Agencies told to target money for tech projects

Agencies told how to focus their proposed technology budgets for fiscal 2011

Administration officials have told agencies their spending plans for science and technology in fiscal 2011 should be for projects designed to drive economic growth, create energy independence, improve health, and bolster security, according to recently issued general guidance. Meanwhile, an analyst said the guidance shows that science and technology will be priorities for the Obama administration.

Agencies should include in their proposed budgets explanations about how they will redirect science and technology spending on four “practical challenges” the administration, according to a recent memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Peter Orzag, OMB’s director, and OSTP Director John Holdren said in the memo Aug. 4 that agencies should build on the science and technology priorities that were reflected by the economic stimulus law and the fiscal 2010 budget.

They said agencies should budget to:

  • Apply science and technology strategies for economic growth.
  • Promote energy technologies to will reduce energy dependence and mitigate climate change.
  • Use biomedical science and information technology to improve health.
  • Ensure technology is available to protect troops, citizens and national interests.

They also said dealing with the four challenges will require:

  • Increasing the productivity of research institutions such as universities and laboratories.
  • Strengthening science, technology and engineering education.
  • Improving and protecting the country’s information, communications and transportation infrastructure.
  • Bolstering the United States’ capabilities in space.

The memo said agencies should work with OMB and OSTP to develop datasets to improve tracking of investments and make the data publicly accessible. Agencies should also put in place timelines and procedures for evaluating the efforts, it said.

In addition, agencies should develop tools to improve management of research and development projects, the memo said. Agencies were also told they should detail the results that they expect from their research as it relates to the areas the administration identified.

Meanwhile, they should also include details in their submissions about how they are strengthening their abilities to evaluate their programs.

OMB and OSTP also said an agency's budget submissions should explain how it plans to take advantage of the open innovation model, or a research model in which all the work doesn’t have to happen in one place and the process is open to ideas from many people at different stages in the project.

Craig Jennings, a senior federal fiscal policy analyst with OMB Watch, said the memo is an indication that science and technology will be high priorities for the administration. Jennings said he thought the memo was a message to agencies to give science and technology projects more weight and also to measure the outcomes of those programs. OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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