Defense contractors can conduct R&D projects of potential interest to the Defense Department (DoD) and may be reimbursed for their work, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that DoD does not review how these projects fit into the department’s modernization priorities.
GAO says in its report that although independent R&D projects have helped produce innovations for DoD, including advanced satellite intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, not reviewing independent projects puts DoD at risk of duplicating work or missing out on opportunities.
“DoD does not know how contractors’ independent R&D projects fit into the department’s technology goals,” the report said. “As a result, DoD risks making decisions about its multi-billion-dollar science and tech investments that could duplicate work or miss opportunities to fill in gaps that the contributions of private industry do not cover.”
GAO recommends that DoD determines whether to require additional information in its project database because the agency does not obtain information on projects aligning with modernization priorities, project costs, and information on if a project is lower-risk incremental development or a more innovative “disruptive” technology. GAO also recommends DoD “review projects annually as part of its strategic planning process.” DoD agreed with both recommendations.