Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on April 15, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 5, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a focused federal civil engineering research and development (R&D) program. R&D programs should enhance U.S. capabilities, improve efficiencies, and advance the practice of civil engineering to improve the quality of life of individuals, increase the economic competitiveness of public and private sector organizations, and enhance the prosperity of communities. 

ASCE encourages coordinated and integrated basic and applied civil engineering research that leverages federal R&D resources through government-university-industry partnerships. R&D programs fostering basic and applied research should focus on maintaining a steady flow of talent and technologies to organizations across the U.S (government, businesses, and not for profit). R&D programs should also include focusing on higher risk research with the potential for high payoff. Overall, R&D programs should meet national needs by:  

  • Enhancing public health, safety, and welfare.
  • Enhancing environmental quality.
  • Supporting the goals of sustainable development and growth;
  • Developing and improving test methods and standards for evaluating materials, processes, products, and systems.
  • Improving public infrastructure systems. 
  • Improving global competitiveness of U.S. civil engineering products and processes. 
  • Enhancing national security against natural and man-made threats and disasters. 
  • Ensuring national energy security. 
  • Investing consistently in research and development.


Federal leadership is essential to fostering and advancing civil engineering R&D initiatives. Federal R&D funding has historically provided a significant portion of the total U.S. civilian R&D investments. However, since the turn of the 21st century, the federal share of R&D funding has declined significantly (NSF 2020). Inadequate federal funding limits the ability to leverage the potential talents and resources across the U.S. to address pressing current, emergent, and long-term societal needs, and hinders the ability to maximize leveraging of R&D funds through government-university-industry partnerships.


The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s infrastructure a grade of “C-”. To close the $2.58 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2029. Great potential exists to reduce costs and improve performance of the nation’s infrastructure by developing new technologies and processes. The federal government is a significant provider of funding for the nation’s infrastructure and as a result it has an interest in research and development to help reduce cost and improve efficiency and effectiveness of public infrastructure systems. 

ASCE Policy Statement 444
First Approved in 1996