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Demystifying DoD funding: Understanding the Heilmeier Catechism

At NCBiotech's Bio Defense Grantsmanship Training Event on April 15, the keynote speaker  Dr. Julie Lucas gave a great rundown of the Department of Defense (DoD) funding process – from how opportunities are publicly offered (RFI, RFP, BAA, etc.) to how they are reviewed and evaluated. She encouraged everyone considering an opportunity with the DoD to become familiar with the Heilmeier Catechism, which is standard part of the DoD review process. 


When George Heilmeier was the director of ARPA in the mid 1970s, he had a standard set of questions he expected every proposal for a new research program to answer. These have been called the Heilmeier Catechism. It's a good exercise to answer these questions for any research project, but its particularly important when working with agencies whose reviewers may not be experts in your particular area.  Having these questions clearly addressed will greatly increase chances of DoD interest in your project.

These are the questions which make up the catechism: 

1. What is the problem, why is it hard? 
2. How is it solved today? 
3. What is the new technical idea; why can we succeed now? 
4. What is the impact if successful? 
5. How will the program be organized? 
6. How will intermediate results be generated? 
7. How will you measure progress? 
8. What will it cost?

You may think you’ve already answered these, but take a look at your draft with fresh eyes - these answers should be clear and easily accessible to any reader, even one who is not familiar with your area of research.

Stay tuned for more informative events sponsored by NCBiotech’s Bio Defense Initiative.

Questions? Send me an email at

The next blog post will focus on "Lessons Learned from Those Who Started Where You Are Now."

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