Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD)

Legislative History

The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq., in Section 31), directs the DOE/NNSA to ensure the continued conduct of R&D and to assist in the acquisition of an ever‐expanding body of theoretical and practical knowledge in the fields of energy, its production, uses, handling, and effects. The AEA was followed, in 1977, with Congressional authorization in the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) Appropriations Act that any laboratory under contract with ERDA could, with the Administrator’s approval, “use a reasonable amount of its operating budget for the funding of employee-suggested research projects” in scientific and technological (S&T) areas deemed critical by the government. ERDA and now the DOE/NNSA laboratory contractors have carried out these activities under programs with various names (e.g., exploratory studies, discretionary R&D, seed money, program development research, and exploratory R&D). Since 1991, the program has formally been called LDRD.

Statutory requirements associated with the LDRD program are listed below.

  • Section 309 of Division D of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113-076)
    Notwithstanding section 307 of Public Law 2 111–85, of the funds made available by the Department of Energy for activities at Government-owned, contractor operated laboratories funded in this or any subsequent Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for any fiscal year, the Secretary may authorize a specific amount, not to exceed 6 percent of such funds, to be used by such laboratories for laboratory directed research and development.
  • Section 309 of Division C of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161)
    “LABORATORY DIRECTED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. Of the funds made available by the Department of Energy for activities at government-owned, contractor-operator operated laboratories funded in this Act or subsequent Energy and Water Development Appropriations Acts, the Secretary may authorize a specific amount, not to exceed 8 percent of such funds, to be used by such laboratories for laboratory-directed research and development: Provided, That the Secretary may also authorize a specific amount not to exceed 4 percent of such funds, to be used by the plant manager of a covered nuclear weapons production plant or the manager of the Nevada Site Office for plant or site-directed research and development: Provided further, That notwithstanding Department of Energy order 413.2A, dated January 8, 2001, beginning in fiscal year 2006 and thereafter, all DOE laboratories may be eligible for laboratory directed research and development funding.”
  • 109th  Congress - House of Representatives Conference Report 109-275
    “The conferees are concerned with the level of overhead charges applied to programs funded in this bill and urge the Department to continue to work to minimize the overhead burden on all pro-gram activities. In order to ensure an equitable allocation of over-head costs the Secretary should apply overhead charges to LDRD activities consistent with cost accounting practices applied to program activities that are direct funded. The conference agreement increases the allowable percentage for LDRD, PDRD and SDRD activities to allow this accounting change without harming the underlying discretionary research activities. The change in accounting practices should be implemented with no net reduction in LDRD levels below 6 percent of the funds provided by the Department of Energy to such labs for national security activities and 2 percent for PDRD and SDRD activities at the appropriate plants and sites. Within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Energy shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing how the accounting change will be implemented without impacting the basic research and the change shall be implemented within 180 days of enactment.”
  • Section 311 of the Energy  and Water Development Appropriations Act, 2006 (Public  Law 109-103)
    “Of the funds made available by the Department of Energy for activities at government-owned, contractor-operator operated laboratories funded in this Act or subsequent Energy and Water Development Appropriations Acts, the Secretary may authorize a specific amount, not to exceed 8 percent of such funds, to be used by such laboratories for laboratory-directed research and development: Provided, That the Secretary may also authorize a specific amount not to exceed 3 percent of such funds, to be used by the plant manager of a covered nuclear weapons production plant or the manager of the Nevada Site Office for plant or site-directed research and development: Provided further, That notwithstanding Department of Energy order 413.2A, dated January 8, 2001, beginning in fiscal year 2006 and thereafter, all DOE laboratories may be eligible for laboratory directed research and development funding.”
  • 108th  Congress - House of Representatives 108-212

    “The Committee recognizes the value of conducting discretionary research at DOE’s national laboratories. Such research provides valuable benefits to the Department and to other Federal agencies, and is crucial to attracting and retaining scientific talent at the laboratories. However, the Committee continues to have concerns about the financial execution of this program. One concern centers on the manner in which DOE levies the LDRD ‘‘tax’’ on all DOE and Work for Other programs, and then accumulates the funds into an overhead pool. This Committee typically deals with defense and non- defense allocations within the Energy and Water Development bill, and the line between those two allocations is not easily crossed. Under LDRD, however, the laboratory directors are able to pool defense and non-defense appropriations at will. The only obvious solution to this concern is to require DOE to establish and track separate LDRD accounts for defense and non-defense funding sources, and the Committee is not yet ready to direct that change.

    The other principal concern deals with the application of LDRD to work being performed for other agencies (Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP), formerly known as Work for Others). The conference report accompanying the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 2002 (P.L. 107–66) directed the Secretary to ‘‘include in the annual report to Congress on LDRD activities an affirmation that all LDRD activities derived from funds of other agencies have been conducted in a manner that support science and technology development that benefits the programs of the sponsoring agencies and is consistent with the Appropriations Acts that provided funds to those agencies.’’ The Department has implemented this guidance by including the following language into its standard project proposal and funding acceptance documents that it requires the funding SPP agencies to sign: ‘‘The Department of Energy believes that LDRD efforts provide opportunities in research that are instrumental in maintaining cutting edge science capabilities that benefit all of the customers at the laboratory. The Department will conclude that by providing funds to DOE to perform work, you acknowledge that such activities are beneficial to your organization and consistent with appropriations acts that provide funds to you.’’ This is too facile a solution for the Department. According to a review conducted by this Committee’s investigative staff, only a little more than half of the SPP customers indicated they could reliably certify that DOE’s LDRD activities are con-sistent with the funding agencies’ appropriations acts. Nevertheless, most agencies sign the required certification letter to DOE because they see no real alternative. The Committee fully expects that there are terms and conditions attached to the appropriations acts for these other agencies that are being ignored through this so-called ‘‘certification’’ process for LDRD work.”

    The Committee is considering changing the arrangement by which LDRD activities are funded to eliminate these concerns. The results of an ongoing General Accounting Office review will help to inform the Committee’s choice. The Committee is receptive to streamlining the annual LDRD report to Congress, which is undoubtedly a significant burden for the Department to prepare and is of little value to this Committee in resolving the concerns identified above. The Department should work with Committee staff to develop a simpler and more useful LDRD report.”

  • 107th Congress - House of Representatives Conference Report 107-258
    “The conference agreement does not include bill language proposed by either the House or the Senate regarding the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The conferees recognize the benefits of LDRD and expect LDRD activities to continue at previously authorized levels. However, when accepting funds from another Federal agency that will be used for LDRD activities, the Department of Energy shall notify that agency in writing how much will be used for LDRD activities. In addition, the conferees direct the Secretary of Energy to include in the annual report to Congress on all LDRD activities an affirmation that all LDRD activities derived from funds of other agencies have been conducted in a manner that supports science and technology development that benefits the programs of the sponsoring agencies and is consistent with the Appropriations Acts that provided funds to those agencies.”
  • 106th Congress - House of Representatives Conference Report 106-907
    “The conference agreement includes an allowance of six percent for the laboratory directed research and development (LDRD) program and two percent for nuclear weapons production plants. Travel costs for LDRD are exempt from the contractor travel ceiling. The conferees direct the Department’s Chief Financial Officer to develop and execute a financial accounting report of LDRD expenditures by laboratory and weapons production plant. This report due to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations by December 31, 2000, and each year thereafter, should provide costs by personnel salaries, equipment, and travel. The Department should work with the Committees on the specific information to be included in the report.”
  • Section 3136(b) (1) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (Public Law 104-201)
    “The Secretary of Energy shall annually submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the funds expended during the preceding fiscal year on activities under the Department of Energy Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. The purpose of the report is to permit an assessment of the extent to which such activities support the national security mission of the Department of Energy.”
Last modified: 6/28/2016 10:30:15 AM