Administration refines strategy for $100 million advanced Net

A midst uncertain congressional funding and interagency bickering the Clinton administration has mapped out a new strategy for its $100 million Next Generation Internet initiative.

The NGI is a plan to build a national network fabric that connects universities and federal research entities at rates 100 to 1 000 times faster than today's Internet with seed money for development of the network going to five research and development-oriented agencies: the Defense Energy and Commerce departments the National Science Foundation and NASA.

However four of the five agencies tapped to receive funding for the first year of the project did not receive funding in congressional authorization bills last month with Congress apparently planning a separate funding bill.

Now Congress and the administration are refining the strategy for bringing NGI into being.

On Reserve

Legislators may be leaning more toward earmarking funds to be used in specific projects instead of allowing agencies discretion in allocating the funds for NGI research projects according to Anita Jones director for Defense research and engineering at DOD addressing a group of network and computer science researchers last week. Instead of having funds earmarked the project's funds should be allocated through technical requests for proposals or broad agency announcements she said.

Meanwhile to provide legislators with more information the Clinton administration has released a draft concept paper for comment detailing its strategy goals and specific agency roles in the development of the NGI.

New applications for the NGI will include telemedicine distance education advanced weather monitoring and prediction disaster response capabilities and delivery of government services and information to the public according to the paper released last month.

During the first year of the initiative the government will establish at least 30 partnerships with industry and academia and try to leverage the $100 million of existing funding by at least a 2-to-1 ratio by spurring broad investments.

The administration also is dealing with some friction among the five agencies that will be involved with the initiative Jones said. Energy and NSF have been squabbling over funds for the development project that issue is being resolved with a memorandum of understanding.

"There's a little competition among the agencies " Jones said. "If the money is spread across the agencies it's an opportunity for mischief. We're much stronger together with a single vision moving forward...than we are apart. That is the face that we're going to take...to the Hill."

"Bullish" Support

Other leaders of the initiative are optimistic of congressional support. John Toole director of the National Coordination Office for High-Performance Computing and Communications said legislators he has talked to are supportive of the project.

"The committee members...I sense [are] being bullish but also [are] wanting more information " Toole said.The president's budget request allocates $40 million the bulk of the funding for the first year to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA researchers will be tasked to explore the development of advanced transmission and switching technology associated quality-of-service issues revolving around the expanded network and the development of tools to manage large-scale heterogeneous networks.

Energy which has been tapped to receive $35 million will participate in network test beds with NASA NSF and DARPA.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will use the $5 million it is slated to receive to develop test methods and technical solutions for technologies to protect systems networks and data in advanced Internet applications.

Comments generated from the release of the draft concept paper will be combined with a report generated from researchers' input at last week's NGI workshop for a final NGI concept paper due May 30 said Tom Kalil senior director of the National Economic Council and the administration's point man on the initiative.

A draft implementation plan is due June 30.

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