Two weeks ago Rep. Darin LaHood, (R-Illinois), sponsor of the 2017 NITRD funding bill – The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program – issued a formal statement championing the proposed budget. NITRD, of course, is the nation’s primary source of federally funded work on advanced information technologies (IT) in computing, networking, and software; it is a huge basket of programs, and this year includes the National Strategic Computing Initiative.
The FY2016 NITRD budget is estimated at $4.49 billion and the President Obama’s FY2017 request is basically flat at $4.54 billion. LaHood’s statement of support isn’t surprising given that the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and its Blue Waters resource are in his home state and receive on the order $400 million in funding via NITRD.
It’s worth recalling NITRD was brought into existence by the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, sometimes called the Gore Bill, which helped fund the NCSA at the University of Illinois, where a team of programmers, including Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, created the Mosaic Web browser, the commercial Internet’s technological springboard. “If it had been left to private industry, it wouldn’t have happened, at least, not until years later,” Andreessen is often reported as declaring.[i]
LaHood’s statement emphasized bipartisan support and NCSA contribution to both research and industrial competitiveness: “Up to 80 percent of Blue Waters capacity is available to scientists and researchers across the country through the National Science Foundation’s Petascale Resource Allocation program….[and through the Private Sector Partnership program] industry uses the Blue Waters computer to improve business methods, products, and enhance competitiveness.” See video clip below.
The proposed NITRD budget (detailed in this supplement to the President’s Budget for FY2017) cites “highlights” from the past year, excerpted below:
- Review of the NITRD Program: In August 2015, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the Report to the President and Congress Ensuring Leadership in Federally Funded Research and Development in Information Technology. The report provides the PCAST’s findings from its biennial review of the NITRD Program and recommendations on modernizing the Program’s R&D investment portfolio and coordination process. Activities are currently underway in response to the PCAST’s recommendations on NITRD coordination.
- Changes to Program Component Areas: Beginning with the FY 2017 budget cycle, the NITRD Program is transitioning its eight Program Component Areas (PCAs) to a new set of 10 PCAs. These changes reflect the IT R&D priorities and focus areas on which the NITRD Program’s future direction is being set. Implementing these changes necessitates updates in NITRD budget reporting in order to track and measure PCA funding levels.
- Cybersecurity R&D Strategy: With leadership from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), NITRD agencies completed the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan: Ensuring Prosperity and National Security. The Plan was released by the NSTC and delivered to Congress as mandated by the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014.
- National Strategic Computing Initiative: In July 2015, the President issued Executive Order 13702 to create the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI).3 The 2017 Budget supports NSCI investments through many agencies, with major investments from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). NITRD agencies will continue to coordinate their high-end computing research activities through the High End Computing Interagency Working Group (HEC IWG), while aligning with the national-level computing strategy of the NSCI.
- Big Data R&D Strategy: The Big Data Senior Steering Group (BD SSG) is completing The Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan, which is expected to be released in 2016.
- Privacy R&D Strategy: In 2014 OSTP tasked the NITRD Cybersecurity R&D SSG to define a privacy research framework by soliciting broad inputs from academia, government, and industry and, building on those inputs, to develop a draft National Privacy Research Strategy. The strategy is expected to be released in 2016.
- NITRD Membership: This past year, the NITRD Program welcomed the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) as a new member.
Below is a breakdown of its FY20917 proposed budget provisions by program components: