Military Wiki

IDA logo

The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) is an American non-profit corporation that administers three federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) to assist the United States government in addressing important national security issues, particularly those requiring scientific and technical expertise. It is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.


IDA only works for the US government. To avoid institutional pressures to support Service positions, IDA does not work directly for the military departments. Also, to ensure freedom from commercial or other potential conflicts of interest, IDA does not work for private industry.[1]

Two of the centers primarily serve the Department of Defense and the third serves the Executive Office of the President. Throughout its history, IDA also has assisted other federal agencies. Recent work includes research performed in support of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Director of National Intelligence, and others.[2]


Studies and Analyses Center

The Studies and Analyses Center is the largest of IDA’s three FFRDCs and is co-located with the IDA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The center supports the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the unified military commands. It includes the following divisions:[3]

  • Cost Analysis and Research Division (CARD).
  • Information Technology and Systems Division (ITSD).
  • Intelligence Analyses Division (IAD).
  • Joint Advanced Warfighting Division (JAWD).
  • Operational Evaluation Division (OED).
  • Science and Technology Division (STD).
  • Strategy, Forces and Resources Division (SFRD).
  • System Evaluation Division (SED).

Communications and Computing Centers

The communications and computing centers support the National Security Agency.[4] One is the Bowie Supercomputer Research Center in Bowie MD.

Science and Technology Policy Institute

The Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), located in Washington, D.C., supports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.[5]


IDA and STPI employ approximately 1,500 research, professional, adjunct, and support staff. Many have attended the nation's military service academies or served in the military. Approximately 61% hold doctoral degrees; 29.3% hold master's degrees; and 8.9% hold bachelors' degrees. As of December 2008, the staff specialized in the following research disciplines:

Studies and Analyses Center
  • Math, Statistics, or Operations Research: 13.4%
  • Engineering: 24.9%
  • Physical Sciences or Life Sciences: 24.3%
  • Economics, Social Sciences, or Political Science: 20.2%
  • Computer Science: 6.6%
  • Other (includes Business Administration/Management or Humanities): 10.2%
Science & Technology Policy Institute
  • Engineering: 13%
  • Physical Sciences or Life Sciences: 30.4%
  • Economics, Social Sciences, or Political Science: 34.8%
  • Computer Science: 4.3%
  • Other (includes Business Administration/Management or Humanities): 17.4%
Centers for Communications and Computing
  • Math, Statistics, or Operations Research: 62.7%
  • Engineering: 11.9%
  • Physical Sciences or Life Sciences: 2.2%
  • Computer Science: 18.7% [6]


Two ideas critical to IDA’s birth emerged from World War II. The first was the necessity for unifying the several Services into a single, coordinated department. The second was the realization of the strength of the relationship between science—and scientists—and national security. The first reached fruition when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Acts of 1947 and 1949, creating the Department of Defense. (In 1947 the Department of War had been renamed the National Military Establishment. From it the present Defense Department was created in 1949.)

To give the nascent Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) the technical expertise and analytic resources to hold its own and to help make unification a reality, James Forrestal, the Department’s first Secretary, established the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG) in 1948 to assist OSD and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by:

  • Bringing scientific and technical as well as operational military expertise to bear in evaluating weapons systems;
  • Employing advanced techniques of scientific analysis and operations research in the process; and
  • Approaching its tasks from an impartial, supra-Service perspective.

The demands on WSEG were more than its small staff of military and civilian analysts could satisfy, and by the early years of the Dwight Eisenhower administration, there were calls for change. The several options gradually coalesced into one and, in 1955, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked James R. Killian, Jr., then President of MIT, to help establish a consortium of major research universities to sponsor a civilian, nonprofit research institute. And so, in April 1956, IDA was incorporated as a non-profit organization. In 1958, at the request of the Secretary of Defense, IDA established a division to support the newly created Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), later renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Shortly after its creation, the mandate of this division was broadened to include scientific and technical studies for all offices of the Director of Defense, Research and Engineering (DDR&E).[2]

Universities overseeing IDA expanded from the five initial members in 1956 — Caltech, Case Western Reserve, MIT, Stanford and Tulane — to twelve by 1964 with the addition of California, Chicago, Columbia, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Princeton. University oversight of IDA ended in 1968 in the aftermath of Vietnam War-related demonstrations at Princeton, Columbia, and other member universities.

IDA’s support of the National Security Agency began at its request in 1959, when it established the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, New Jersey. Additional requests from NSA in 1984 and 1989 led respectively to what is now called the Center for Computing Sciences in Bowie, Maryland and to a second Center for Communications Research in La Jolla, California. These groups, which conduct research in cryptology and information operations, comprise IDA’s Communications and Computing FFRDC.

In 2003, IDA assumed responsibility for the Science and Technology Policy Institute, a separate FFRDC providing technical and analytic support to the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, and to other executive branch organizations.[7]

Other information

In order to preserve its impartiality, IDA maintains a low profile and minimizes contact with the press. However, IDA's status as a defense-related organization has sparked controversy, most notably during the Columbia University protests of 1968.

In Fiction

The independent positioning (vis-à-vis intelligence and defense community) of the organisation was emulated in the TV series for their fictional American Policy Institute.



External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from [[Wikipedia:{{subst:PAGENAME}} Wikipedia]] (view authors).