The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Background, Funding, and Activities Page: 2 of 15
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The Federal NITRD Program: Background, Funding, and Activities
In the early 1990s, Congress recognized that several federal agencies had ongoing high-
performance computing programs, but no central coordinating body existed to ensure long-term
coordination and planning. To provide such a framework, Congress passed the High-Performance
Computing and Communications Program Act of 1991 (PL. 102-194) to enhance the
effectiveness of the various programs. In conjunction with the passage of the act, the White
House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released Grand Challenges: High-
Performance Computing and Communications. That document outlined a research and
development (R&D) strategy for high-performance computing and a framework for a
multiagency program, the High-Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program.
The HPCC Program has evolved over time and is now called the Networking and Information
Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, to better reflect its expanded mission.
Current concerns are the role of the federal government in supporting IT R&D and the level of
funding to allot to it. Proponents of federal support of information technology (IT) R&D assert
that it has produced positive outcomes for the country and played a crucial role in supporting
long-term research into fundamental aspects of computing. Such fundamentals provide broad
practical benefits, but generally take years to realize. Additionally, the unanticipated results of
research are often as important as the anticipated results. Another aspect of government-funded IT
research is that it often leads to open standards, something that many perceive as beneficial,
encouraging deployment and further investment. Industry, on the other hand, is more inclined to
invest in proprietary products and will diverge from a common standard when there is a potential
competitive or financial advantage to do so. Proponents of government support believe that the
outcomes achieved through the various funding programs create a synergistic environment in
which both fundamental and application-driven research are conducted, benefitting government,
industry, academia, and the public. Supporters also believe that such outcomes justify
government's role in funding IT R&D, as well as the growing budget for the NITRD Program.
Critics assert that the government, through its funding mechanisms, may be picking "winners and
losers" in technological development, a role more properly residing with the private sector. For
example, the size of the NITRD Program may encourage industry to follow the government's
lead on research directions rather than selecting those directions itself.
The President's FY2013 budget request for the NITRD Program is $3.808 billion, an increase of
$69 million more than the $3.739 billion FY2012 estimate. Actual NITRD spending in FY2011
totaled $3.727 billion.
Three pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 112* Congress that would have an effect
on the NITRD Program and its member agencies: H.R. 3834, the Advancing America's
Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2012; H.R. 2096, the
Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011; and S. 1152, also called the Cybersecurity Enhancement
Act of 2011. H.R. 2096 and S. 1152 are identical.
Two hearings have been held related to the NITRD Program, the first on federal R&D efforts to
protect information in the digital age (May 25, 2011) and the second on program oversight
(September 21, 2011).
Congressional Research Service
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The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Background, Funding, and Activities, report, April 20, 2012; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808256/m1/2/: accessed October 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.