NIST office under fire

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

emerging technology continued on its rocky path last week when a House Appropriations

subcommittee terminated 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 final appropriations

bill signed by President Clinton maintained funding.

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

will have a happy ending," said Alan Balutis, director of ATP. "I think

it's extremely shortsighted to propose abolition of the program or suggest

that the venture capital community can meet this need."

The House Appropriations Committee and a Senate Appropriations subcommittee

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

departments of Commerce, Justice and State, which include ATP.

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