All activities covered by the federal budget, including R&D, are classified into 20 broad functional categories (see "Budget Functions and Classifying R&D"). Currently, R&D activities are present in 15 of the 20 categories.

The data tables in this report provide R&D budget authority detail by agency and major programs for each of the categories in which R&D is present. Several concluding tables also include budget authority figures for R&D in FY 2014 and earlier years.

The figures for FY 2015 are the actual budget authority received by federal agencies for R&D that year. Those for FY 2016 are preliminary, reflecting agency reporting and final appropriations outcomes. The FY 2017 figures are the administration's proposed funding levels, based chiefly on the President's Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2017, but they also reflect agency documents and other Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data available through July 2016. The proposed figures for FY 2017 are the basis for subsequent legislative activity in the Congress to enact the federal government's annual budget.

Data reported here as "preliminary" or "proposed" will be revised in subsequent editions of this report to reflect the later congressional appropriation actions and agency program-funding decisions.

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Research, Development, and R&D Plant

In this report, R&D refers to basic research, applied research, and development activities in science and engineering.

Research is systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. Research is classified as either basic or applied, according to the objective of the sponsoring agency:

Basic research is systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications toward processes or products in mind.

Applied research is systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

Development is systematic application of knowledge or understanding directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements. It excludes quality control, routine product testing, and production.

Funds for conducting R&D include those for personnel, program supervision, and administrative support directly associated with R&D activities. Expendable or movable equipment needed to conduct R&D—for example, microscopes or spectrometers—is also included.

R&D plant includes such R&D facilities as reactors, wind tunnels, or particle accelerators or the construction, repair, or alteration of such facilities.

The data exclude all non-R&D activities performed within budget functions that conduct R&D and all functions in which no R&D is conducted.

Budget Authority, Obligations, and Outlays

The federal R&D funding data presented here (with only a few noted exceptions) are provided in terms of budget authority. Budget authority is used because it is the initial budget stage for congressional action on the President's proposed budget. Budget authority imposes a ceiling on obligations and outlays; obligations and outlays flow from budget authority.

Budget authority is the primary source of legal authorization to enter into obligations that will result in outlays. Budget authority is most commonly granted in the form of appropriations by the congressional committees assigned to determine the budget for each function.

Obligations represent the amounts for orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when the future payment of money is required.

Outlays represent the amounts for checks issued and cash payments made during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated or obligated.

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Budget Functions and Classifying R&D

The federal budget total is the sum of funding across the 20 broad functional categories. These categories are National defense (function 050); International affairs (150); General science, space, and technology (250); Energy (270); Natural resources and environment (300); Agriculture (350); Commerce and housing credit (370); Transportation (400); Community and regional development (450); Education, training, employment, benefits and services (500); Health (550); Medicare (570); Income security (600); Social security (650); Veterans benefits and services (700); Administration of justice (750); General government (800); Net interest (900); Allowances (920); and Undistributed offsetting receipts (950).

R&D has never been reported in 4 of these 20 functions: Social security (650), Net interest (900), Allowances (920), and Undistributed offsetting receipts (950). As such, data on these categories are not present in this report, except indirectly, where R&D is described as a proportion of total federal budget authority.

Small amounts of R&D had been reported in the General government (800) category up through FY 2002 but turned to zero thereafter. A small amount of R&D was again reported in FY 2012 but has been zero throughout the FY 2015–17 period covered in this report.

To better highlight R&D areas of high interest, the data tables in this report split the General science, space, and technology (250) category into its two subfunctions: General science and basic research (251) and Space flight, research, and supporting activities (252).

Overall, this report's data tables separately cover 16 functional categories: 14 at the broad functional category level and 2 at the subcategory level.

Each specific R&D activity is assigned to only one functional category—consistent with the official codes used in budget documents, even though the R&D activity may address the objectives of several functions. For example, all R&D activities sponsored by the Department of Defense (except for those of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) are classified as National defense (050), even though some of these have secondary objectives, such as Space flight, research, and supporting activities (252) or Health (550). Nonetheless, an agency's overall R&D effort can involve multiple activities spread across several functional categories, which means that a functional category can show the presence of several agencies. For example, the federal funding for the past national project to map the human genome, which involved the activities of several agencies and a number of R&D programs, appeared in the categories of Health (550) and General science and basic research (251).

Finally, not all federally sponsored basic research is categorized in the General science and basic research (251) subfunction. Some basic research is included in many of the other functional categories. Also, not all of the R&D included in the 251 subfunction is basic research—some is applied research.

Table A-1 maps the mix of agency funding of R&D activities in FYs 2015–17 across the budget function categories.

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Data Sources

The federal budget does not include a separately identified R&D account. Furthermore, most appropriations for R&D are not directly labeled as such (except in certain program areas, such as defense, energy, health, and environment). As such, most funds for R&D are not line items in agency budget submissions but are included instead as part of general program funding.

To provide information on federal R&D funding, OMB requires all agencies with R&D funding levels greater than $10 million annually to submit data on their R&D programs as part of their annual budget submissions. Such agencies are requested to provide data on their funding levels for basic research, applied research, development, R&D facilities, and capital equipment for R&D, in accordance with OMB's Circular No. A-11, MAX Schedule C, "Research and Development Activities" (See Section 84 in https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/a11_current_year/a11_2015.pdf.)

The data in this report were collected between March and July 2016 and represent the agencies' best estimates of actual and proposed federal funding for R&D over the FY 2015–17 period. The data are based primarily on information provided to OMB by 26 agencies and account for an estimated 99% of all federally sponsored R&D activities. The data reflect R&D funding information that became available from individual agencies after the administration's budget was prepared and released after the February 2016 publication of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2017. This later information consists of budget justification documents that agencies submit to the Congress and supplemental, program-specific information obtained from agency budget and program staff, collected through July 2016. Accordingly, the budget numbers reported for individual activities, programs, or agencies may differ somewhat from those published in the President's budget or in agency budget documents.

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Technical Table

Table Technical Table Title Excel PDF
A-1 Agency and budget function crosswalk, federal R&D funding, by budget function: FYs 2015–17 View Excel View PDF