Learn About the NRP

About the Naval Research Program

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Naval Research Program (NRP) is funded by the Chief of Naval Operations and supports research projects for 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. NRP research projects are led by individual research teams that conduct research and through which NPS expertise is developed and maintained. The primary mechanism for obtaining NPS NRP support is through participation at NPS Naval Research Working Group (NRWG) meetings that bring together fleet topic sponsors, NPS faculty members, and students to discuss potential research topics and initiatives.

Download a copy of the NRP Organizational Flyer.

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.

The NPS NRP mission is to: Provide naval relevant research experiences to NPS faculty members, provide operationally relevant thesis opportunities to NPS students, and provide useful results from research projects and studies to topic sponsors across the naval enterprise.

“…maintains a strong, relevant, and viable faculty research effort at the NPS to support core Navy mission and DoD research requirements. Research assures the continued relevance of the NPS faculty capabilities and that the latest processes, materials, and technologies can be transferred to the USN and the USMC to help strengthen the Nation’s defense.” ~OPNAVINST 5450.210E

  • Become a recognized partner from which naval organizations seek out NPS in response to emerging requirements.
  • Develop a ready pool of faculty research expertise to address these requirements.
  • Offer a venue for NPS students to identify thesis research opportunities in areas directly relevant to naval challenges and research needs.
  • Become the recognized leader for providing cutting-edge graduate education for naval officers that includes research complementary to the Navy and Marine Corps R&D requirements.
  • Topic Submission: Submit 365 days a year - FY competition deadline in March or April
  • Naval Research Working Group (USN/USMC): April
  • Initial Research Estimate Form (IREF) Submission and Approval: March to May
  • Topics Review Board (TRB) IREF Review and Ranking/Prioritization: June to July
  • (New in FY22) N7 Studies Team Review and Ranking/Prioritization: July
  • USN/USMC TRB: Late July/Early August
  • Research Proposal Package Submission (NPS Faculty) August to September
  • Begin FY Project Execution: October

Current Topic Submission & Review Cycle Schedule


NRP RDT&E Fiscal Accounting Classification

NRP funds are categorically programed under BA 6 - RDT&E Management Support.

The appropriation of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) receives is separated into eight budget activities (BAs).  The eight BAs are unique to the DoD; they are not used by other federal government agencies.

The definitions of the RDT&E BAs may be found in Volume 2B, Chapter 5, Section 050105 of the DoD's Financial Management Regulations (FMR) with the exception of BA 8 Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs.  BA 8 is new in Fiscal Year 2021 and the FMR has yet to be updated.

The Congressional Research Service's report, Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure, is a great primer for colleagues from Private Sector, Academia, Non-Governmental Organizations, and state and federal agencies alike.

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.

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.

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. Budget Activity 3 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. (For further discussion on Technology Readiness Levels, see the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guidance.) 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.

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.

System Development and Demonstration (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, demonstration to support Milestone C decisions, 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.

This budget activity includes management support for 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 in this budget.

Amplifying Information: NPS NRP research and analysis activities serve as a focal point, stimulus, and major source of strategic, tactical and operational thought within the Navy communities. These efforts generate strategic and operational alternatives, tactical imperatives, quantitative analyses, technical assessments, and political-military assessments. Also, provide recommendations to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Fleet Commanders and numbered Fleet Commanders regarding the formulation and execution of maritime options for the President of the United States. Research will be conducted to support graduate students theses determination and completion as part of Faculty projects. These research activities also serve as a means for OPNAV Resource Sponsors and Major Commands to have analysis and decision support research conducted in the uses of the applied, soft, and hard sciences in solving diverse and complex resource allocation and strategic issues facing the Navy today and envisioned in the future.

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 approval for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). 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.

From Section 8061 of the Presidential Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2021 (PB21) Department of Defense (DoD) Programs, (a) Amounts provided in appropriations for research, development, test and evaluation appropriations provided in titles IV and VI of this Act for designated Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs may be used for expenses necessary for agile development, test and evaluation, procurement, production and modification, and the operation and maintenance of Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs. (b) In addition to use for research, development, test and evaluation activities, programs designated as Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs by the Secretary of Defense or the explanatory statement accompanying this Act may use research, development, test and evaluation appropriations for expenses necessary for agile procurement, production and modification, and the operation and maintenance of Pilot Program requirements. (c) Software and Digital Technology Pilot Program requirements eligible for funding under this provision include software, electronic tools, systems, applications, resources, acquisition of services, business process re-engineering activities, functional requirements development, technical evaluations, and other activities in direct support of acquiring, developing, deploying, sustaining, enhancing, and modernizing Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs. (d) Additional Software and Digital Technology Pilot Programs may be initiated with prior notification to the congressional defense committees. (e) Removal of Pilot Programs.—A system project participating in the Pilot Program may be removed from the Program if the project has not been successful in meeting criteria established for the Pilot Program by the Secretary of Defense. (White House 2020, p. 97)

Topic Submission and Review Cycle

Research Topic Submission and Review Cycle

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 March/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 {NRWG Input}

Topic Sponsors from the Navy and Marine Corps enter topics in the NRP Topic Portal. Topics may also be entered by NPS faculty and students as well as other DoD partners but must have a Navy/Marine Topic Sponsor established prior to faculty submission of an Initial Research Estimate Form (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 NPS faculty and student research consideration (pending NRP approval) and subsequently, via the (NPS faculty submitted) IREF process, for potential NRP research funding.

Topic Alignment Guidance (TAG): All Topics must be directly aligned with Navy and/or Marine guidance: Derived from CNO Strategic Guidance (CNOG), CNO Navigation Plan, Commandant’s Planning Guidance (CPG), CPG Implementation Plan, Force Design, or Tri-Service Maritime Strategy. Topics outside of this guidance will not be considered for selection and funding.

RDT&E funds used for the NRP are currently categorized as “BA6-RDT&E Management Support” only. Therefore, topics and subsequent IREFs submitted for consideration must be scoped within the BA6 RDT&E category. 


Naval Research Working Group (NRWG)

The NRWG is the primary synchronization and collaboration event for Topic Sponsors, NPS students 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, NPS faculty and students are encouraged to browse topics and reach out to Topic Sponsors to discuss topics of interest, irrespective to the funding cycle. Some Topic Sponsor organizations may choose to participate in the NPS NRP process to take advantage of the exchanges facilitated between Topic Sponsors and NPS faculty and students. They may then choose to work directly with NPS faculty and/or students to scope a project and provide their own external funding to complete the research.

IREF Submission {NRWG Output}

The NRP IREF is used by eligible NPS faculty 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. RDT&E funds used for the NRP are currently categorized as “BA6-RDT&E Management Support” only (see above). Therefore, IREFs submitted for consideration must be scoped within the BA6 RDT&E category. 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/marine Corps Topics Research Board (TRB) for potential funding.

IREF Prioritization

Just prior to the TRB, approved IREFs are sent to the sponsoring organization's Topic Sponsor Lead/TRB representative. The Topic Sponsor Lead then coordinates with their organization leadership to internally align and prioritize approved IREFs. During the review and prioritization phase leading up to the TRB, individual Topic Sponsors should coordinate with their TRB Lead to discuss (advocate) the importance of the research and answer any questions the TRB Lead may have. 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.

Topic Alignment Guidance (TAG): IREFs will be prioritized primarily based on their topic alignment to the: 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance (CPG), Climate Action 2030, CNO Navigation Plan 2022, CNO Strategic Guidance (CNOG) 25, CPG Implementation Plan, DoD Digital Engineering Strategy, Force Design 2030, Force Design 2045, Installations and Logistics 2030, NAVPLAN Implementation Framework (NIF), ONR Naval Science and Technology Strategy, Talent Management 2030, Training and Education 2030, the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy and/or other service-level guidance. IREFs not clearly aligned to documented service needs or capability gaps are acceptable but will have lower priority.

Once Topic Sponsor Lead/TRB representatives have completed and returned their prioritizations, the N7 Studies Team and NRP will use the provided prioritization lists to organize all projects into an overall prioritized ranking. The overall ranking will lead the funding decisions at the Topic Review Board (TRB) meeting.

Navy and Marine Corps Topics Review Board (TRB)

The TRB is the Navy/Marine Corps entity for prioritization and approval of research requirements.

The TRB consists of at least one representative from 

NAVY: ASN (RDA), N1, N2/N6, N3/N5, N4, N7, N8, N9, and Fleet Forces Command;


Topics with approved Initial Research Estimate Forms (IREFS) are represented at the TRB by a senior representative of one of these organizations as appropriate. 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 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.

Detailed Research Topic Proposal & Budget Submission Package

If a proposed IREF is selected as a candidate for funding at the TRB, the faculty researcher (Principal Investigator (PI)) will then be asked to prepare a detailed research topic proposal and budget. 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 NRP, the Topic Sponsor and the research PI. RDT&E funds used for the NRP are currently categorized as “BA6-RDT&E Management Support” only. Therefore, proposals submitted for consideration must be scoped within the BA6 RDT&E category. Once a PI has developed the formal research topic and budget proposal, the Topic Sponsor must approve and sign the topic proposal package and the PI must then 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

In late October initial FY 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.