IT research is underfunded, president's board says

IT research is underfunded, president's board says

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

PORTLAND, Ore.'Members of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee are gratified by increased federal funding for IT research, even though the increase was less than the panel recommended, the committee's chairman said recently.

For fiscal 2000, Congress appropriated $236 million more for federal systems R&D efforts than the $1.4 billion it OK'd last year. PITAC had recommended an increase of $472 million, said Steven J. Wallach, an adviser at CenterPoint Ventures of Dallas. He spoke at the SC99 High-Performance Networking and Computing conference.

Progress review

In early 1997, President Clinton established PITAC, a 26-member panel of industry and academic researchers, to assess the government's role in high-performance computing and other IT research.

In its February report, PITAC suggested that by fiscal 2004 the government boost IT research spending to $2.7 billion annually. It suggested ramping up increases, beginning with the $472 boost this year and culminating with a $1.37 billion increase in 2004.

Wallach stressed that the committee played a purely advisory role. It recommended total R&D budget levels without specifying how to dole out the money.

PITAC looked into everything from scaling up the Internet to the socioeconomic impacts of technology and the role of National Science Foundation-funded supercomputer centers. There were no sacred cows, Wallach said.

The committee concluded that the government has underinvested in long-term, fundamental IT research. The IT industry has accounted for more than 30 percent of growth in U.S. gross domestic product over the past five years but receives one out of every 75 federal research dollars, Wallach said. PITAC also urged the government to finance fundamental research into software development and performance improvement for high-end scientific computing.

For fiscal 2000, Congress appropriated $236 million after zeroing out $70 million slated for the Energy Department, Wallach said. NSF, a backer of civilian research, got $126 million, $20 million less than it sought.

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