CDMRP Funding and Review Process (text)

CDMRP Funding and Review Process

Welcome to the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs overview, highlighting the CDMRP’s funding and review process.

The CDMRP plays a significant role in the medical research funding landscape. This is a snapshot of the diverse range of research program areas, with their associated funding, that is currently managed or supported by the CDMRP. Over the years, the CDMRP has continued to evolve as new programs and topic areas were added and a few were no longer included — all as directed by Congressional legislation, a majority in response to requests by consumers and disease survivors.

The CDMRP is the leading funder for neurofibromatosis-specific research, and the second largest funder for research in breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer, as well as in Gulf War Illness and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.

Each year, the CDMRP receives thousands of pre-applications and full applications for consideration across the portfolio of research programs. Since fiscal year 1993, the CDMRP has managed almost 16,000 awards.

The CDMRP has developed and uses common program management approaches, yet each program has individually tailored goals and a unique vision to enable it to meet the specialized needs of their research and advocacy communities. The CDMRP uses a flexible program cycle for each Congressional appropriation to accommodate all stages of the process, from the development of investment strategies to the completion of research grants. The cycle begins with the receipt of a Congressional fiscal year appropriation. The first major milestone in the cycle is the Vision Setting meeting during which the program assesses the research landscape, and develops an investment strategy that is implemented through program-specific funding opportunities.

For each research program appropriation, a Programmatic Panel convenes for a Vision Setting meeting in order to establish program goals, research priorities, award mechanisms, and an associated funding strategy for consideration. In advance of the meeting, panel members are provided with a variety of supporting information relevant to the program, such as the Congressional language, the research landscape and emerging technologies, underfunded areas of potential importance and impact, and the program’s historical investment portfolio and outcome data from past funding initiatives. At the Vision Setting meeting, the panel members discuss these variables, develop vision and mission statements, and the overall strategic plan for the program.

And from these discussions emerge recommendations for award mechanisms that meet program goals and address gaps in the areas considered the most critical to patients, consumers, clinicians, and laboratory researchers. Some award mechanisms also support the training and mentoring of the next generation of scientists or bringing new investigators into the field to ensure that the best possible researchers will be available to focus their efforts on specific research areas.

After the Vision Setting meeting, CDMRP Program Staff present the Programmatic Panel Members’ investment strategy recommendations to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, or USAMRMC. Program Staff manage the development of the funding opportunity announcements for the coming year in coordination with the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, or USAMRAA. The research community is alerted to upcoming program funding opportunity releases through the CDMRP website and listserve email notifications. And funding opportunities are posted on the web site; the electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal system, or eBRAP; the CDMRP website; and

For some funding opportunities, an additional programmatic pre-application screening process is used prior to application submission to focus resources, including those of the applicant, the reviewers, and the program, on proposed projects that best meet the intent of the award mechanisms. Investigators of favorably reviewed pre-applications are then invited to submit full applications. Once applications are received, the two-tier review process comes into play. As mentioned earlier, the CDMRP adopted this process based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, or IOM. The 1993 IOM report recommended a two-tier review that reflects not only the traditional strengths of existing peer review systems, but is tailored to accommodate individual program goals. The two tiers of review are peer review and programmatic review.

Overall, the goal of the two-tier review process is to develop funding recommendations that balance the most meritorious science across many disciplines and offer the highest promise to fulfill the programmatic goals set forth in the relevant funding opportunity. To meet this goal, the CDMRP manages partnerships between the two levels of review, and each level has its own dedicated objectives and outcomes. Consumers serve as full voting members at both peer and programmatic review, and play a major role in maintaining the focus of the respective program on research that is relevant, and has the potential to make a significant impact on the community affected.

Peer Review, the first tier, follows a criteria-based process in which applications are evaluated individually based on their scientific and technical merit by reviewers organized by scientific discipline or specialty area. Peer review panels consist of the experts that are needed to evaluate the proposals that are received, and include scientists, clinicians, and specialists, as well as consumers. Unlike other funding agencies, there are no standing peer review panels. Reviewer identities remain unknown to applicants, and contact between applicants and reviewers is not permitted. The outcome from peer review is the Summary Statement, which includes a score for overall merit, individual evaluation criterion scores, and a written critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the application. Evaluation criteria include the relative impact of the proposed research and the research strategy feasibility, as well as other mechanism-specific requirements. The Summary Statement serves as the basis for the second tier of review and provides valuable feedback to the applicant.

Programmatic Review, the second tier of review, is conducted by the Programmatic Panel. It is a comparison-based process in which applications compete within a common pool. Scientific merit is just one of several criteria used by the Programmatic Panel to recommend applications to fund that best meet the goals of the program. When considering applications for funding, the Programmatic Panel turns to the Summary Statements and associated scores from peer review, as well as abstracts and other supporting documentation. The Programmatic Panel members do not automatically recommend funding for all submissions that are highly scored by the peer review panels. Rather, they compare applications against each other using programmatic evaluation criteria to recommend a broad portfolio of grants for funding that reflect the investment strategy for that particular program cycle. Each Programmatic Panel is composed of a balanced, multidisciplinary group of research scientists, clinicians, and consumers. The scientific members of the Programmatic Panel represent diverse disciplines and specialty areas, and consumers represent advocacy, support, or outreach organizations. After programmatic review, funding recommendation lists are generated and submitted to the Commanding General, USAMRMC, for final approval.

Once funding recommendations are approved, all applicants are informed of their award status. Negotiations begin, and awards are made to the relevant organizations. By the end of the second fiscal year, applications are received, scientific and programmatic reviews are conducted, award negotiations are completed, and funds are awarded. During subsequent fiscal years, the research is performed and science management of the grants is conducted. Science management is tailored to fit each award and may involve written report reviews, site visits, and other dissemination of research findings.

The CDMRP strives for transparency in its review and management processes, providing a wide array of information, including Programmatic Panel members, peer review panelists, searchable data on funded applications with abstracts and funding amounts, and research accomplishments to the public on the CDMRP website and in each year's Annual Report to Congress. For more information, please visit us at Thank you for your interest in the CDRMP.

Last updated Monday, January 3, 2022