House panel axes ATP funds

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A National Institute of Standards and Technology program that funds risky,

emerging technology continued on its rocky path this week when a House appropriations

subcommittee voted to terminate its funding.

NIST's Advanced Technology Program was funded at $143 million in fiscal

2000, and the president had requested $198.6 million for fiscal 2001.

Advocates for the program say ATP funds promising research and development

projects that might otherwise have never made it past the drawing board.

Critics, however, question whether the government, rather than industry,

should be deciding which technology has promise and which does not.

The battle over ATP is not new. During last year's budget process, the House

allocated no money to the program, but the Senate did. The appropriations

bill that emerged out of the House-Senate conference and eventually signed

by President Clinton maintained funding for ATP.

"I presume that while it starts out with some drama and rockiness, it will

have a happy ending," said Alan Balutis, director of ATP at NIST. "We've

seen the benefits to the nation of what America's technologic leadership

has meant to our economic development and growth and stability. I think

it's extremely short-sighted to propose abolition of the program or suggest

that the venture capital community can meet this need."

"We still have a long way to go" in the appropriations process, a NIST spokesman

said.

The House appropriations committee and the Senate appropriations subcommittee

this week are expected to mark up the fiscal 2001 bill that would fund the

Commerce, Justice and State Departments, which includes ATP.

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