IT Budget Busters?
Defense, security would gain, but other areas would take hits.Working with the largest deficit in U.S. history, the Bush administration is proposing spending boosts on IT and research for 2005. The lions share of the budget increase is directed at defense and security, including a doubling of the Department of Homeland Securitys funds from its creation in 2001, but it would leave some civilian research and development initiatives looking at cuts. Technology and science programs at the Department of Energy and Department of Commerce would take major hits. The White House would eliminate two technology grant initiatives from Commerce: the ATP (Advanced Technology Program), run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the TOP (Technology Opportunities Program), run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The ATP loss would be a blow to cutting-edge R&D, industry experts warned. The program was designed to promote public and private partnerships to spread the costs and risks of research that transcends immediate commercialization. As Wall Street pressures corporations to focus on short-term profitability, the ATP is critical for long-range projects, said David Peyton, director of technology policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, in Washington. "We certainly are happy to see money going into research and development at DHS and DOD [Department of Defense]. But in the middle of the picture, weve got one area that continues to be shortchanged," Peyton said, noting the cuts in advanced-technology funding.
If Congress does not reinstate the ATP for 2005, some long-range IT research projects already under way will likely be curtailed. Starthis Inc., in Arlington Heights, Ill., may not be able to complete a three-year project supported by a $2 million grant awarded by ATP last year. "This grant is vital for the activities that were performing," said David Naylor, Starthis president and CEO. "Projects that get funded tend to be longer-term activities than people would typically fund from other sources of capital. The payoff is going to come two, three or four years down the road."