White House memo on R&D budget priorities stresses competitiveness

The agenda for the American Competitiveness Initiative seeks to double basic research funding for several science-oriented agencies.

FY 2008 Administration R&D Budget Priorities

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A Bush administration memo on research and development budget priorities for fiscal 2008 stresses competitiveness above other areas, including energy and cybersecurity.

The document refers to the new innovation agenda laid out in President Bush's State of the Union address in January as the "Presidential Priority.”

That program, the American Competitiveness Initiative, centers on a 10-year plan to double basic research funding at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Energy Department’s Office of Science — three federal organizations deeply involved in scientific research.

According to the memo, overall annual increases for these three agencies must average roughly 7 percent to meet this goal.

“Specific allocations will be based on research priorities and opportunities,” the document states. “In addition to the doubling effort at these three agencies, similarly high-impact basic and applied research of the Department of Defense should be a significant priority.”

A number of interagency R&D priorities follow the initiative in the memo, dated June 23. The selections include homeland security, high-end computing and nanotechnology, reflecting little change from last year’s list, except for the addition of energy security.

The attention to energy stems from another element of the State of the Union address: the Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI). The program aims to break the United States’ dependence on foreign energy. AEI calls for a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at DOE.

The budget memo states that agencies should support AEI through research in “diversifying energy sources for American homes and businesses; and increased vehicle efficiency and acceleration of the development of domestic, renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuels.”

Homeland security interagency R&D efforts should emphasize quick, cost-effective sampling and decontamination techniques and the development of predictive modeling for the spread of infectious diseases. Other efforts should include simulations for chemical, radiological or nuclear incidents.

Investments in information technology should continue to highlight supercomputing, according to the document. Agencies should also emphasize cybersecurity and advanced networking technologies for the high-speed transmission of huge datasets.

Other interagency priorities include the environment and understanding complex biological systems.

Peter Harsha, director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association, said the push for American Competitiveness Initiative funding seems to indicate the administration is committed to staying on a path to double research at NSF, NIST and DOE's Office of Science.

In terms of networking and IT priorities, Harsha said, “There seems to be strong support for high-end computing and networking work, including an encouragement to focus on efforts to build large-scale testbeds for networking research -- which aligns nicely with the computing community's interest in moving ahead with the programs like the Global Environment for Networking Investigations," an NSF research program devoted to constructing a new Internet.