DOE seeks increased funds for key research programs

The Energy Department has proposed spending more than $800 million on information technology programs in fiscal 2000, including $542.5 million—a 12 percent increase—for its Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative to simulate nuclear weapons tests.

Next year the ASCI program plans to demonstrate software that will begin to provide 3-D simulations of nuclear weapons, including their explosive capabilities.

The DOE budget plan also provides $199 million for Computational Technology Research, including a $15 million contribution to Next Generation Internet research, which is aimed at developing network technology that is capable of transmitting information at much higher speeds than today's Internet.

The Computational Technology Research budget also includes $52 million for the administration's Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-squared) project, in which the White House has tapped six agencies to share $366 million in increased research funding this year. Another $18 million for IT-squared would be shared among DOE's Biological and Environmental Research, Basic Energy Sciences and Program Direction offices.

DOE Secretary Bill Richardson said that when he took office last summer, "dust needed to be blown off of years of ingrained business practices." The budget includes $13 million to continue deploying an automated human resources management system and update agency telecommunications networks. Another $16 million is earmarked for new financial management systems. A DOE spokeswoman said the current systems, which are 20 to 30 years old, would be replaced with commercial technology.

At a press conference Feb. 1 to describe the budget proposal, Richardson also said that as of Jan. 29, 84 percent of DOE computer systems were Year 2000-compliant. The department has been criticized for falling behind schedule, but it now says it will have all its systems fixed by March 31, the deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget.

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