Patent, census systems would get boost in '06 budget

The Commerce Department was one of the few agencies to hit the jackpot with President Bush's fiscal 2006 budget, which requests $9.4 billion for the department, up 49 percent from this year. The IT spending request also is up almost 6.2 percent, to $1.55 billion from $1.46 billion, with patent and census processing systems and IT consolidation across the department big gainers.

Carlos Gutierrez was also sworn in as the new Commerce secretary Monday, the day the administration's budget was released.

The Patent and Trademark Office would receive $1.7 billion, a 10 percent increase from 2005. PTO also would gain full access to its fee collections in 2006, which amounts to $148.5 million. The agency plans to make its patent and trademark processing entirely electronic by next year and to complete review of patent applications in an average of 31 months and trademark applications in an average of 15 months by 2010.

The patent office plans to hire more patent examiners to continue development of its system to process patent applications electronically, continue moving to an electronic trademark operation and expand quality reviews to all stages of patent and trademark examination. Funding for the PTO Patent Automation System, which will be designed to electronically process applications, would jump to $80.1 million, from $63.9 million.

The budget proposes $485 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 7.5 percent more than this year, for the renovation and repair of NIST labs and for measurement and standards research related to nanotechnology, biosciences, manufacturing, computing and networking systems, and public safety. It includes an increase of $39.8 million to enhance research capabilities in manufacturing, expand public safety and security programs, and provide measurement infrastructure for emerging needs of the nation's research community.

The Census Bureau seeks $120 million more next year for administering the American Community Survey, modernizing the geographic database information, and developing and testing plans for the 2010 Decennial Census based on only a short form. This includes a hefty boost for the Decennial Census systems design and integration, testing and evaluation to $93.9 million, from $69.5 million. The Census Bureau plans to use handheld computing devices with global positioning system capability during the 2010 Census to improve the efficiency of data collection and processing

Other big-ticket Commerce items include:

  • IT consolidation out of the CIO's office, jumping to $389.6 million from $377.3 million

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service
    Advanced Weather Interactive processing system, increasing to $52.2 million from $49.5 million

  • Commerce Business System, the department's newly implemented financial system, edging up to $35.8 million from $35.2 million.

The president proposes terminating the Advanced Technology Program, saying that initiatives at NIST and the extension of the research and experimentation tax credit are more effective in supporting research and technological development.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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