Federal Research and Development Contract Trends and the Supporting Industrial Base, 2000–2015


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Technological superiority has been a central pillar of U.S. strategy in the post–World War II era. It has allowed the United States to deter, and when necessary defeat, numerically superior forces of potential or actual adversaries. But with other nations building their capabilities and infrastructure at a rapid pace, it is not safe or wise to assume that U.S. technological superiority is a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, as the current budget drawdown has progressed, numerous analysts and policymakers have expressed concern regarding the ability of the United States to retain technological superiority, particularly given how research and development (R&D) contracting has been broadly understood to be in serious decline. Broadly speaking, the stated concerns can be summarized as a fear that the R&D necessary to drive future technological breakthroughs, in either the defense or civilian realms, would be jeopardized and would be particularly damaged if agencies disproportionately sacrificed longer-term R&D spending in order to preserve current programs and activities.

To examine what has happened within the federal R&D contracting portfolio, CSIS utilized its decade plus of experience in analyzing trends in federal contracting. Using federal contract data from the publicly available Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), the full report explains what has happened to federal R&D contracting, and the industrial base that supports those efforts, during the current budget drawdown.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
Gregory Sanders
Deputy Director and Fellow, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group
Kaitlyn Johnson

Kaitlyn Johnson

Former Deputy Director and Fellow, Aerospace Security Project

Andrew Philip Hunter

Jesse E. Ellman