARPA funding has remained generally steady since FY2003, ranging
between $2.5 billion and $3.0 billion, peaking in FY2020. (See Figure 14.) Similarly, DARPA’s
funding as a share of defense S&T has remained generally steady since FY1999, between 22%
and 25%. In FY1996, DARPA funding accounted for about 30% of S&T funding, before sliding
to 22% in FY2000 (See Figure 15.)
Figure 14. DARPA Funding
obligational authority, in billions of current dollars

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.

25 Some analysts have expressed concern that DARPA funding has, at times, become too focused on near-term
technology transition and less focused on pioneering research. See for example, John Paul Parker, “At the Age of 50,
It’s Time for DARPA to Rethink its Future,” National Defense: NDIA’s Business and Technology Magazine,
September 2009, http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2009/September/Pages/
AttheAgeof50,it%E2%80%99sTimeforDARPAtoRethinkitsFuture.aspx.
26 Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency website, accessed December 5, 2016,
http://www.darpa.mil/about-us/mission.
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Figure 15. DARPA Funding as a Share of DOD S&T Funding
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998-FY2021.
Approach: High Risk, High Payoff Research as a Share of RDT&E
In its 2007 Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, the National Academies recommended that
At least 8% of the budgets of federal research agencies should be set aside for discretionary
funding managed by technical program managers in those agencies to catalyze high-risk,
high-payoff research.27
Related Data and Discussion
Using DARPA once more as a surrogate measure of a portion of DOD’s high risk, high payoff
research, Figure 16 shows DARPA funding as a percent of DOD RDT&E. Between FY1996 and
FY2008, DARPA’s share of RDT&E fell by nearly half, from 6.4% in FY1996 to 3.4% in
FY2008. DARPA’s share subsequently rose to 4.5% in FY2015, then began to fall again,
reaching 3.3% in FY2020. Based solely on DARPA funding, DOD funding for high risk, high
payoff research is well below the 8% recommended by the National Academies. It is unclear how
investments in high risk, high payoff research from other DOD accounts might affect this picture.

27 National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter
Economic Future
, 2007, p. 149, https://download.nap.edu/cart/download.cgi?record_id=11463.
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Figure 16. DARPA Funding as a Share of DOD RDT&E Funding
Percentage of obligational authorities

Source: CRS analysis of data from Department of Defense, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Programs
(R-1)
for FY1998- FY2021.
Concluding Observations
DOD RDT&E investments are highly complex and can be parsed in many ways. Some of these
are highlighted in this report. Other ways of parsing RDT&E funding—such as allocation by
performing organization (e.g., industry; universities; government-owned, government-operated
facilities; federally-funded research and development centers (FFRDCs)), size of industrial
performers, intramural and extramural performance—may also be important for the effective
allocation of DOD RDT&E resources. Similarly, many DOD RDT&E stakeholders have asserted
the importance of stability in funding streams. Among the many other factors that may affect the
effectiveness of the performance of RDT&E are: organizational structures and relationships;
management; workforce recruitment, training and retention; and policies related to cooperative
research and technology transfer.
As Congress undertakes defense annual authorization and appropriations, it may wish to consider
the issues raised in this report related to the magnitude and composition of funding for DOD
RDT&E, as well as the other issues such as those identified above.


Author Information

John F. Sargent Jr.

Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

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Congressional Research Service
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