Slight bump in 2003 IT R&D spending expected

12 agencies participate in the Networking and IT R&D program

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Office of the Director of Defense Research & Engineering

Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration

Energy's Office of Science

Environmental Protection Agency


National Institutes of Health

National Institute of Standards and Technology

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Security Agency

National Science Foundation

High-end computing, basic R&D get the biggest boost; large-scale networking, high-confidence software and systems drop slightly

The nation's science agencies plan to increase spending on IT research modestly in the coming fiscal year.

The proposed budget for the Networking and IT R&D Program in fiscal 2003 is $1.9 billion spread among 12 member agencies, according to a report by the multiagency program. That represents a 3.2 percent increase over the agencies' estimated 2002 spending of $1.8 billion.

The House and Senate have yet to pass the major appropriations bills for the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

In its annual report released to Congress this summer, NITRD said research funded by its member agencies is critical to national, homeland and economic security.

'The information technologies now being fielded in U.S. counterterrorism activities represent the outflow of the IT R&D pipeline,' the report said. Fundamental IT research is funded by NITRD for prototypes and commercial development of next-generation technology.

A number of NITRD-funded projects were called upon in the government's response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency authorized the use of a fleet of prototype robots to probe for survivors in the remains of the World Trade Center. Seven of 17 track-driven robots made it into the wreckage in what proved to be a tough shakedown for the technology.

The robots made contributions to the rescue and recovery operations, but every single one incurred damage. Speed, power and maneuverability also were problems, as were lack of on-board processing for the smallest models, poor optics and software bugs.

Mapping and imaging

A variety of mapping and imaging technologies were used at the World Trade Center and Pentagon to locate fires, evaluate structural damage and visualize dispersion of hazardous materials.

NITRD was created by the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991. It is coordinated by a working group of the National Science and Technology Council. Member agencies collaborate on NITRD budgets and on funding research for selected projects by private-sector organizations and universities.

Research focuses on seven areas:
  • High-end computing

  • High-end computing infrastructure and applications

  • Human-computer interaction and information management

  • Large-scale networking

  • Software design and productivity

  • High-confidence software and systems

  • Social, economic and work force implications of IT and IT work force development.

The big gains in the 2003 research budget would go to high-end computing, where as much as $547 million would be available for infrastructure and application research (a 6 percent increase over this year) and $299 million for basic R&D (a 10 percent increase).

Money being requested for research into large-scale networking and high-confidence software and systems decreased slightly this year.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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