Science Committee Approves Major Information Technology Initiative - Appropriations Picture Bleak
By a unanimous vote (41-0), the Science Committee has approved bipartisan legislation providing for a five-year doubling of basic research needed to underpin future technological advances in information technology.
The bill, H.R. 2086, embraces the recommendations of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) and is largely consistent with the President's Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT2) initiative as proposed in the Administration's fiscal year 2000 budget request. The legislation has received widespread support from the computer and information industries and the academic and industrial research communities.
While the Committee authorizes substantial increases for information technology research, the fiscal year 2000 appropriations bills being moved by the Republican leadership are slashing funding for research. Information technology research increases have been particularly hard-hit. In response to the discrepancy between the authorized and appropriated funding levels, the Committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-MA) to require a General Accounting Office assessment and report on the impact of appropriations shortfalls in meeting the nation's research needs for information technology research.
Mr. Capuano remarked that, "The Republican budget plan calls for large tax cuts. It also incorporates declining discretionary funding that will make it extremely difficult to achieve the outyear authorization levels in H.R. 2086 or make up the substantial shortfalls for information technology research now appearing for FY 2000. In light of the disparity between the scale of research activity that PITAC advocates, and that H.R. 2086 endorses, and these insufficient appropriations levels, we need to assess how critical information technology research programs will be affected."
H.R. 2086 assigns the key role in the information technology initiative to the National Science Foundation, providing a total authorization for FY 2000 of $515 million. The appropriations bill for NSF, which was passed by the House this week, provides only $335 million - a cut of $180 million below H.R. 2086 and only $21 million above NSF's core information technology research activities for FY 1999. Further, the White House has indicated that appropriations bills considered by the House thus far for agencies participating in the IT2 initiative have under-funded the initiative by 70%.