House passes $6.9 billion IT research bill

The House passed legislation on Feb. 15 to authorize a five-year, $6.9 billion package for information technology and research. But the bill faces a tough road ahead before it ever becomes law.

The bill (H.R. 2086), approved on a voice vote, would authorize a major new research investment in IT, creating new jobs and infusing millions of dollars into research at federal agencies and major universities. It now goes to the Senate where it must pass as well.

However, the legislation is at odds with President Clinton's one-year, $2.3 billion proposal for IT research that provides different funding levels for major agencies. Both pieces of legislation, along with others that Hill insiders expect to be introduced this year, will make their way through the appropriations process on Capitol Hill before any money becomes available.

But Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Science Committee, said House passage "marks a great investment in the future and a strong commitment to strengthening the scientific enterprise."

"By focusing federal IT efforts on basic research, this legislation helps replenish the pipeline of fundamental research breakthroughs and scientific discoveries in the 21st century," Sensenbrenner said.

A wide range of research universities, which stand to benefit from enhanced federal grants to develop new technology systems, backed the legislation.

"Government research has fueled the engine for America's past prosperity, helped make American universities the finest in the world and will be the catalyst for new technological innovation in the future," said Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah.

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