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About the Naval Research Program

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Naval Research Program (NRP) is funded by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), and supports research projects for the Navy and Marine Corps. The NRP research projects are comprised of individual research teams, where projects are conducted, NPS expertise is developed, and then maintained, on behalf of the Navy and Marine Corps. The NPS NRP serves as a launch-point for new initiatives which posture naval forces to meet current and future operational warfighter challenges. The primary mechanism for obtaining NPS NRP support, is through participation at NPS Naval Research Working Group (NRWG) research meetings that bring together fleet topic sponsors, NPS faculty members, and students, to discuss potential research initiatives.

The NRP was established in 2013 to leverage the expertise and experience of NPS’ multidisciplinary faculty and naval (Navy and Marine Corps) student body to complete relevant, cost-effective research that addresses operational issues for the Naval community*. Naval research, analyses topics, and focus areas are sponsored by numerous agencies within the DON. The NPS NRP has developed as a standardized, systematic vehicle to leverage NPS multidisciplinary faculty and student research capabilities in response to demand signals across the DON. It serves to execute research that adds value to the Department of the Navy through research efforts (RDT&E funding) at NPS. The NPS NRP in no way replaces the traditional, independent, external research development processes used by NPS faculty (e.g. Broad Area Announcements, Requests for Proposals), but rather is intended to complement those efforts.

*Other Federal Agency sponsors may choose to participate in the NPS NRP working groups with their own funding.

Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) research activities serve to support strategic, operational, and tactical thought within the Naval communities. These efforts generate operational alternatives, quantitative analyses, technical developments and assessments, and political-military assessments. The results of NPS research may provide recommendations to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Fleet Commanders, and numbered Fleet Commanders regarding the formulation and execution of maritime options to future challenges.

The NPS Naval Research Program supports the Navy in reaching well-informed, objective decisions on strategic, operational, and programmatic issues through collaborative research, which integrates academic studies and analysis with advanced decision-support tools. Student theses are an integral part of this program and support research conducted by the faculty.

  • Offer NPS as an agent to perform dedicated research through the full range of NPS expertise.
  • Couple research with educational goals.
  • Offer a venue for NPS students to conduct thesis efforts in areas directly relevant to Naval challenges.
  • Develop NPS faculty area expertise for long-term Naval interests.
  • Launch new initiatives that posture the Navy to meet future challenges.
  • Promote NPS-wide collaboration, interdisciplinary education, research, and experimentation.
  • Naval Research Working Group (USN/USMC): Spring - March or April
  • Research Review Board (NPS): 1st-2nd Week of May
  • Executive Research Board (USMC): Mid June/Mid July
  • Topics Research Board (USN): Mid June/Mid July

Current Topic Submission & Review Cycle Schedule

The RDT&E budget activities are broad categories reflecting different types of RDT&E efforts. RDT&E funds used for the NRP are currently categorized as “BA6-RDT&E Management Support” only.  


Budget Activity 1, Basic Research. 

Basic research is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind. It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental, and life sciences related to long-term national security needs. It is farsighted high payoff research that provides the basis for technological progress. Basic research may lead to: (a) subsequent applied research and advanced technology developments in Defense-related technologies, and (b) new and improved military functional capabilities in areas such as communications, detection, tracking, surveillance, propulsion, mobility, guidance and control, navigation, energy conversion, materials and structures, and personnel support. Program elements in this category involve pre-Milestone A efforts.

Budget Activity 2, Applied Research. 

Applied research is systematic study to understand the means to meet a recognized and specific need. It is a systematic expansion and application of knowledge to develop useful materials, devices, and systems or methods. It may be oriented, ultimately, toward the design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet general mission area requirements. Applied research may translate promising basic research into solutions for broadly defined military needs, short of system development. This type of effort may vary from systematic mission-directed research beyond that in Budget Activity 1 to sophisticated breadboard hardware, study, programming and planning efforts that establish the initial feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions to technological challenges. It includes studies, investigations, and non-system specific technology efforts. The dominant characteristic is that applied research is directed toward general military needs with a view toward developing and evaluating the feasibility and practicality of proposed solutions and determining their parameters. Applied Research precedes system specific technology investigations or development. Program control of the Applied Research program element is normally exercised by general level of effort. Program elements in this category involve pre-Milestone B efforts, also known as Concept and Technology Development phase tasks, such as concept exploration efforts and paper studies of alternative concepts for meeting a mission need.

Budget Activity 3, Advanced Technology Development (ATD).

This budget activity includes development of subsystems and components and efforts to integrate subsystems and components into system prototypes for field experiments and/or tests in a simulated environment. ATD includes concept and technology demonstrations of components and subsystems or system models. The models may be form, fit and function prototypes or scaled models that serve the same demonstration purpose. The results of this type of effort are proof of technological feasibility and assessment of subsystem and component operability and producibility rather than the development of hardware for service use. Projects in this category have a direct relevance to identified military needs. Advanced Technology Development demonstrates the general military utility or cost reduction potential of technology when applied to different types of military equipment or techniques. Program elements in this category involve pre-Milestone B efforts, such as system concept demonstration, joint and Service-specific experiments or Technology Demonstrations and generally have Technology Readiness Levels of 4, 5, or 6. Projects in this category do not necessarily lead to subsequent development or procurement phases, but should have the goal of moving out of Science and Technology (S&T) and into the acquisition process within the future years defense program (FYDP). Upon successful completion of projects that have military utility, the technology should be available for transition.

Budget Activity 4, Advanced Component Development and Prototypes (ACD&P).

Efforts necessary to evaluate integrated technologies, representative modes or prototype systems in a high fidelity and realistic operating environment are funded in this budget activity. The ACD&P phase includes system specific efforts that help expedite technology transition from the laboratory to operational use. Emphasis is on proving component and subsystem maturity prior to integration in major and complex systems and may involve risk reduction initiatives. Program elements in this category involve efforts prior to Milestone B and are referred to as advanced component development activities and include technology demonstrations. Completion of Technology Readiness Levels 6 and 7 should be achieved for major programs. Program control is exercised at the program and project level. A logical progression of program phases and development and/or production funding must be evident in the FYDP.

Budget Activity 5, System Development and Demonstration (SDD). 

SDD programs have passed Milestone B approval and are conducting engineering and manufacturing development tasks aimed at meeting validated requirements prior to full-rate production. This budget activity is characterized by major line item projects and program control is exercised by review of individual programs and projects. Prototype performance is near or at planned operational system levels. Characteristics of this budget activity involve mature system development, integration and demonstration to support Milestone C decisions, and conducting live fire test and evaluation and initial operational test and evaluation of production representative articles. A logical progression of program phases and development and production funding must be evident in the FYDP consistent with the Department’s full funding policy.

Budget Activity 6, RDT&E Management Support

This budget activity includes research, development, test and evaluation efforts and funds to sustain and/or modernize the installations or operations required for general research, development, test and evaluation. Test ranges, military construction, maintenance support of laboratories, operation and maintenance of test aircraft and ships, and studies and analyses in support of the RDT&E program are funded in this budget activity. Costs of laboratory personnel, either in-house or contractor operated, would be assigned to appropriate projects or as a line item in the Basic Research, Applied Research, or ATD program areas, as appropriate. Military construction costs directly related to major development programs are included.

Budget Activity 7, Operational System Development. 

This budget activity includes development efforts to upgrade systems that have been fielded or have received approval for full rate production and anticipate production funding in the current or subsequent fiscal year. All items are major line item projects that appear as RDT&E Costs of Weapon System Elements in other programs. Program control is exercised by review of individual projects. Programs in this category involve systems that have received Milestone C approval. A logical progression of program phases and development and production funding must be evident in the FYDP, consistent with the Department’s full funding policy.

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Research Topic Submission and Review

The organization of the NPS NRP is based upon an annual research topic solicitation process that merges Department of Navy research, analysis, and studies requirements with NPS faculty and students who have unique expertise and experience. The NRP Topic Portal facilitates an ongoing collaborative workflow environment for NPS Students, NPS Faculty and Fleet Sponsors to review, submit, discuss, and sponsor NPS NRP topics for potential funding and thesis consideration. Topic review, board consideration for funding and project award is structured around a fiscal year (FY) annual cycle. There is a FY deadline that usually occurs in April. However, new topic submissions or resubmission of previously unfunded topics can be done at any time of the year.

NPR Basic Workflow Process Image

Topic Submission

Those wishing to be Topic Sponsors create topics via the NRP Topic Portal. Topics may also be entered by faculty and students but must have a Topic Sponsor established prior to submission of an IREF. Topics will be presented and discussed during the NRWG with NPS faculty and students. When you create a new topic on the NRP Topic Portal you are submitting it for review and consideration for NRP funding. All Topics must be aligned with Navy and/or Marine mission requirements. Topic Proposals that have already been reviewed by the Requirements Review Board (R3B) or Marine Requirements Overview Council (MROC) will receive higher NRP priority for research. Presence or absence of R3B or MROC approval for a topic is validated by the Research Topic Sponsor.

Naval Research Working Group (NRWG)

The primary synchronization and collaboration event for students, Topic Sponsors, and faculty to discuss relevant DoD research. The output of the spring event is a completed Initial Research Estimate Form (IREF) for proposed research and funding consideration. Independent of the NRWG, faculty and students are encouraged to browse topics and reach out to Topic Sponsors to discuss topics of interest, irrespective to the funding cycle.

IREF Submission {NRWG Output}

The IREF is used to submit a preliminary proposed research Statement of Work (SOW) for NRP research topics. During and following the NRWG, faculty and students work with Topic Sponsors to scope proposed projects, and then submit an IREF for topics they wish to research. Discussions with the Topic Sponsor is strongly encouraged. IREFs are submitted via the NRP Topic Portal by NPS faculty. An immediate supervisor at NPS and the Topic Sponsor POC must approve and sign the IREF for it to be considered at the Navy Topics Research Board (TRB) or Marine Executive Research Board (ERB) for potential funding. 

IREF Prioritization

Just prior to  the TRB/ERB, approved IREFs are sent to the sponsoring organization's Topic Sponsor Lead. The Topic Sponsor Lead then coordinates with their organization to internally prioritize the approved IREFs. At this time organizations may also choose to co-sponsor a project or move a project to another sponsor as appropriate for the naval mission.

Navy Topics Research Board (TRB) or Marine Executive Research Board (ERB)

The TRB is a U.S. Navy entity for prioritization and approval of research requirements. The TRB consists of at least one representative from ASN (RDA), N1, N2/N6, N3/N5, N4, N8, N9, and Fleet Force(s). The ERB is the Marine Corps entity for prioritization and approval of research requirements. The ERB consists of at least one representative from I, II, & III MEF, E2O, HQMC Aviation, HQMC I&L, HQMC MR&A, HQMC PP&O, HQMC P&R, CDET, MCCDC, OAD, MARCORSYSCOM, MCWL, MARFORCYBER, and MARFORRES. These organizations will represent Topic Sponsors for projects undertaken within the NPS NRP or comprise the majority of Navy/Marine Corps analysis. They will review, validate, prioritize, and recommend assignment of NPS NRP resources to research projects in order to address specific Navy/Marine Corps research requirements. The TRB/ERB will verify that proposed research is relevant, not duplicative, tied to Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Naval Research, Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Marine Corps Science and Technology Objectives, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Planning Guidance, Department of Defense (DOD), Strategic Guidance, other strategic documents or initiatives such as Research Sponsor vision statements. The TRB/ERB will designate NPS NRP research projects with a status of Requirement (of immediate need to the research sponsors), Tabled (requires more project definition), or Cancelled (project being funded by another Naval entity or of no value). If a proposed IREF is selected as a candidate for funding, the faculty researcher (Principal Investigator (PI)) will then be asked to prepare a detailed research topic proposal and budget. 

Detailed Research Topic Proposal & Budget Submission Package

The detailed research proposal and budget package is the culmination of iterative discussions with the Topic Sponsor. It provides a definitive agreement of the proposed work between the Topic Sponsor and the research PI. Once a PI has developed the formal research topic and budget proposal, an immediate supervisor at NPS and the Topic Sponsor must approve and sign the topic proposal package and submit the completed package to the NRP. A fully completed proposal package must be submitted to and approved by the NRP before funds are released to begin research. It is important that PIs, their supervisors, and Topic Sponsors work closely to complete the package in a timely manner. If a PI fails to submit a completed package to the NRP by the deadline, the funding award may be canceled and awarded to an alternate candidate.

Project Execution/Deliverables

Between October 1st - 15th accounts are funded by the NRP, and PIs can begin their research projects. Students assist faculty in the execution of funded research and production of deliverables. Topic Sponsors are responsible for coordinating with faculty PIs and for oversight of the execution of their individual research projects undertaken under the NPS NRP process. PIs are responsible for all project specific deliverables as outlined and approved in their signed research topic proposal as well as for the NRP specific NRP PI Project Deliverables.


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NPS NRP Joint Logos

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