- Funding for the Networking and Information Technology
Research and Development (NITRD) program would increase 0.4 percent in the President’s
FY 2008 request versus the FY 2007 request (see Table I-9).
- The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National
Security Agency (NSA) are the only agencies that would see significant increases
to their computing research efforts under the President’s plan. The National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) would both
see modest increases, while the remainder of the agencies participating in the
NITRD program would see either flat budgets or moderate to significant declines.
- The President’s Council of Advisors for Science and
Technology will release in 2007 the first independent, full review of the NITRD
program and its goals in eight years. Two additional studies of the IT R&D
“ecosystem” are in progress and could see release in the coming months.
Introduction and Background
The importance of computing research in enabling the
new economy is well documented. The resulting advances in information technology
have led to significant improvements in product design, development and distribution
for American industry, provided instant communications for people worldwide, and
enabled new scientific disciplines like bioinformatics and nanotechnology that
show great promise in improving a whole range of health, security, and communications
technologies. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has said that
the growing use of information technology has been the distinguishing feature
of this “pivotal period in American economic history.” Recent analysis suggests
that the remarkable growth the U.S. experienced between 1995 and
2002 was spurred by an increase in productivity enabled almost completely by factors
related to IT. A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
released in March 2007 noted: “In the new global economy information and communications
technology (IT) is the major driver, not just of improved quality of life, but
also of economic growth… In fact, in the United States IT was responsible for
two-thirds of total factor growth in productivity between 1995 and 2002 and virtually
all of the growth in labor productivity.”
technology has also changed the conduct of research. Innovations in computing
and networking technologies are enabling scientific discovery across every scientific
discipline—from mapping the human brain to modeling climatic change. Researchers,
faced with research problems that are ever more complex and interdisciplinary
in nature, are using IT to collaborate across the globe, simulate experiments,
visualize large and complex datasets, and collect and manage massive amounts of
According to a 1995 report by the National Research
Council, a significant reason for this dramatic advance in computing technology
and the subsequent increase in innovation and productivity is the “extraordinarily
productive interplay of federally funded university research, federally and privately
funded industrial research, and entrepreneurial companies founded and staffed
by people who moved back and forth between universities and industry.” That report,
and a subsequent 1999 report by the President’s Information Technology Advisory
Committee (PITAC), emphasized the “spectacular” return on the federal investment
in long-term IT research and development.
However, in that 1999 report PITAC—a congressionally
chartered, presidentially-appointed committee charged with assessing the overall
federal investment in IT R&D—also determined that federal support for
IT R&D was inadequate and too focused on near-term problems; long-term fundamental
IT research was not sufficiently supported relative to the importance of IT to
the United States’ economic, health, scientific and other aspirations; critical
problems in computing were going unsolved; and the rate of introduction of new
ideas was dangerously low. The PITAC report included a series of recommendations,
including a set of research priorities and an affirmation of the committee’s unanimous
opinion that the federal government has an “essential” role in supporting long-term,
high-risk IT R&D. This opinion was buttressed by the inclusion of a recommendation
for specific increases in funding levels for federal IT R&D programs beginning
in FY 2000 through FY 2004—an increase of $1.3 billion in additional funding
over those five years.
Though the funding levels actually appropriated to
federal IT R&D programs have never approached the level of the PITAC recommendations—federal
agencies received $2.2 billion in FY 2004 for IT R&D, $476 million short of
the final PITAC recommendation—the PITAC report has done much to shape
the current federal IT R&D effort. As of FY 2007, that effort is now a $3.0
billion, multi-agency enterprise called the Networking and Information Technology
Research and Development (NITRD) program and coordinated by the Interagency Working
Group (IWG) on Information Technology Research and Development of the National
Science and Technology Council (NSTC). NITRD is the successor of the High Performance
Computing and Communications Program established in 1991. NITRD agencies now coordinate
research in eight Program Component Areas (PCAs).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the lead agency in NITRD.
Current Policy Environment
While the evidence continues to mount that the development
of information and communications technologies has profoundly affected the way
the world works—from
the conduct of business, to improvements to our health and welfare, to the process
of discovery—there appears to be a strong desire within federal advisory
boards and Congress to understand more fully the ecosystem that enables innovation
in information technology. Of most interest to federal policymakers is the role
played by the federal government’s link in this chain of IT innovation: the NITRD
program. There are currently at least three ongoing studies of this IT ecosystem—and
at least two (and perhaps all three) are expected to result in reports released
The one likely to make the most impact is a review
of the NITRD program and its goals by the President’s Council of Advisors for
Science and Technology (PCAST). In September 2005, the President dissolved the
then-standing PITAC and incorporated its responsibilities into a newly-expanded
(for the purpose) PCAST. In March 2006, PCAST created a Subcommittee on IT, co-chaired
by PCAST members George Scalise (also President of the Semiconductor Industry
Association) and Daniel Reed (Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute
at the University of North Carolina, also Chair of the Computing Research Association),
and tasked them with undertaking a full review of the NITRD program. The committee
was charged with assessing progress made in implementing NITRD, the need to revise
the program, assessing the balance between the components of the program, and
whether the R&D undertaken by the program is helping to maintain United States
leadership in IT and to ensure its future competitiveness.
The PCAST subcommittee held 10 meetings and workshops
on the issue with community and federal government stakeholders between March
2006 and February 2007 and commissioned a large-scale review of all the available
global data on the relative standing of the U.S. in the IT sector. After digesting
all of this input, the subcommittee is expected to issue its first set of draft
findings and recommendations in April 2007, with a final report expected during
the summer of 2007. As this will be the first broad review of the NITRD program
since the 1999 PITAC report that helped shape the current federal investment in
research, many members of the computing community have shown great interest in
what the committee has to say.
The other effort to understand the current IT ecosystem—and
particularly the federal government’s role in supporting innovation—that
is expected to see release in 2007 is a study for the Director of Defense Research
and Engineering (DDR&E) at DOD. This study was originally requested in the
FY 2006 Defense Authorization bill by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee
who were concerned with understanding the impact of DARPA’s declining support
for university computer science research on the DOD mission. However,
since that original request, DDR&E has expanded the study to encompass the
entire federal portfolio for computing research, arguing that in order to understand
the impact of DARPA’s declining support on the agency mission, the study group
needed to understand whether the “hole” from DARPA’s absence from this important
portion of the portfolio was being filled by any other agency.
The DDR&E study group began meeting with members
of the computing community during summer 2006. Indications are that DDR&E
hopes to release the report sometime during 2007, but exactly when is not yet
The third study is an effort by the National Research
Council tentatively titled Assessing the
Impact of Changes in the Information Technology Research and Development Ecosystem.
The focus of this particular effort is to understand how changes in immigration
policy, student interest, changes in research funding, and foreign approaches
to intellectual property are impacting the IT R&D ecosystem. The NRC hopes
to complete the study by early 2008.
The need to review current federal efforts in funding
IT R&D also factors in the one significant policy proposal for IT R&D
likely on Congress’ agenda for 2007. In March 2007, the House passed the High-Performance
Computing R&D Act (H.R. 1068), a bill that would amend the High Performance
Computing and Communications Act of 1991 (the same Act that established what would
become the NITRD program) to provide sustained, transparent access for the research
community to federal HPC assets, assure a balanced research portfolio and strengthen
interagency planning efforts. The bill is very similar to efforts that failed
to pass in the 106th-109th Congresses for a variety of reasons,
very few having to do with the actual content of the bills. Two key provisions
in the bill would change the status quo. The first is a requirement that the Director
of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) “develop and maintain a
research, development, and deployment roadmap for the provision of federal high-performance
computing systems.” This “roadmapping” requirement is an attempt to bolster the
interagency planning process—to get the agencies to work better together
so that there is technology transfer across the various R&D programs and a
strategy for advancing next-generational technologies.
The second noteworthy provision of the HPC R&D
Act is an explicit requirement that the Presidential advisory committee for IT
(currently PCAST) review the goals and funding levels of the NITRD program every
two years and report the results of that review to Congress. This requirement
is, in part, a response to some frustration from the community over the lack of
timely, independent reviews of the NITRD program, and the hope that an explicit
requirement to review the funding will allow the community to assess whether the
current federal investment is adequate.
The Senate is likely to consider its own version of
the HPC R&D Act in the coming months. There appears to be bipartisan support
for action, so the computing community is cautiously optimistic that both provisions
will find their way into law before the expiration of the 110th Congress.
Eight agencies included requests for FY 2008 funding
as part of the NITRD activity. For FY 2008, the President has requested $3.1 billion
for the NITRD initiative, an increase of 0.4 percent over the FY 2007 requested
level (see Table I-9). The growth of the NITRD program
in FY 2008 would slow compared with the increases in his FY 2007 request, when
agencies that were the focus of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative—NSF,
NIST and DOE—requested double-digit percentage increases for NITRD-related
research. In FY 2008, of the ACI agencies, only NSF enjoys that kind of priority
with a requested 10 percent increase over its FY 2007 request. In contrast, NIST
is held flat compared to its FY 2007 request and DOE would receive a modest 3.9
percent increase. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would see
its two NITRD agencies—NIH and AHRQ—endure cuts in FY 2008 under
the President’s plan.
Foundation (NSF): NSF is the only federal science agency with the mandate
to support the broad range of sciences—a commitment that also extends to
NSF’s participation in NITRD, where it serves as the “lead agency” for the program
and the only one supporting research in each of the eight NITRD PCAs. Under the
President’s plan, the agency would spend $994 million on NITRD-related research
in FY 2008, an increase of $90 million or 10 percent over its FY 2007 level.
The locus of NSF’s NITRD activity is the foundation’s
Computing and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate, which would
account for $574 million of NSF’s NITRD-related in FY 2008, an increase of $47
million (or 9 percent) over the FY 2007 enacted level. The directorate is undergoing
a leadership change in 2007. Dr. Peter Freeman, who served as the directorate’s
head since January 2002, ended his term in January 2007. Dr. Jeannette Wing, currently
head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, will become the directorate’s
new director beginning July 1, 2007. As the new CISE AD, Wing
will also serve as the head of the NITRD Interagency Working Group.
The requested increase for CISE—along with funds
freed up as the directorate’s Information Technology Research initiative (launched
in 2001) ends—would allow the directorate to launch two new initiatives.
The first is a $50 million effort focused on “High-risk, High-return Research:
Seeking Big Ideas in support of Grand Vision.” Programs in this area would focus
on fundamental questions in computing, larger projects, and try to exploit the
potential of emerging technologies.
The second is actually a foundation-wide initiative
called “Cyber-enabled Discovery for Innovation” (CDI). This would be a $52 million
initiative in FY 2008 (of which CISE would receive $20 million) that aims to “broaden
the Nation’s capability for innovation by developing a new generation of computationally
based discovery concepts and tools to deal with complex, data-rich and interacting
systems.” NSF envisions the initiative growing at a rapid pace each year, ultimately
reaching $250 million (with CISE likely controlling a proportional share) in 2012.
Also noteworthy is CISE’s request to spend $20 million
on pre-construction planning for the Global Environment for Networking Innovations
(GENI), a large-scale networking test bed that the computing community hopes will
enable the research community to invent and demonstrate a global communications
network and related services that will be qualitatively better than today’s Internet.
NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) would also
see a significant increase in the President’s budget for FY 2008 of 9.6 percent
to $200 million. OCI supports the development, acquisition and operation of “state-of-the-art
cyberinfrastructure resources,” which include everything from information technology
resources and tools such as supercomputers, high-capacity mass-storage systems,
system software suits and programming environments, to scalable interactive visualization
tools, productivity software libraries and tools, and large scale data repositories
and information management systems. In FY 2008, the office plans to boost its
support for software and services for complex science engineering, and petascale
application software development. In addition, OCI would spend an additional $20
million on sustaining the operations of university supercomputing centers and
to bridge them to the TeraGrid or Extensible Terascale Facility.
of Defense: Despite big cuts to DOD’s requested
computing research budget for FY 2007, computing research at DOD still managed
to grow slightly in the FY 2007 appropriations process. Though congressional appropriators
cut the requested budgets for DARPA’s Integrated Cognitive Systems and Information
and Communications Technology accounts, Congress still provided more money
for each program in FY 2007 than they received in FY 2006.
Unlike last year’s request, however, the President’s
request for FY 2008 would make cuts to computing research across the agency, including
cuts to current funding for both ICT and Cognitive Computing. DOD’s overall computing
R&D budget would decline $37 million to $1.0 billion in FY 2008, a decline
of 3.4 percent. DARPA’s Cognitive Computing Systems account would shrink slightly
to $180 million in FY 2008, down $0.3 million. DARPA’s Information and Communications
Technology account would also shrink to $230 million, a reduction of $4.3 million.
Overall, DARPA’s total IT R&D budget would drop $7.4 million to $413 million
in FY 2008, a decline of 1.8 percent.
The DOD Service Labs and programs run under the Office
of the Secretary of Defense would also see their computing research funding decline
in FY 2008. The combined budgets would decline $56 million to $512 million in
FY 2008, a drop of 9.9 percent from FY 2007.
Only the NSA would see an increase in FY 2008, up $27
million to $103 million in FY 2008, a growth of 36.1 percent, as it ramps up its
participation in the High-Productivity Computing Systems Phase III, along with
research in advanced computing systems, quantum computing, information assurance
requirements, and university-based R&D in file systems, system software and
tools for complex systems.
Human Services (HHS): NIH constitutes the bulk of funding in IT R&D at HHS. For FY 2008,
the President’s plan includes $462 million in IT R&D funding at HHS, a decrease
of 14.5 percent.
Within HHS, NIH participates in NITRD by supporting
research that advances its mission of developing the basic knowledge for the understanding,
diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human disease. IT research in this area
includes applying the power of computing to manage and analyze biomedical data
and to model biological processes. AHRQ focuses on research into state-of-the-art
IT for use in health care applications such as computer-based patient records,
clinical decision support systems, and standards for patient care data.
Department of Energy: IT R&D activities in DOE’s Office of Science and
NNSA constitute DOE’s participation in NITRD. The Office of Science focuses on
computational and networking tools that enable researchers to model, simulate,
analyze, and predict complex physical, chemical and biological phenomena important
to the department’s overall mission. NNSA supports research developing new means
of assessing the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons systems
through high-fidelity computer models and simulations. Under the President’s plan
DOE NITRD funding would be $404 million for FY 2008, an increase of 3.9 percent,
or $15 million, from the FY 2007 level.
of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program makes up the
bulk of the department’s participation in NITRD. For FY 2008, ASCR would grow
to $340 million. ASCR’s mission is to underpin and enable the efforts of programs
within DOE Science, as well as “to provide the high-performance computational
and networking resources that are required for world leadership in science.” In
FY 2008, the agency estimates that 47 percent of ASCR’s budget would support facility
operations, 40 percent would support research in the national labs, and 8 percent
would fund university researchers. NNSA’s NITRD-related funding would drop to $33.8 million.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Under the President’s plan, NASA would see a 3.2 percent
increase, or $2.6 million over its FY 2007 requested level for its NITRD programs.
The President’s request includes $85 million for NASA IT R&D in FY 2008. Within
its NITRD-related efforts, NASA has reduced funding for research in Cyber Security
and Information Assurance, Large Scale Networking, and High Confidence Software
and Systems, in order to focus on R&D aimed at implementing its “Vision for
Department of Commerce (DOC): The DOC request for FY 2008 contains NITRD-related
funding requests from two agencies: NOAA and NIST. NIST IT R&D efforts include
working with industry, educational, and government organizations to make IT systems
more useable, secure, scalable, and interoperable. In addition, NIST works to
apply IT to specialized areas like biotechnology and manufacturing, and to encourage
industry to accelerate development of IT innovations. The President’s request
includes $50 million for NIST in FY 2008, the same amount the agency requested
in the FY 2007 budget.
IT research in emerging computer technologies for improved climate modeling and
weather forecasting, and for improved communications technologies to disseminate
weather products and warnings to emergency responders, policymakers, and the general
public. The President’s request includes $23 million for NOAA in FY 2008, also
the same amount the agency received in the FY 2007 budget.
Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA would receive $6 million in FY 2008 under the
President’s plan, the same as requested in FY 2007. EPA intends to use that funding
to support IT technologies that facilitate ecosystem modeling, risk assessment,
and environmental decision making at the federal, state, and local levels.
and Records Administration (NARA): In 2006, the NSTC invited NARA to become a member of the
NITRD program in recognition of the research NARA sponsors on problems that
must be solved for effective lifecycle management of records in the context of
e-government. The research focuses on the management and preservation of electronic
records and fosters the development of advanced technologies for the management
of electronic records for the current and future operations needs of government.
For FY 2008, the agency requests $5 million, $1 million more than it requested
in FY 2007.
agencies include the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Security Agency (NSA), Department
of Defense (DOD) Service Research Organizations, DOD Office of the Secretary of
Defense (OSD), Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA), DOE Office of Science, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, National
Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Archives and
Records Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).