Federal spending on technology research should continue despite the economy, congressman urges.
To stay at the forefront of technology innovation and maintain resilient defenses against the various threats targeting the nation, the U.S. needs to prioritize investments into research and development despite budget pressures, according to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
Federal investments in science and technology are sine qua non for the country’s growth and economic competitiveness, especially in a tough economic time, Connolly told Federal Computer Week.
“The Internet was a federal invention, and for many, many years it was exclusively managed by and for the federal government,” said Connolly, who serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Then we saw the commercial applications, and it transformed our world.”
Other government-funded research has led to numerous successful inventions, including the global positioning system, noise-cancellation technology, and nuclear technology, he said.
“Basic science has been a critical role for the federal government since the founding of the republic, and we must not retreat from that,” Connolly said. “If we want to maintain our competitive advantage . . . we’ve got to be looking for the innovations or we’re going to get our clocks cleaned by the competition.”
Future technology, especially in defense posture, is going to be characterized as “less brawn, more brain,” Connolly said. “If we position ourselves smartly, we’re actually going to see our slice of whatever pie there is increase,” he added. “It need not shrink because of who and what we are.”
All the technology needed for the future already exists in the U.S., as well as those who develop it, Connolly said, citing examples such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
In addition to concerns about R&D, Connolly mentioned a few other areas he considers high priority:
Cyber: “Cybersecurity is going to an explosive growth area, both for federal contractors and federal agencies. The number of attacks and the number of successful attacks have grown exponentially, and quite frankly, the strategies to counter, anticipate, deter or prosecute them are very, very anemic and not particularly efficacious. We really need to rethink this challenge and get much more aggressive about it as we become more technologically dependent.”
Federal contracting: “We’re just in for a very difficult time in the national capital region, especially in northern Virginia, given the fact that one out of four federal contracting dollars goes to this area. Forty percent at least of the regional [gross domestic product] is dependent on federal spending and federal investments. We can only lose if anything happens to that pie.”
Cloud: “We all want cloud computing to work. I have a bill that would codify what Vivek [Kundra] began – the 25 point plan and the consolidation of data centers – and double it. That will help foster the partnership between the public sector and the private sector and get us out of this stove pipe and save taxpayers’ money. But what could go wrong by doing that? Well, privacy concerns, protection of data bases, hacking into sensitive materials and so forth. That’s true in the private sector – there’s no real difference. What makes federal managers nervous is that now it’s less in [their] control.”
Previously: Gerry Connolly defends the federal workforce.