Over the years, the work of FRD has covered topics of interest to federal government agencies on far-ranging subjects. FRD provides customized research and analytical services on a fee-for-service basis to agencies of the U.S. government and authorized federal contractors, covering both domestic and international subjects.
Many of its products are available on its Web site. Some of the most notable resources include the POW/MIA Database, primary source materials and publications in the field of military law that include historical collections from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School and more than 100 studies of countries all over the world.
Librarian of Congress Luther H. Evans established FRD in 1948, although it was then known as the Air Research Unit and its core mission was to provide services to the U.S. Air Force in connection with the Library’s collections and materials. That mission has not changed, although its client base certainly has. In 2007, FRD supported 43 clients in 34 different offices in 13 cabinet-level departments and independent federal agencies, along with four internal Library of Congress offices. Those clients included the National Agricultural Library, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves and the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, among others.
In 1999, FRD issued a prophetic report, Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism, based on then-current literature written by experts on terrorism. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the report garnered nationwide media attention because it had mentioned the possibility of a terrorist attack on important U.S. monuments and buildings. The year after the attacks, the Library debuted the exhibition, Witness and Response: September 11 Acquisitions at the Library of Congress, which gathered accounts of the tragic events; prints, photographs, drawings, poems, eyewitness accounts and personal reactions, headlines, books, magazines, songs, maps, videotapes and films.
In 2008, FRD celebrates its 60th anniversary. Heralding that moment, the Library of Congress Information Bulletin featured a profile on the division as its cover story.