Infosec among R&D priorities

The federal research and development budget is slated to increase in the Bush administration's fiscal 2004 request, but members of Congress are keeping a close eye on it to make sure it grows in the right way.

While appropriators are hammering out the final details of the fiscal 2003 budget — now almost six months late — the House Science Committee held its first meeting on where the administration wants to spend its R&D money next year. The committee chairman, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), declared information security one of the top priorities.

The National Science Foundation, the lead agency for information security R&D, has requested a $20 million increase in funding for its security programs, NSF Director Rita Colwell said.

Although that increase is competing against many other requests in a tight budget, Boehlert emphasized its importance to the country and the committee. "We really are very serious in dealing with [information security] because we are talking about serious things," he said.

The Homeland Security Department also has a role to play in the information security R&D arena, said John Marburger III, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. But determining how the department will handle information security is not easy because of the number of agencies conducting information security research across government, he said.

"It is important to determine what the domain will be" in the Homeland Security Department for information security, he said.

The department also is trying to coordinate the rest of its R&D activities, and officials are looking at developing a "virtual laboratory" that will connect many of the national laboratories — such as Los Alamos and Sandia — to the R&D office at Homeland Security Department headquarters, Marburger said.

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