DOE must better assess manufacturing rules, GAO says

By Brian Dabbs | 06/25/2024 06:49 AM EDT

The department’s policy aims to ensure that foreign companies don’t benefit from taxpayer-funded technologies.

Department of Energy headquarters in Washington.

Department of Energy headquarters in Washington. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Department of Energy has not studied whether its domestic manufacturing rules actually keep agency-funded technologies in the U.S., according to a new federal watchdog report.

The Government Accountability Office examined DOE’s manufacturing requirements for its research and development awards. The agency has long allowed national labs and universities to patent DOE-funded investments, and it updated its rules in 2021 to ensure those patents don’t benefit companies with foreign ties.

But GAO found that DOE is falling short in evaluating the rules, despite collecting data on applicant interest and the technology transfer process.


“DOE has not yet established a strategy or approach for how it will use these data to assess whether its policy is achieving its objectives,” GAO said in the report. “In particular, it has not specified a measure of progress toward its objective of increasing domestic manufacturing by reducing offshoring of DOE-funded technologies.”