NIST budget is pared

Cuts reflect emphasize on government-focused research

The president's proposed budget for fiscal 2009 would cut funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology by 16 percent from 2008 levels. Core research programs would increase by 21 percent at the expense of construction, which would be reduced by 38 percent, and the virtual elimination of Industrial Technology Services.

Among the research programs that would see an increase in funding are a handful of cybersecurity and advanced-computing initiatives.

'This budget reflects some difficult decisions about priorities and reflects the president's guidance to restrain spending,' said acting NIST Director James Turner.

Despite stated commitments to advancing industrial innovation and competitiveness, only a few research programs, such as those involving nanotechnology and hydrogen fuel, are targeted at the industrial sector. The majority of the programs focus on developing standards and advancing technology for national security and other government applications. Industrial Technology Services, which got $155 million in fiscal 2008, would be reduced by more than 97 percent as those services are shut down.

'The request for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension partnership is $4 million, enough for an orderly end to federal funding for the program, while no funds are requested for the Technology Innovation Program,' which got $65 million in fiscal 2008, Turner said. The Advanced Technology Program was phased out last year.

Overall, the NIST budget would shrink from its current $755.8 million to $638 million. The bulk of that, $535 million, would go to the Scientific and Technical Research and Services programs. Construction of research facilities would be cut from $160.5 million to $99 million.

Among information technology research programs that would see a bump in funding next year are:
  • Leap-Ahead Security Technologies, part of NIST's Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative, which would receive $5 million for development of cross-platform security capabilities. These would include standards for managing cryptographic keys, in cooperation with the National Security Agency and the Defense Department; advancing multifactor authentication techniques with a standard framework that would work with a variety of operating systems, in cooperation with the Homeland Security Department; and extending the Federal Desktop Core Configuration to operating systems beyond the current profiles for Windows XP and Vista.
  • Optical Communications and Computing, which would receive $5.8 million to create tools and methods for better management of high-speed optical networks. Goals include developing new traffic measurement capabilities, tools for diagnosing and locating transmission problems and for analyzing circuits using light instead of electricity within computers. 'These measurements are crucial for developing faster fiber-optic data rates and more flexible data transmission systems and for enabling faster communications within computers,' NIST said.
  • Quantum Information Science, which would receive an additional $7 million to advance NIST's well-established quantum research activities, which have produced workable components for quantum computing. Several of the projects would be pursued under the Joint Quantum Institute, established by NIST, NSA and the University of Maryland. Goals would include development of methods for transmitting data between quantum computing elements; developing quantum random-access memory; methods of transferring quantum-based information from one form, such as atoms, to another, such as photons; development of an all-optical clock for more precise time and frequency measurement; and using quantum properties for advanced scientific measurement.
  • Biometrics, which will receive an additional $2 million to enhance the use of fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scans for identification of individuals at border crossings. This would build on current NIST efforts to test and advance the reliability of recognition techniques. Goals would include enabling facial recognition for border security, expanding the accuracy testing program for multimodal biometric systems, developing tests and guidelines for biometric interoperability, and enabling simultaneous use of facial recognition, fingerprint and iris scans.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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