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Policy Statement 444 - The Role of the Federal Government in Civil Engineering Research and Development

Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 15, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a focused federal civil engineering research and development (R&D) program. R&D programs should promote new U.S. capabilities, improve efficiencies, and advance the practice of civil engineering to improve the quality of life. 

ASCE encourages coordinated and integrated basic and applied civil engineering research that leverages federal R&D funds through government-university-industry partnerships. R&D programs fostering basic research should focus on maintaining a steady flow of talent and technology to U.S. industry and agencies. R&D programs focusing on higher risk research with the potential for high payoff should meet national needs and improve the quality of life by:

  • Enhancing public health, safety, and welfare;
  • Enhancing environmental quality;
  • Supporting the goals of sustainable development;
  • Developing and improving test methods and standards for evaluating materials, products, and systems;
  • Improving public works infrastructure; 
  • Improving global competitiveness in U.S. civil engineering products and processes;
  • Enhancing national security against terrorism and other threats;
  • Ensuring national energy security; and
  • Improving the utilization of Life-Cycle Cost Analysis. 


Federal R&D funding currently provides a substantial percentage of the total U.S. civilian R&D investment. Federal leadership is essential to civil engineering research.  Inadequate federal funding hinders the ability to maximize the leveraging of R&D funds through government-university-industry partnerships.


The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation's infrastructure a grade of "D+". To close the $2 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 percent to 3.5 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. Great potential exists to reduce cost and improve performance of the nation's infrastructure by developing new technologies and processes. The federal government is one of the largest providers of funding for the nation's infrastructure and as a result it has an interest in research and development to reduce cost and improve performance. 

ASCE Policy Statement 444
First Approved in 1996