Move money to high-end computing, connectivity, administration says

"Updated Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities"

Federal agencies should move research money into supercomputing and cyber infrastructure in fiscal 2006, the Bush administration says.

Supercomputing and cyber infrastructure are two interagency areas to which agencies should reallocate funds from lower-priority research and development efforts, according to an Aug. 12 memo from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

High-end computing and hardware and software tools for strengthening connectivity merit greater priority "due to the potential of each in furthering progress across a broad range of scientific and technological application areas," the memo states.

Meanwhile, other research areas included under the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program may "receive lessened funding," according to David Nelson, director of the National Coordination Office for IT R&D.

The office coordinates about $2 billion of the federal government's $90 billion IT research tab. NITRD's six program areas are high-end computing; large-scale networking; high-confidence software and systems; human computer interaction and information management; software design and productivity; and social, economic and workforce implications of IT and IT workforce development.

Funding cuts are not a certainty, Nelson said. Although his office's components compete for money to some extent, "it isn't necessarily a zero-sum game within the NITRD program," he said. "There's no hard and fast rule that it can't exceed the 2005 budget."

Offsets for new fiscal year 2006 priorities could be found from other areas of research, Nelson said. Still, with federal deficits mounting, "higher-priority things will probably come at the expense of lower-priority things," he added.

The NITRD program in general "is a high-administration priority," the annual guidance memo states. Last year's memo also includes the program in the high-priority list and states that high-end computing would receive increased attention in fiscal 2005, but qualifies that "the overall importance of each of the NITRD program component areas remain undiminished."

Among programs not under Nelson's office, research in physics was identified as a high-priority area for the administration. Superconductors, quantum condensates, wide-band gap and photonic materials were cited as examples of atomic-level systems with great potential.

The memo is "part of a continuous process of consultation," a Bush administration spokeswoman said. Agency officials submitting funding requests should measure all programs according to their relevance, quality and performance, and use the Program Assessment Rating Tool to evaluate success, the memo states.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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