Testimony of The Honorable Neal Lane 

Assistant to the President Science and Technology

 before the 

Subcommittee on Basic Research Committee on Science 

U.S. House of Representatives 

July 14, 1999


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to discuss how the Administration and the Congress, working together, can strengthen our nation's investments in information technology (IT) research and development. 

To put my remarks today in context, I want to state that I am concerned about the overall funding situation for science and technology.  Although I am encouraged by current efforts I have seen in Congress to build support for science and technology (S&T) investments, the allocations that have been supplied to the Appropriations Subcommittees would make it virtually impossible to fund many of the Administration's priorities, including the Information Technology for the 21st Century Initiative (IT2).  As Jack Lew, the Director of OMB has said, "the Appropriations Committees are now implementing an untenable budget resolution which is a blueprint for chaos." 

The IT2 Initiative is the centerpiece of the President's FY 2000 R&D budget request which presents a balanced R&D portfolio that recognizes the interdependence of all fields of science and engineering. The President's request reflects the fact that broad-based investments in science and technology - both public and private - have driven our economic growth and improved the quality of life in America for the last 200 years.  Advances across a variety of fields have generated new knowledge and new industries, created new jobs, ensured economic and national security, reduced pollution and increased energy efficiency, provided better and safer transportation, improved medical care, and increased the overall living standards for the American people.  I hope that the Administration and Congress can work together to achieve full funding for IT research and the entire R&D budget.  

The Administration strongly supports the aims of H.R. 2086, namely to strengthen Federal IT R&D.   My testimony will cover some areas where we believe the bill could be improved, but we are confident that we can rapidly reach agreement in areas where we differ. 

Many of the remarkable advances in IT that we enjoy today have their origins in past Federal investments in long-term fundamental and applied research.  The returns on those investments - made two, three, and even four decades ago - have been spectacular. Federal funding in long-term computing and communications research has facilitated the advancement of an outstanding array of technologies (the Internet, web browsers, high performance computers, RAID disks, multiprocessors, local area networks, graphic displays, etc) that have created dynamic, new industries.  Federal investments in long-term computing and communications research, in parallel with corresponding investments in fundamental physical sciences and engineering, have not only fueled innovation, but also has helped produce the best academic system in the world which, in turn, has educated the business and university leaders who have made the information revolution possible.  Now is not the time to reduce our investment in the future.

 

Information Technology Research - A National Priority

The Administration continues to place a high a priority on information technology research.  Working with Congress, we have secured constant growth in this important research area.  In this year's budget, we responded quickly to the advice of the Congressionally-chartered President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) and increased our request by roughly 28%, a $366 million incremental investment within the framework of a balanced budget.  We specifically responded to PITAC's warning that we are under-investing in fundamental research in information technology.  We believe that our program, largely endorsed by your legislation, provides a sound and balanced approach.

We have placed emphasis on expanding information technology research for good reason.  The technologies will play a key role in building a prosperous American future through expanding business opportunities and by providing an essential set of tools for spurring research in all other areas - better medical treatments, improved weather forecasting, advanced materials, and safer, more efficient cars and aircraft.

The growth in information technology has been spectacular.  There are now approximately 160 million computers in use throughout the U.S. - up from 62 million at the start of the decade. Forty-two percent of American households owned computers by the end of 1998, up from twenty-four percent in 1994. In 1993, 3 million Americans - mainly researchers and academics - were connected to the Internet.  Today twenty-six percent of U.S. households are connected to the Internet and nearly a third of all Americans have access to the Internet either at home or at work.  Web addresses (URLs) are nearly ubiquitous and appear on the packaging of virtually every popular American product.   

Our past investments in information technology have translated directly into GDP growth and higher wages.   Recent studies suggest that they were responsible for 35% of the nation's real economic growth between 1995 and 1998. [1]   The software and computer services sector alone has more than doubled in size since 1990, growing to a $152 billion business by 1998. Workers in the IT-producing industries earned $53,000 compared to the economy-wide average of $30,000, according to 1997 statistics.  The indirect impacts are probably much larger but more difficult to measure - such as making it easier for firms to serve individual customers, allowing small companies access to international markets, or allowing disabled workers access to high-wage jobs. 

The advantages presented by these technologies are already transforming our economy, redefining the skills needed in virtually every job, and changing our economy and its major institutions in ways that are difficult to forecast.  It is troubling to discover, however, that the gap separating Internet access and computer ownership of white Americans and access by Hispanic and Black Americans has actually increased over the past few years.  Our nation cannot afford a digital divide separating those who can benefit from these technologies from those who have inadequate access.  Clearly we also need research to help us identify the pitfalls associated with these technological changes so that all Americans - not just a privileged few - benefit.  Both the President's IT2 Initiative and your legislation support such research. In addition to the major economic impacts, advances in information technology are essential for tackling some of the greatest challenges facing the U.S. in the next century.   

The Director of NIH recently asked a group of independent experts to evaluate the importance of information technology to advances in medicine.[3]   They concluded that "the principal obstacle impeding effective health care is lack of new knowledge, and the principal mission of the NIH is to overcome this obstacle. At this point the impact of computer technology is so extensive it is no longer possible to think about that mission without computers."    Advances in diagnosis, surgery, clinical practice, neurobiology, medical genetics, clinical trials, rational drug design at the cellular level, cell biology, and many other areas depend critically on an ability to capture, communicate, and manipulate enormous quantities of information.   A modern biomedical laboratory can produce 100 terabytes of information a year.  Advanced computation is essential to determine and understand the chemical structure of DNA and the complex molecules, which are the basis of modern drug designs.

Advances in computation are essential to understand the complex forces affecting local and global weather.   Every minute of extra warning means additional lives saved in communities in the path of a tornado.  Forecasting the path of hurricanes will help those in the path take appropriate action and avoid the costs of evacuations where they are not needed. Computer simulations make it possible for automobile designers to experiment with many more designs to improve crash-safety.  Smart highway communication systems ensure that the appropriate rescue crews are dispatched and that emergency rooms are prepared for the types of injuries they will be required to treat.

It is important to understand that the extraordinary advances made in the speed and application of computation and communication during the past few years have brought us to a new threshold in the way computation can be used in scientific research and engineering design. Advanced communications are fundamentally changing the management of research by making it possible for teams to collaborate - and even share in the operation of complex equipment - even though individual members may be in different parts of the country.  Powerful computer simulations have become an essential tool for understanding phenomena in astrophysics, cellular communication, the structure of materials, and many other areas in ways that were considered impossible a decade earlier. 

Characterizing the properties of a simple three-atom molecule using a computer simulation, for example, took more than a week on equipment available in 1987.  The more important calculation, which involves embedding the atom in a realistic structure of 600 or more other atoms, would require four years - obviously not a practical option.  Advances in mathematics, in computer software design, and our understanding of basic chemistry combined with the enormous gains made in the raw power of new computers now make it possible to do the 600 atom calculation in 8 hours.  With the investments proposed in our initiative, the time can be cut by another order of magnitude.  This makes it practical to perfect the software, the mathematics and the chemistry used in the calculation itself.  It also gives researchers a practical tool to explore phenomena previously inaccessible to theory. 

The same story holds for engineering design and testing.  Design tools capable of acceptable simulations for aerodynamic performance, safety, and other characteristics of a modern aircraft, for example, require computers to keep track of nearly seven million separate data points in the area immediately surrounding the aircraft.  Performance estimates on this scale that took 24 months with the earlier generation of machines a few years ago, now take 8 hours.  The next generation of software, algorithms and equipment will make it possible to alter designs and test them in a few minutes, greatly increasing opportunities for improving performance, cutting design costs, and improving safety.

 

In short, we have given information technology research a high priority in our research program because of its enormous power to advance the American economy in the next century and because it provides essential tools for all important areas of research.

Laying A Foundation for the Future

            The Administration has proposed major increases in information technology that are directly responsive to the advice of PITAC.  Specifically, we have proposed significant increases in support for:

        Expanding basic research on information technologies with a strong emphasis on improvements in software.  It is essential that we develop software that is dependable, resistant to intrusion, and inexpensive to build.  Entirely new approaches are needed to move from today's computers to new machines that may link thousands or millions of individual process.

        Approaches making it easier for people to communicate their requirements to computers and to understand the information the new systems make available.  This will require entirely new tools for searching texts, pictures, and large sets of data.  Special systems are needed for people with disabilities.

        Entirely new approaches to the design of computers needed to ensure that computational power continues to increase even when we begin to approach the limits of how small we can make electronic components.  This will include exploring exotic tools such as quantum computing or using DNA or other chemicals for processing data.

        Ensuring that the civilian research community can continue its innovation through  access to vastly more powerful machines than are available to them today and have the necessary software design tools and other assistance needed to take full advantage of these new machines, and

        Understanding the social, political, economic, and ethical issues raised by the transformations in our economy and society being created by information technology.  This includes, for example, attention to the increases in the gap separating Internet access and computer ownership of white Americans and access by Hispanic and Black Americans discussed earlier.  Our nation can't afford a digital divide separating those who can benefit from these technologies from those with inadequate access.  Research is essential to understand and respond to these and other challenges created by an information rich economy.

H.R. 2086 directly complements the Administration's IT2 initiative and attests to our common bipartisan commitment to ensure adequate and sustained Federal investments for the future benefit of the nation.  We both clearly agree that past U.S. investment in research has yielded enormous returns and remains critical to our scientific, technical, and economic leadership - and we agree that expanded investment is essential to maintain this leadership.

There are, however, a few areas of difference that I would like to highlight for the Committee's consideration

Ensuring Participation and Adequate Funding for Key IT Agencies U.S. leadership in information technology has depended on our ability to manage a federal research program that draws on the unique strengths of many different agencies.  Clearly, this should continue. The Administration believes that the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), both important components of our interagency information technology research and development work, should be included in the proposed legislation. The DOD has played a central role in developing the Internet and supporting fundamental advances in computing, and it must continue to be a vital part of the Federal IT R&D program.  In the years ahead, the power of computing will be absolutely essential to the biomedical community for research and improving the health of our nation's citizens in the years ahead.  The previously cited advisory committee report to the NIH stresses the importance of developing computing capabilities to support new biomedical knowledge.  DOD and the NIH both have proposed research under the IT2 initiative, as well as important activities in the existing HPCC and NGI programs.  While we understand the jurisdictional difficulties raised by including these agencies in H.R. 2086, we trust a measure can be developed that ensures both agencies receive the necessary support for information technology-related research.  Their efforts must be integrated into any national plan.  The bill should contain language indicating that ongoing interagency coordination authorized under the original HPC Act should continue and provide the agencies covered by the proposed legislation the authority to coordinate in the new areas of research proposed by the bill.

 

The Administration is also concerned that H.R. 2086 provides insufficient levels of funding for DOE's support of new programs in terascale computing infrastructure and for other information technology research in DOE.  We share your conviction that our civilian research community needs greater access to state-of-the art computers and the unique expertise needed to employ them in solving practical research problems.   Over the past year DOE and NSF have worked together to develop an implementation plan that would provide complementary terascale computing facilities to the nation's science and engineering communities.  The Department of Energy would develop and deploy a fundamental new capability in scientific simulation to address a class of highly complex scientific problems.  The potential benefits include developing exotic new materials essential for manufacturing, microelectronics, and many other areas; modeling regional and global climate patterns and changes; and, developing cleaner, efficient combustion devices that power our economy.

 

Because of its extensive experience and technical capabilities in managing the acquisition and operation of large, complex user facilities, its history of making first-of-a-kind computer facilities available to the research community, and its experience in managing large multidisciplinary scientific and engineering teams focused on solutions to critical national problems, DOE is well qualified to perform this role.

The Administration hopes that we can work together to ensure adequate funding to take full advantage of the DOE's enormous strengths in terascale computing and networking and scientific applications, and its unique and its longstanding expertise in providing user-facilities to our nation's research community.  We can achieve our shared vision of providing enhanced computational capabilities and research tools to our nation's science and engineering communities to solve extremely complex problems only if we bring the full complement of technical assets in the Federal government to bear on this important initiative

We also have concerns about the other authorizations for DOE under H.R. 2086.  The legislation proposes a one-year increase in FY 2000 DOE funding for the NGI of  $10.4 million, along with a significant reduction in HPCC funding of approximately $16 million from the request.  It will be difficult to take full advantage of the one-year NGI increase in a research and development program if not sustained.  The HPCC funding reduction would devastate the DOE's ongoing program of IT research.  Furthermore, since neither H.R. 2086 nor H.R. 1655, the main DOE R&D authorization bill, includes language for the IT research and development base programs that are not part of the programs coordinated through HPCC, the result is an unanticipated $6 million cut in DOE's base advanced mathematics and computation programs from the FY 1999 appropriation.  The Administration would like to see DOE authorizations modified to restore adequate funding levels for its HPCC and other IT programs.

Similarly, the funding authorized by H.R. 2086 for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does not reflect all the funding for HPCC program component areas and double counts other funds.  Therefore, the legislation should be modified to reflect the total NIST authorizations of $22.7M in FY 2000.

Additionally we would like to bring to the Committee's attention that while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an integral part of both the HPCC program and the President's proposed IT2 initiative, authorization for its HPCC program ($13.5M in FY 2000) is contained in the proposed NITRD legislation, while authorization for IT2 ($5.7M in FY 2000 and $8.0 in FY 2001) is contained in H.R. 1553, the NOAA authorization.   Thus proposed NITRD authorizations in H.R. 2086 do not fully cover NOAA's coordinated IT research and development programs, as it does for most other agencies in the legislation.

Evaluation of Capabilities of Foreign Encryption and R&E Tax Credit  

 

The Administration is also concerned about a provision in H.R. 2086 calling for the NSF to conduct a study to assess foreign encryption technologies and domestic technologies subject to export restriction.  The Administration recognizes the concerns of Congress in this area, but does not support a statutory mandate requiring that a study be conducted by NSF.  The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration, in consultation with the National Security Agency, completed an assessment a number of years ago at the direction of the President and with the support of the Congress, and it is prepared to do so again.  The Administration believes that this is the appropriate approach.

H.R. 2086 proposes making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent.  The Administration supports making the tax credit permanent.  However, it must be paid for per the PAYGO requirements of the Budget Enforcement Act.

Conclusion

 

There is much common ground shared by the Administration's Information Technology Initiative and H.R. 2086.   We share a conviction that an expanded investment in information technology research is a critical investment in our country's future.  We look forward to working with the Committee to expeditiously resolve any differences and to push for final passage of this important legislation.   We also look forward to working with the Committee to ensure that the appropriators are fully informed of the importance of these investments.  Thank you for the opportunity to work with you in this critical effort.



[1] U.S. Department of Commerce. The Emerging Digital Economy. June 1999.  Available online at http://www.ecommerce.gov/ede/ede2.pdf

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce.  Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, July 1999.  Available online at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn99/contents.html.

[3] Working Group on Biomedical Computing,  Advisory Committee to the Director, National Institutes of Health. The Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative.  June 3, 1999.  Available online at http://www.nih.gov/welcome/director/060399.htm

 


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