Computing Community Expresses Concern Over House Budget

By Cameron
April 25, 2006

With the House of Representatives poised to pass its version of the budget for next fiscal year, USACM joined the computing research community and several IT companies expressing our concern that it does not reflect full funding for the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). As readers may remember the ACI provides about a nine percent increase in funding for basic research at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the core labs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The President’s goal is to double funding for those agencies over the next ten years.

The budget season is well underway and the first step toward funding next fiscal year is passage of a Budget Resolution. This sets targets for broad spending categories, which the Appropriations Committee then uses to fund individual programs and agencies. One of those broad categories is “Science” and that is where the community’s concerns lie.

The House Budget Resolution allocates $300 million less for science than the President’s budget request and about $500 million less than the Senate. (One of the reasons the Senate put more money in this category is to show support for the National Institutes of Health). It is often said, “A couple hundred million is just a rounding error in the federal budget.” That might be the case for some programs, but for the physical science agencies that have been flat funded for a number of years, the increases envisioned in the ACI represent an important opportunity to bolster these programs. The appropriations committee isn’t bound to the numbers in the Budget Resolution, but not funding the President’s proposal gives appropriators a convenient excuse not to support it throughout the budget process. And what really matters is the appropriations for these agencies.

All of Washington is buzzing about ways to bolster U.S. competitiveness. Numerous reports have been released about the globalization of high-tech industries and the potential impacts on national competitiveness, including ACM’s own Globalization and Offshoring of the Software. This resolution is one of the first “tells” as to whether or not Congress is serious about addressing the many issues raised by these reports. From the computing community’s perspective, funding IT research is critical to ensuring the next generation of innovations. Bipartisan, bicameral support for the President’s initiative is now more important than ever.

The letter is below and here is a .pdf. The following groups signed the letter:

The American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)
The Association for Computing Machinery, U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM)
Cisco Systems, Inc.
The Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC)
The Computing Research Association (CRA)
The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA)
Intel Corporation
Microsoft Corporation
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

April 21, 2006

The Honorable Dennis Hastert
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Hastert,

As leaders and supporters of the computing research community, we write to express our concern that the proposed House Budget Resolution does not assume full funding for President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative. We respectfully request that Congress embrace this initiative by fully funding the President’s request in the budget resolution.

Numerous high-profile reports have pointed out the significant challenges that America faces from fierce and growing global competition. The President’s plan recognizes the critical linkage between the federal investment in fundamental research and the rise in innovation that will be required to respond to these challenges. The President’s call for increasing investment in basic research in the physical sciences represents a historic opportunity to secure the Nation’s leadership in research in information technology and other physical sciences and help ensure America’s future competitiveness.

The computing research field is a very concrete example of how federal investments in fundamental research drive economic growth. The field has a long history of creating revolutionary technologies that have enabled entirely new industries and driven productivity growth so critical to U.S. leadership in the new economy. A 2002 National Academies report found that federal support for computing research helped create 19 multibillion-dollar industries and made America the global leader in information technology. Further, several noted economists, including Alan Greenspan have cited the key role that information technology continues to play in driving U.S. productivity. Flat or declining agency budgets supporting computing research have created a significant concern within our community that we will cede these gains and our leadership by putting future innovation at risk.

The President’s American Competitiveness Initiative provides more funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the core labs program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Each agency plays an important role in funding computing research. While the House Budget Resolution does increase funding for sciences broadly, it is not clear that the increase will be enough to fund the President’s initiative. We specifically ask that the budget resolution allocate enough funding to ensure the President’s proposal can be met during the appropriations process.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you as the Budget Resolution and appropriations for these agencies move through Congress.