Commerce wins, loses in budget

President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget would end the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program, which funds high-risk technology that has commercial promise. The budget provides enough money — $31 million — to cover administrative costs only.

ATP has long been controversial. The program's supporters say it funds promising research in the private sector that would otherwise go unfunded, but its critics call it corporate welfare.

In the fiscal 2002 budget, the White House asked for $13 million for the program to continue ongoing project commitments, but Congress eventually restored its funding. In what looked like a change of heart for the Bush administration, the fiscal 2003 budget included a $145 million request for ATP to fund existing and new projects.

Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would receive a $70 million increase in program-level funding and a $23 million decrease in fees compared to the fiscal 2003 request. The administration wants to restructure statutory fees that the agency receives from patent and trademark processing to support the goals and objectives of USPTO's strategic plan, including e-government initiatives and acceleration of patent processing.

Funds requested for fiscal 2004 are intended to accelerate the electronic processing of patents by October 2004. Funds also would go toward outsourcing classification and search functions that patent examiners are performing so that they can focus more closely on patent examination.

Also, on the trademark side, funds would go toward achieving a "fully electronic workplace" by the end of 2004.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would see increases to advance several technology programs including:

* The Next Generation Weather Radar system: The budget proposes an increase of $3 million to $12 million to accelerate technical upgrades to Nexrad. The program received $9 million in fiscal 2002, and the same amount was requested in fiscal 2003.

* The "all hazards" NOAA weather radio: The budget proposes $6 million to automate the distribution of civilian emergency managers' messages over the radio. No money was in the budget for this initiative last year or the year before.

* The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites: The budget requests a total of $277 million to develop the GOES next-generation satellite system. This is an increase of about $50 million from fiscal 2002 funding, but slightly less than the fiscal 2003 request.

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