Bills funnel $8B into IT research

The House Science Committee last week approved two bills that would pump almost $8 billion into academia and industry to support research and development in cyber.security and information technology.

The committee also passed an amendment, offered by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), to create a center at the National Science Foundation to study the role technology could play in collecting, analyzing and disseminating information during times of crisis (see sidebar).

The Cyber Security Research and Development Act, co-sponsored by committee chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), ranking member Rep. Ralph Hall (D-Texas) and others, is intended to foster more coordination of security and IT-related research among government, industry and academia.

Research and development are seen as vital to the nation's critical information systems. While the private sector develops technology to address problems in the near future, the research community investigates technology that could have long-term significance, but for which no market yet exists.

The bill provides almost $880 million for research and grants programs at NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, two agencies long involved in security research and public/private partnerships.

The bill also gives NSF more than $300 million during the next five years to help colleges and universities expand their security-related programs and to award grants to students pursuing information security degrees.

The idea of bringing that much money into the information security education community is "delightful," said Allan Berg, executive director for development and operations at the Common.wealth Information Security Center at James Madison University.

But money also is needed to train more information security teachers and to woo back those who left academia for more lucrative jobs in industry, Berg said. "We have to develop the faculty, and we have to keep the faculty," he said.

The committee hopes to bring the bill to the House floor early in 2002, Boehlert said at the markup of the bill. Members are already working with the Senate to develop a companion bill, he said.

More for High-End IT

The Networking and Information Technology Research Advancement Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), chairman of the Science Committee's Research Subcommittee, authorizes almost $7 billion during five years for research at NSF, NIST, NASA and other agencies — a 46 percent increase compared with fiscal 2002 budget levels.

The bill, an update of the High- Performance Computing Act of 1991, is intended to support groundbreaking research into high-end network and computer technology that those agencies need for scientific research.

The new bill's funding levels address concerns raised in a 1999 report from the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. That report found that "federal support for information technology is seriously inadequate" and that agencies have been funding short-term research instead of the intended long-term, high-risk research because of funding shortfalls.

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