Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) and


University Affiliated Research Centers (UARC)


DoD-supported FFRDCs are independent, not-for-profit, private-sector organizations that are established and funded to meet special long-term engineering, research, development, or other analytic needs that cannot be met as effectively by government or other private-sector resources. FFDRCs are operated, managed, and/or administered by universities, or privately organized not-for-profit corporations, through long-term Government contracts. Each FFRDC is assigned to a primary sponsor who is responsible for implementing DoD's policies and procedures for FFRDCs, monitoring the performance of the FFRDC, maintaining the tenets of the sponsoring agreement between the FFRDC host organization and the primary sponsor, conducting a comprehensive review every 5 years, and approving all work done by the FFRDC. A high priority is placed on acquiring FFRDC unique technical expertise where the Department cannot attract and retain personnel in sufficient depth and numbers. FFRDCs are intentionally located outside Government to permit management flexibility to attract and retain high-quality scientists, engineers, and analysts critical to the Department's mission.

There are 3 types of FFRDCs:

  1. Study and Analysis Centers: Conduct independent and objective analyses and provide advice in core mission areas in support of policy and strategy development, decision-making, alternative approaches, and new ideas on significant issues for the Department. There are currently 5 FFRDCs of this type.
  2. Systems Engineering and Integration Centers: Assist with the creation and choice of system concepts and architectures, the specification of technical system and subsystem requirements and interfaces, the development and acquisition of system hardware and software, the testing and verification of performance, the integration of new capabilities, and continuous improvement of system operations and logistics.There are currently 2 FFRDCs of this type.
  3. Research and Development Laboratories: Conduct R&D, focusing on the development and prototyping of new technologies to meet DoD needs; engage in research programs that emphasize the evolution and demonstration of advanced concepts and technology, and transfer new technologies to the private sector. There are currently 3 FFRDCs of this type.

Congress closely monitors the use of DoD's FFRDCs and sets an annual staffing ceiling that limits the overall growth of the FFRDCs. Historically, the total number of staff technical equivalents (STE) has been around 6,000. The current ceiling is 6,053 of which 1,148 is allocated to the studies and analysis FFRDCs. Traditionally, the annual request by DoD FFRDC sponsors far exceeds the available STE allowed.

Summary of FFRDCs:

  • Operate in the public interest with objectivity and independence befitting their special relationship with the government;
  • Are free from organizational and personal conflicts of interest, and provide full disclosure of their affairs to the appropriate DoD sponsoring agency;
  • Contribute to the body of knowledge and practice within their domains of expertise; and,
  • There are currently 10 DoD-supported FFDRCs.

DoDI 5000.77 ; DoD Federally Funded Research and Development Center Program

DoD FFRDC's Primary Sponsor Founded
Study & Analysis
Center for Naval Analyses Navy (ASN(RDA)) 1942
Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) -Studies and Analyses USD(A&S) 1956
RAND Corporation - Arroyo Center HQDA G-8/PAE 1982
RAND Corporation - National Defense Research Institute (NDRI) USD(A&S) 1984
RAND - Project Air Force Air Force (SAF/AQ) 1948
Systems Engineering & Integration      
Aerospace Corporation                                          Air Force (SAF/AQ) 1961
MITRE Corporation - National Security Engineering Center (NSEC)         USD(R&E) / DDR&E(R&T) 1958
Research & Development Laboratories      
Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) - Communications & Computing National Security Agency 1959
Massachusetts Institute of Technology- Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) USD(R&E) / DDR&E(R&T) 1951
Software Engineering Institute (SEI) USD(R&E) / DDR&E(R&T) 1984


Historically, UARCs were officially established in 1996 by the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)) and served to formalize strategic relationships with research centers affiliated with universities that in some cases dated back to WWII.

DoD-supported UARCs are all non-profit research organizations affiliated with a university and have a set of core competencies-areas of domain expertise or specialization - that are tailored to the long-term needs of the Department. DoD's long-term strategic relationship with UARCs requires them to provide and maintain advanced and sophisticated engineering, research, and/or development capabilities essential to the Department's mission and operations. UARCs operate as independent, trusted advisors and honest brokers, agreeing to limit their operations in order to be free from real or perceived conflicts of interest. Each UARC is sponsored by a primary sponsor who is responsible for implementing UARC policies and procedures, monitoring performance, approving all work executed by the UARC, and conducting a comprehensive review every five years. While any university can receive funds from the Department to perform work, that does not make them a UARC. Rather, all DoD UARCs are approved by USDR&E after a rigorous review and competitive selection process conducted by the proposed primary sponsor. Only USD(R&E) can establish, transfer, or terminate a UARC.

Summary of UARCs:

  • Provide access to applicable universities engaged in applied research with a strong basic research foundation;
  • Ensure that essential engineering and technology capabilities of particular importance to the Department are maintained;
  • Offer a unique arrangement of basic and applied research technical expertise within one organization; and, are only approved by USD(R&E) and established after a rigorous requirements review and competitive selection process.




DoD UARC's University Primary Sponsor Founded
Georgia Tech Research Institute Georgia Institute of Technology Army 1995
Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies Massachusetts Institute of Technology Army 2002
Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies University of California, Santa Barbara Army 2003
Institute for Creative Technologies University of Southern California Army 1999
Applied Physics Laboratory The Johns Hopkins University Navy 1942
Applied Physics Laboratory Penn State University Navy 1945
Applied Physics Laboratory University of Hawaii Navy 2008
Applied Physics Laboratory University of Texas at Austin Navy 1945
Applied Physics Laboratory University of Washington Navy 1943
Space Dynamics Laboratory Utah State University Missile Defense Agency (MDA) 1996
Systems Engineering Research Center Stevens Institute of Technology USD(R&E)/ DDR&E(AC) 2008
Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence & Security University of Maryland, College Park USD(I) 2017
National Strategic Research Institute University of Nebraska STRATCOM 2012
Geophysical Detection of Nuclear Proliferation University of Alaska DASD(TRAC) 2018
Research Institute for Tactical Autonomy Howard University Air Force 2023