Clinton calls for science and technology budget boost

President Clinton Friday outlined an aggressive proposal to boost funding for science and technology across a variety of areas including big increases for information technology and a new nanotechnology proposal.

Clinton outlined several new initiatives in a speech at the California Institute of Technology, though he also focused on current projects, including a proposal he launched in his fiscal 2000 budget to increase funding for information technology research.

As part of his fiscal 2001 budget proposal, Clinton will ask for an additional $605 million, a 36 percent increase from fiscal 2000, for information technology research at a dozen federal agencies, bringing total IT research spending to $2.3 billion. The biggest chunks would go to the National Science Foundation at $740 million and the Defense Department at $667 million.

Clinton's IT proposal would focus on areas including research into mobile and wireless systems that are compatible with the Internet, reducing bugs and glitches in software, creating new generations of computers and improving data storage and preservation.

Clinton also has unveiled a new initiative to greatly increase research into "nanotechnology," which involves the ability to manipulate matter in an effort to develop ultra tiny devices. This technology would be useful in reducing the space needed to store vast amounts of data and improving the speed of computer chips. Clinton has asked for an 84 percent increase in funding from fiscal 2000 for his National Nanotechnology Initiative, a total of $497 million.

Among the biggest winners in Clinton's proposal was the NSF, which would receive its biggest funding increase ever under the plan, $675 million above fiscal 2000. The agency would take the lead on several initiatives, including the creation of Centers for Teaching and Learning.

In a letter sent to the White House Friday, House Science Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc., praised Clinton for his "new emphasis on basic over applied research." But he complained that past requests for additional science and technology money "relied on numerous gimmicks, making these increases more difficult to achieve."

Jim O'Connor, a spokesman for Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NSF, said, "science is good. More prudent funding bringing about better results is always desirable. Whether it's practical or doable is a big question."

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