Fund cyber infrastructure

"Updated Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities"

Imagine a world in which dynamically tasked networks, information and computing power flow effortlessly and there are no clashing protocols or data formats. Imagine on-demand remote access to supercomputers and vast sensor arrays.

Bush administration officials are telling federal agencies to join the dream — and fund it.

The 13 agencies participating in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program were advised in an Aug. 12 memo from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy that supercomputing and cyber infrastructure would be the program's top two priorities in fiscal 2006.

Agency budget requests should reflect that change "by reallocating funds from lower priority efforts," the memo states. As a result, other NITRD areas may receive less funding, said David Nelson, director of the National Coordination Office for IT R&D. The office coordinates about $2 billion of the federal government's $90 billion IT research tab.

The memo is another sign of the government's renewed emphasis on hardware research, said Peter Freeman, the National Science Foundation's assistant director of computer and information science and engineering.

But cyber infrastructure isn't "just about networking," he said. "It's about having the resources available at all of the nodes on a network."

Think of cyber infrastructure — coined about four years ago, Freeman said — as describing a three-tiered effort to integrate supercomputers, databases, sensors, software and networks. At the foundation sits raw computational power and storage capacity. On top rests cyber infrastructure-enabled services and data. It's in the thick middle stratum where much of the tough work lies: the hardware, algorithms, communication and institutions necessary to cement the layers together.

"It's one of those things whose time has come," Freeman said. When created, it will "truly revolutionize the conduct of science and engineering" by dismantling walls that separate data and its collection from being shared across disciplines, he added.

More funding for cyber infrastructure will help ensure "that when we get to the solution down the road — five years or so [from now] — we don't have a balkanized list of solutions," said Mary Anne Scott, co-chairwoman of NITRD's Middleware and Grid Infrastructure Coordination Team.

Funding cuts to other NITRD research areas are not certain, Nelson said. Although NITRD's seven program component areas compete for money within their respective agencies, "it isn't necessarily a zero-sum game," he said. "There's no hard and fast rule that it can't exceed the 2005 budget."

***

Bush administration research priorities

In addition to supercomputing and cyber infrastructure, several other efforts made the Bush administration's research and development high-priority list for fiscal 2006.

Among them:

Prevention, detection, treatment and remediation of nuclear, chemical and biological threats, with particular emphasis on genetically modified

hazards.

Elimination of shortfalls in developing new drugs and vaccines against foreign animal disease threats.

Social and behavioral studies to anticipate, counter and defuse homeland security threats.

Surveillance network to detect weapons of mass destruction by integrating human, animal, plant and environmental elements across federal, state and local boundaries.

The National Nanotechnology

Initiative, which supports development

of nanoscale instrumentation and metrology.

Next-generation light sources.

Source: Office of Management and Budget

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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