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Portfolio Structure and Linkages

NIFA defines a portfolio as:

A set of continuing, NIFA-funded activities broadly focused on a current and/or emerging issue of societal importance and serves as the foundation for agency planning and assessment.

The whole point of portfolios is to focus planning and assessment activities at a level discrete enough to be manageable yet broad enough to allow for meaningful resource allocation (including budget formulation) decisions. Portfolios are usually funded by multiple appropriation lines. In fact, NIFA's largest appropriations support most or all of the portfolios. These appropriations, comprising almost 80% of the agency budget, are:

  • Hatch Act
  • National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program
  • Smith-Lever
  • Evans-Allen
  • 1890 Extension

These and smaller, more specific appropriations are gathered together in a portfolio for planning and assessment purposes.

NIFA uses knowledge areas (KAs), which are part of the CRIS classification system to link portfolios, the agency strategic plan, and funded activities. The CRIS classification system is used to assign dollars to discrete projects and grants in the CRIS system and to assign dollars to planned programs for formula grants in the AREERA Plan of Work system. The result is that NIFA is able to track its budget and funded activities by area of interest.

A crosswalk between KAs and the goals and objectives of the NIFA Strategic Plan can be found as Appendix D in the Strategic Plan.

Utilizing the KAs of the CRIS Classification System, a portfolio is operationally defined by specific KAs.

A portfolio is operationally defined by a unique set of primary knowledge areas (KAs) supplemented by secondary KAs that may be shared with other portfolios.

This definition mentions primary and secondary KAs. NIFA is careful in assigning KAs and funding to projects, programs, or in this case, portfolios to ensure that projects/programs/portfolios are aggregated that the sum equals the agency budget, a concept called budget integrity This is the case with the primary KAs. A primary KA can only be assigned to one portfolio (likewise, a KA is assigned to only one objective of the strategic plan). As a result, summing all funds assigned to portfolios through the KAs will equal the agency budget.

However, science is not stovepiped and neither should science planning and assessment. Problems often require a multidisciplinary approach often activities tracked by a given KA may support multiple KAs. This is the purpose of secondary KAs an ability to include the activities, but not funding, tracked by KAs not formally assigned to the portfolio allowing cross-cutting assessment of portfolio activities.

Please see the Crosswalk Between the NIFA Strategic Plan for 2007-2012 and Portfolios of Programs for more information.