We Operate FFRDCs

(Video) MITRE produced this short animation, which explains the history, purpose and value of federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) at a high level.

Unique Organizations for Complex Challenges

If you've ever flown in a jet or used GPS, you've benefited from technology that arose from an FFRDC.

But despite the name, FFRDCs are about much more than R&D. These unique organizations serve as long-term strategic partners to the government, providing objective guidance in an environment free of conflicts of interest. They work with their government partners—also called sponsors—to assist with:

  • Systems engineering and integration
  • Research and development
  • Study and analysis

The government first created FFRDCs in the 1940s. Back then, they focused largely on national-security challenges and provided technical capabilities unavailable within government or the private sector.

Today, FFRDCs work in the fields of aviation, defense, energy, health and human services, space, federal agency modernization, homeland security, and more. They exist to:

  • Address long-term problems of considerable complexity
  • Approach technical questions with a high degree of objectivity, and
  • Provide creative and cost-effective solutions to national problems

FFRDCs have a proven record of accomplishment. They have developed new technologies and contributed to the success of others—from advanced radar and air traffic control systems to global climate models, landmine detectors, and radiation therapy treatments for cancer. MITRE has played a significant part in many such advances, often in collaboration with other FFRDCs or national laboratories.

What Sets FFRDCs Apart

FFRDCs follow a set of rules from the Federal Acquisition Regulation that enables the government to assign FFRDCs work that the government or commercial contractors can't do as effectively.

FFRDCs must also undergo a comprehensive review every five years. This ensures the quality, efficiency, and appropriateness of their work programs.

What really sets FFRDCs apart is their freedom from conflicts of interest—they don't profit from the government's decisions. By law, FFRDCs can't:

  • Manufacture products
  • Compete with industry, or
  • Work for commercial companies

These restrictions mean government and industry can provide FFRDCs with sensitive or proprietary information without fear of improper use or disclosure. This allows FFRDCs to help their sponsors:

  • Acquire the right technology
  • Objectively assess business processes, and
  • Integrate complex systems

Moreover, FFRDCs enable industry to work more effectively with government. One way is by making technology they develop available to industry for production and distribution.

For a more in-depth look at FFRDCs--their history, legal structure, and value to the nation--we invite you to read our publication, FFRDCs: A Primer.