Eye on Research

By Christopher J. Castelli / June 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter has issued a memo on fundamental research that broadens guidance issued by his predecessor, John Young, on contracted fundamental research. Much of Carter's memo echoes Young's guidance, but there's a key change, according to Robin Staffin, the Pentagon's director of basic science.

"The Secretary maintains his strong support for basic research," Staffin tells us through a spokeswoman. "Since the 2008 memo, it became apparent that there were cases where fundamental research was funded by subcontract from industry with funding categories 6.3 or above, in addition to direct DOD university grants. This memo now covers these cases."

Here's a key section of Carter's May 24 memo:

There will be circumstances in which the DOD Components may find it valuable to perform research with other Budget Activity funds (e.g., Budget Activity 3 and higher) without placing restrictions on publications or personnel. This should be within the discretion of acquisition personnel in consultation with contracting officers, Component management, counsel, and the cognizant Comptroller to ensure consistency with financial management regulations. In addition, the DOD must not place restrictions on subcontracted unclassified research that has been scoped, negotiated, and determined to be fundamental research within the definition of NSDD 189 according to the prime contractor and research performer and certified by the contracting component, except as provided in applicable federal statutes, regulations, or executive orders. Provisions shall be made to accommodate such subcontracts for fundamental research and to ensure DOD restrictions on the prime contract do not flow down to the performer(s) of such research.