Uneven funding frustrates NGI

Congress and the Clinton administration are still grappling with how to

fund wide-ranging initiatives such as the research and development of the

Next Generation Internet (NGI) and networking technology.

The Next Generation Internet 2000 Act funds information technology networking

initiatives across seven agencies. This includes the NGI itself, which provides

a secure high-performance backbone for federally funded science and technology

research and applications.

Portions of the NGI are being developed at each of the agencies, and all

are dependent to some extent on each other, said Neal Lane, assistant to

the president for science and technology, testifying Wednesday before the

Senate Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee.

But in the current version of the NGI 2000 act, there is no money for the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Commerce Department.

NOAA has long been involved in federal networking research and development

through programs like last year's global ocean interactive network. Future

NGI-related work would focus on such programs as advanced networks that

aggregate the vast amounts of data from NOAA's satellite and radar weather

sensors for collaborative applications across the country. Without money,

these programs won't happen, which affects the entire initiative, Lane said.

"[NOAA is] one of the agencies developing key NGI applications," Lane said.

"NOAA is not mentioned in the bill, and they are a very important agency."

The lack of money for certain NGI agencies is already being felt this fiscal

year. The Energy Department did not receive fiscal 2000 funding for NGI,

affecting several activities at other agencies, according to officials.

The Office of Management and Budget is working on a new funding mechanism

for cross-agency initiatives. This would help prevent one agency in a group

not being funded, according to an OMB official.

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