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Interagency report details Bush IT research priorities

A new interagency report details the Bush administration's fiscal 2003 budget priorities for the research and development program of long-term networking and information technology. The report shows an emphasis on high-end computing and software development next year.

"This program has been in progress for over 10 years and continues to be strongly supported by Congress and the current administration" said Cita Furlani, director of the National Coordination Office for Information Technology R&D. "It's really a big benefit to the nation because each agency leverages the other agencies' resources and we get the best bang for the taxpayers' buck."

The program coordinates IT R&D efforts for more than a dozen agencies and offices, such as the National Science Foundation and offices in the Commerce, Energy and Defense departments, with the goal of leveraging resources. John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, headed the task force that prepared the report. The so-called "Blue Book" is required annually under the 1991 High-Performance Computing Act.

This year's report focuses on the importance of IT R&D to homeland security. As demonstrated by the use of prototype robots helping in the World Trade Centers recovery to computer networks protecting critical infrastructure, IT R&D is playing an increasingly vital role in security efforts, the report says.

The administration has requested an increase for the overall program from $1.83 billion in fiscal 2002 to $1.89 billion in fiscal 2003. The biggest proposed increases among the agencies are for the National Institutes of Health, from $295 million to $327 million, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, from $181 million to $213 million. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would receive a boost from $218 million to $223 million.

The report analyzes seven categories of IT R&D spending for 12 agencies and offices. The biggest proposed increases would be for: high-end computing infrastructure and applications, from $516.5 million to $547.1 million; high-end computing R&D, from $272.4 million to $299.4 million; software design and productivity, from $182.1 million to $196.7 million; and social/economic/workforce, from $84.9 million to $91.4 million. Human computer interaction and information management would see a slight increase, from $308.1 million to $309.2 million.

Decreases were proposed for the remaining two areas. Funding for large-scale networking would drop from $333.5 million to $317 million, and investments in high-confidence software and systems would fall from $132.2 million to $128.2 million.

The report may aid Congress as it begins the final stages of the fiscal 2003 appropriations process, congressional sources said.

"I think what this report shows is the NITRD program is successful, important and it's working," House Science Committee spokeswoman Heidi Tringe said. "I think it really demonstrates that all the research in this age relies on IT, from life sciences to weather forecasting. Research in any of those areas is not going to reach its potential without R&D."