August 23, 2001Over the next year, the federal government will be investing in multiple technology-related research and development efforts, including developing a faster Internet, more secure software and high-speed computers, according to a new report issued by the National Coordination Office (NCO) for Information Technology Research and Development. The estimated $1.97 billion in federal R&D investments planned in fiscal 2002 are mostly focused on areas where the private sector is not investing or on areas that augment existing private-sector R&D efforts, according to the report. In fiscal 2001, the government spent $1.93 billion on tech-related R&D. "Many of the most visible and influential of today's computing and networking capabilities originated in federally funded research conducted to support key missions of federal agencies," the NCO said in its report, which it sent to Congress in July as a supplement to President Bush's budget request for IT investments. The NCO targeted 10 research challenges, including next-generation computing and data-storage technologies. The report said the nation's high-end computing sector is shrinking because businesses prefer to buy mid-range rather than high-end computers. "As a result, the technical challenges of developing technologies that break through today's upper-end barriers in computing speed, storage capacity and equipment are left orphaned," the report said. To fill that gap, government agencies will be focusing on R&D designed to produce computing systems capable of 1,000 times more speed by the end of the decade. In the software sector, the sheer number of lines of code has opened software to security attacks, making it difficult for businesses and the government to completely protect their computer systems. Federal IT research in fiscal 2002 will focus on developing formal principles and methods for software development that could increase the security and reliability of software. "If all that were at stake were the frustrations of home computer users, we could leave software development as a cottage craft rather than a formal scientific discipline," the report said, "but with software already managing large-scale and mission-critical systems, such as air traffic ... funding for research in software development methods must be continued." The National Science Foundation, meanwhile, is providing grants to universities that have been used to connect to Internet2, a private, high-speed network. Internet2 connects 180 universities and more than 50 companies, enabling them to share research data. Other research goals identified in the NCO report include: finding new material for faster semiconductor performance; studying the effects of information technology on society; and finding ways to attract more workers to the IT marketplace.
August 23, 2001