The Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories system includes the national security laboratories at Sandia, Los Alamos, and Livermore and an array of laboratories that have specific or general missions ranging from primarily fundamental science to applied areas such as energy production and conservation. These DOE laboratories are government owned-contractor operated, and these contractors have local responsibility for laboratory management. Typically the funding for the DOE laboratories comes from more than one of the many offices within the DOE, and the program managers of these offices are major stakeholders. Significant funding also comes from other federal agencies. As with the DOD laboratories, Congress is the principal appropriator, and the views and desires of each of several subcommittees must be addressed.

Recipients of the R&D

The R&D of the DOE laboratories is transferred to society in many ways. The national security laboratories perform R&D aimed at protecting the nation’s nuclear stockpile; they also perform R&D for customers such as the DOD and DHS. With the exception of classified material, dissemination of basic research follows standard publication and communications paths. Applied research can be done in collaboration with or can be directly transferred to some industry. For example, the work focused on energy efficiency has found its way to a vast array of manufacturing and energy-producing industries. In each instance, this means that a variety of customer groups must be identified and their needs addressed. Often, as when the R&D is a consequence of government-imposed regulation, the laboratories must work with other agencies (e.g., the EPA) as well as those affected industries and satisfy all of these customers.


In addition to the usual oversight as identified above for the DOD, the DOE laboratories, often involved with safety and security issues, receive oversight from organizations within the agency charged with such issues.



The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) receives a large appropriation for intramural research and additional funding for extramural programs. The NIST laboratories also receive funding for new construction in a separate account. The report line for its intramural funding is much shorter than for many government laboratories, with a single authorization and appropriation committee in each house of Congress. The administrative report line is also quite short, as the director of the laboratory also serves as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, with direct reporting to a cabinet-level appointee.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement