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Guidelines Regarding Non-Competitive Awards

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Overview of NIJ Funding Practices

NIJ's core mission is to provide objective, independent evidence-based knowledge and tools to advance criminal justice policy and practice in the United States. NIJ also carries out equipment, training and technical assistance programs that are intended to enhance the capacity of law enforcement and corrections agencies, public crime laboratories and related agencies, and criminal justice courts agencies.

NIJ's work is conducted primarily through extramural grants, agreements and contracts. NIJ uses both cooperative agreements, which are a type of grant, and agreements with other Federal agencies.

NIJ funds research, development, and evaluation activities to meet the challenges of crime and justice primarily through competitive grant solicitations. The focus of the solicitations varies from year-to-year based on research priorities and available funding.

To a lesser extent, NIJ funds research, development, and evaluation activities through agreements with other Federal agencies. Those agreements may be non-competitive in nature.[1]

NIJ also awards grants intended to assist the nation's public crime laboratories and related agencies. NIJ's formula grant programs make non-competitive awards in amounts based on a predetermined formula.

Exclusive of its formula grants programs, in fiscal year 2015, less than one percent of the total amount of NIJ's annual awards was non-competitive.

NIJ's Policy on Non-Competitive Awards

The current administration places a high-priority on transparency and fairness and one of NIJ's guiding principles is that government-funded research must adhere to processes of fair and open competition guided by rigorous peer review. However, there are times when making non-competitive awards is necessary. NIJ's policy is to make non-competitive awards only under the following circumstances:

  • Only one reasonable source — instances where only one responsible applicant can perform the work of the proposed award. Circumstances under which this may occur include when the NIJ Director has determined in writing that:
    • The applicant has proprietary information or proposes a project involving a unique idea, method, or approach toward advancing criminal justice, policy, and practice in the United States.
    • The applicant has made a substantial investment in an activity that would advance criminal justice policy and practice in the United States. The majority of NIJ's non-competitive awards to other Federal agencies fall into this category. These agreements are developed to leverage the investment or infrastructure of these agencies to criminal justice application.
    • The applicant is the only entity known to possess the capability to perform the work.
  • Compelling public interest — instances where the NIJ Director has determined in writing that exigent, urgent, or other compelling circumstances exist that make it in the public interest to make an award non-competitively. One example of such an instance might be an unusual and compelling urgency to execute a pilot project within a short window of opportunity to affect a public policy decision.
  • Statutory requirements — instances where a funding recipient is specified by an appropriations act or other applicable law.
  • Recommendations in Congressional reports, when a non-competitive award would be consistent with applicable law — instances where a House, Senate or Conference Report accompanying an appropriations act or other law recommends an award to a particular recipient, and an award may be made consistent with applicable law, including any applicable executive orders.

Only intended recipients for non-competitive awards are invited to apply. Those entities submit their applications under "Continuation" solicitations in the OJP Grants Management System.

In keeping with Executive Order 12988, nothing in this guideline is intended to create any legal or procedural rights enforceable against the United States. Read the full text of Executive Order 12988 — Civil Justice Reform (pdf, 8 pages).


[note 1] NIJ formula grant programs in Fiscal Year 2014 included the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program and the DNA Backlog Reduction Program.

Date Created: January 28, 2010