Federal contracting not only reaches into almost every segment of the area's business community, it reaches into the area's colleges and universities as well.

In fiscal 1979, American, Catholic, George Washington, Georgetown and Howard Universities and the Universities of Maryland and Virginia earned $9.6 million from Department of Defense contracts alone. George Washington University, which also offers a master's of law program in federal procurement and government contracts, was the big winner with $3 million worth of Defense contracts.

That funding was part of $26 million the university earned for "sponsored research" -- a category mainly consisting of federal contracts and grants that equals 12 to 20 percent of the school's annual expenditures, according to officials.

"It used to be that DOD was our biggest client," said Carl J. lange, vice president for administration and research at GWU. "There's been a radical shift to where I would now say our biggest client is HEW."

Much of the research the school performs under federal funding is done at the university's medical center and includes projects such as physical rehabilitation training and research.

The university also receives money from the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Part of the Defense Department funded work includes basic research in fracture mechanics -- the study of how metals and other materials react under stress. Besides assisting in the design of safer military airplanes and ships, the research has broader application in commercial transportation and in the treatment of bone fractures, said Harold Liebowitz, dean of the school of engineering and applied science.

Liebowitz, who specialized in fracture mechanics when he worked for the Office of Naval Research, has helped build the university into an internationally recognized center of research in the field. Much of that research has been funded through federal contracts, Liebowitz said.

"I would say we're considered a research university," Lange said. "We're listed in the top 100 in the country in terms of the amount of money we're getting for sponsored research."

According to Lange, the university has sought contracts for the sake of what they add to the academic program rather than for the sake of money.

Since the 1960s, the university has refused classified projects, he said. "Professors have got to be free to talk about their work in class," he said.

George Washington University Law School's masters of law program in federal procurement is unrelated to the university's research contracting, but it is another sign of the growth in federal contracting.

GWU began offering the special master's program in 1963. "Our program initially started because we felt it was an area of law of growing importance," said John Cibinic, a law professor who specializes in federal procurement law.