The Federal government has been growing technology-related research and development in recent years, but at the same time is seeing the bulk of that R&D effort centralize in five Federal agencies, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

According to the report, two departments accounted for 77 percent of Federal R&D activity for fiscal year 2021 – the Department of Defense (DoD) with 39 percent of the total, or $69.3 billion, followed by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with 38 percent of the total, or $ 68.8 billion.

“HHS has mainly funded research, while DOD mainly funds development. However, HHS has become a major funder of development in recent years because of COVID-19 stimulus funding,” the report says.

Some of the funding trends include the need to invest in technologies including IT, nanotechnology, quantum information science, and artificial intelligence (AI).

R&D funding is also being driven by the need to address challenges that are of “long-term national importance,” the report says, and some areas are spread much wider than the work being undertaken through DoD and HHS.

“These initiatives coordinate activities in areas that are too broad or complex to be addressed by one agency alone,” GAO said. “For example, more than 60 agencies participate in an initiative on network and information technology, which includes investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Along with DoD and HHS, other agencies with substantial chunks of R&D activity include the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.