Section 4. Research, Development, and Technology Strategic Planning

Section 4. Research, Development, and Technology Strategic Planning

RITA works with the DOT operating administrations to define Departmental RD&T priorities and ensure program effectiveness.

With the establishment of RITA, DOT is putting into place an integrated RD&T planning process aligned with the DOT Strategic Plan . This cyclical process tracks multi-year priorities with annual budgets and goals. Within this framework, DOT's operating administrations continue to conduct RD&T activities based on their agency missions, interactions with stakeholders, and knowledge of transportation technologies and challenges.

RITA works with the DOT operating administrations to define Departmental RD&T priorities and ensure program effectiveness. RITA also fosters collaboration in RD&T activities—within DOT; across the Government; and with partners in state and local agencies, not-for-profit institutions, academia, and industry.

To assist RITA with RD&T planning, the Department recently established two internal bodies:

  • RD&T Planning Council : The RD&T Planning Council ensures crossmodal collaboration and coordination of RD&T within DOT and with external entities. Chaired by the RITA Administrator, the council comprises the heads of the operating administrations, the Under Secretary for Policy, and other senior leaders from the Office of the Secretary.
  • RD&T Planning Team : The RD&T Planning Team assists the RD&T Planning Council and the RITA Administrator in ensuring crossmodal collaboration and coordination of RD&T. It is chaired by RITA's Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Technology and includes the Associate Administrators for RD&T in the operating administrations (or their equivalent) and comparable officials from the Office of the Secretary.

Both the Planning Council and Planning Team collaborate with other DOT coordination bodies, such as the ITS Management Council, the HFCC, the Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting, and the Hydrogen Working Group.

Strategic Planning Process

As depicted in Figure 4-1, DOT's RD&T planning process has three elements: multi-year strategic planning, annual program planning, and budget and performance planning.

Multi-year Strategic Planning

RITA works with the RD&T Planning Council to define long-term, multi-year RD&T strategies for incorporation into DOT's Strategic Plan .

  • Administration and Secretarial priorities are communicated through policy guidance from the RITA Administrator, the RD&T Planning Council, and the Under Secretary for Policy.
  • The DOT operating administrations determine their individual priorities, based on mission requirements and customer needs, and how they can best address Administration and Secretarial priorities.
  • The RD&T Planning Team develops recommendations for DOT-wide priorities for review by the Planning Council. In addition to Secretarial and operating administration priorities, these recommendations are based on the results of technology scans, stakeholder outreach, interactions with other agencies, and knowledge of emerging issues and problems. The approved RD&T priorities will be incorporated into the next DOT Strategic Plan .
  • Working with DOT's operating administrations, RITA prepares a multi-year strategic RD&T plan that defines RD&T priorities and goals; supporting programs; and the roles of other agencies, state and local governments, and others.

RITA will complete a multi-year strategic RD&T plan by September 2006, when the next DOT Strategic Plan is submitted to Congress.

Annual Program Planning

Annual RD&T planning flows from DOT's multi-year planning and is linked to the budget process. Figure 4-2 shows the annual planning cycle.

  • DOT's operating administrations determine their annual RD&T needs—based on mission requirements, customer needs, and interactions with outside peer partners—and how they will address Departmental priorities.
  • Departmental priorities are communicated through executive and policy guidance from the Office of the Secretary based on the recommendations of the RITA Administrator and the RD&T Planning Council.
  • Considering both DOT and operating administration priorities, the RD&T Planning Team develops recommendations for DOT-wide annual priorities and submits them to the RD&T Planning Council. Approved priorities are included in OST's budget guidance to the operating administrations for the upcoming fiscal year and in the annual RD&T plan submitted to Congress.

This annual process will be reflected in DOT's FY 2007 budget request and RD&T plan.

Budget and Performance Planning

Regular communication with stakeholders is an underlying element of DOT's entire RD&T planning process.

RITA works with the RD&T Planning Council and RD&T Planning Team to support RD&T budgeting and performance assessment:

  • RITA supports the Planning Council and Planning Team in assessing operating administrations' implementation of the Administration's RD&T investment criteria. This process builds on program reviews held for FY 2005. (See Appendix B.)
  • RITA assists the RD&T Planning Team in the review of RD&T budgets to ensure consistency with Departmental priorities.
  • RITA works with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that RD&T performance mandates are met and that performance plans include measures and targets for RD&T.

Implementation of this process has already begun for the FY 2007 RD&T budget cycle.

Coordination with Stakeholders

Regular communication with stakeholders is an underlying element of DOT's entire RD&T planning process. At both the Departmental level and in the DOT operating administrations, such efforts ensure the effectiveness of RD&T and avoid unnecessary duplication.

DOT-wide External Coordination

Most recently, DOT solicited input from a range of stakeholders in preparing this Report to Congress. Stakeholder views were obtained through three means: a Listening Session hosted by the RSPA Deputy Administrator on January 10 in conjunction with the TRB annual meeting; a notice in the Federal Register on January 26; and a dedicated email address. The accompanying box summarizes these outreach efforts .

External Coordination in the DOT Operating Administrations

Within DOT's operating administrations, stakeholder input and review are essential for establishing RD&T priorities and programs. Examples of these activities include:

  • FAA: One way in which the FAA ensures RD&T effectiveness is its Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee (REDAC). Established by Congress in 1989, this committee reports to the FAA Administrator on RD&T issues and provides a link between agency research and similar efforts in industry, academia, and government. The committee meets twice a year with FAA senior managers and annually reviews the FAA's RD&T budget. Members represent corporations, universities, associations, consumers, and other agencies. Another body, the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, advises on RD&T in commercial space transportation safety.
  • FHWA: In the FHWA, the TRB Research and Technology Coordinating Committee reviews RD&T, advises on research activities, and provides policy-level recommendations on program direction. The committee consists of 18 members from the states, academia, and private sector. The FHWA also has broad interaction with stakeholder groups, such as the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials, and engages customers throughout the RD&T planning process. For stakeholder input to the ITS program, the FHWA had previously relied on ITS America as a Utilized Federal Advisory Committee. The Department has determined that this program has matured to the point where a formal DOT Advisory Committee is needed, and is in the process of establishing such a body.
  • FMCSA: The FMCSA gets input on its Research and Technology (R&T) Program from various stakeholders, including the National Transportation Safety Board, safety advocacy groups, the national enforcement community, the motor carrier industry, commercial driver groups, truck manufacturers, the driver training community, sleep researchers, insurance representatives, truck manufacturers, and the motor coach industry. The agency holds annual stakeholder forums to solicit recommendations for R&T projects and improved program planning. This input is reflected in a recently completed 5-year strategic plan and in annual budget submissions.
  • FRA: FRA research is guided by both internal and external stakeholders, including the FRA Office of Safety, the Association of American Railroads, the American Public Transportation Association, the Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing Research Needs Conference, and state transportation officials. External review is provided by the TRB Committee for Review of the FRA Research, Development, and Demonstration Programs. This committee—which represents states, railroads, labor unions, universities, and financial institutions—annually assesses all FRA RD&T programs.
  • FTA: Formed in October 2003 under the TRB, the FTA's Transit Research Analysis Committee assesses research needs and advises the agency on (1) the Federal role in transit research; (2) high-priority research opportunities; and (3) processes for ensuring that the FTA receives input and cooperation from stakeholders. Members represent transit authorities, community service agencies, state DOTs, research institutes, consulting firms, and equipment manufacturers.
  • MARAD: Although MARAD receives no direct RD&T funding, the agency works closely with stakeholders to stimulate innovation through collaborative efforts such as the Marine Transportation System initiative, the Short Sea Shipping Cooperative Program, the Ship Operations Cooperative Program, the Marine Energy and Emissions Technologies Program, and several other cooperative research programs. This approach brings together the maritime industry, academia, and agencies to identify, coordinate, facilitate, and accomplish maritime RD&T. Recommendations for future research also come from the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council, a Federal Advisory Council to MARAD.
  • NHTSA: NHTSA assures the quality and effectiveness of its research through several means, including regular public meetings with stakeholders. Such meetings provide a forum in which researchers can present their work, respond to comments, and obtain broad input on the agency's RD&T program.
  • PHMSA: PHMSA's pipeline safety program relies on stakeholder involvement, including R&D Forums and meetings of a Blue Ribbon Panel, to make sure that RD&T is aligned with the pipeline safety mission, makes use of the best available knowledge and expertise, and considers stakeholder perspectives. Stakeholders represented include Federal and state agencies, industry, pipeline trade associations, and standards organizations. The PHMSA Office of Hazardous Materials Safety conducts its RD&T activities in consultation with other agencies, state and local governments, international organizations, the regulated industry, and the interested public.
  • RITA: RITA will work with stakeholders to ensure the effectiveness of its RD&T planning efforts and to identify RD&T priorities. In addition, RITA will rely on the Advisory Council for Transportation Statistics for advice on the quality and objectivity of BTS data and analyses.

Interagency Coordination

As the agency with the most direct responsibility for transportation, DOT leads transportation RD&T in the Government. To further this role, RITA works closely with other agencies to avoid research duplication and leverage Federal investments.

Departmental-level RD&T Coordination

At the Federal level, DOT coordinates RD&T with other agencies through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the NSTC. Chaired by the President, the NSTC is a cabinet-level council that coordinates science and technology policies across the Government. Within DOT, RITA's role is to facilitate participation in NSTC initiatives—including the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Hydrogen Initiative, Manufacturing R&D Initiative, and National Imagery Initiative—to leverage agencies' research investments and to communicate DOT RD&T needs.

Operating Administration Coordination and Partnerships

DOT's operating administrations coordinate with other agencies in specific areas of mutual interest. Among the agencies with which the administrations collaborate are the following:

  • Department of Commerce : Within the Department of Commerce (DOC), a number of agencies conduct research relevant to transportation. Current DOT efforts with DOC include: (1) FHWA work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on high-performance concrete; (2) FHWA - National Weather Service research on road weather observations; (3) an FRA - NIST effort on the fire safety of passenger rail car materials; and (4) the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), through which the FAA, DOC, NASA, DOD, and DHS are defining the future air transportation system.
  • Department of Defense : The DOD accounts for a large proportion of all Federal RD&T. Examples of collaborative work with DOT include: (1) FHWA - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies on concrete curing and pavement performance; (2) FHWA work with the Navy on high-performance steel for bridges; (3) the FAA-NASA-DOD Aviation Safety Program; (4) FRA work on a Rail Car Inspection Guide for the military through DOD's Technical Support Working Group; and (5) the JPDO.
  • Department of Energy : The DOE conducts research in alternative fuels, propulsion systems, and related technologies. Current DOT - DOE efforts include: (1) joint implementation of the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative; (2) FAA work with Sandia National Laboratories' Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence ; and (3) joint demonstrations and tests of technologies for detecting chemical, biological, and explosive agents.
  • Department of Homeland Security : DOT collaboration with the DHS includes: (1) Operation Safe Commerce, a public-private partnership providing a test-bed for technologies that increase container security; (2) FRA - DHS research on the real-time tracking of hazardous-materials tank cars and the development of a rail addendum to the overall DOT - DHS Memorandum of Understanding; (3) FMCSA - TSA efforts on two projects: Untethered Trailer Tracking and Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks; (4) FHWA support for development of an advanced Driver Training Range at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; and (5) FAA - DHS collaboration through the JPDO.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration : NASA and the FAA are full research partners. Examples include: (1) coordination at the senior management level through the FAA - NASA Executive Committee; (2) working-level coordination through the Interagency Air Traffic Management Integrated Product Team and the FAA - NASA Aviation Safety Program; (3) joint meetings of NASA's and FAA's research advisory committees; (4) FAA - NASA research on aircraft noise and emissions reduction; and (5) joint development of technologies for the future air transportation system through the JPDO. In addition to NASA's work with the FAA, the agency cooperates with RITA on the transportation remote sensing program described in the accompanying box.
  • National Science Foundation : An independent agency, the NSF seeks to strengthen U.S. science and engineering through education and research. The NSF also engages in cooperative research, such as (1) a DOT - NSF Partnership for Research in Information and Communications Systems for Surface Transportation; and (2) a project with the FHWA and state DOTs on the long-term durability of materials and structures.