Washington D.C. – Today the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing to review the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, which is the federal government’s mechanism for coordinating unclassified networking and information technology (NIT) research and development (R&D) investments. Today’s hearing focused on ensuring the U.S. maintains its strong leadership in NIT, and gave Members an opportunity to receive testimony on priorities for the future.

“Among its many goals, NIT research and development in this field works to minimize and prevent disruptions to critical infrastructures like power grids and emergency communication systems,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL).  “These investments are necessary not only to help maintain world leadership in science and engineering and strengthen U.S. competitiveness, but they also grow the economy through the creation of NIT jobs and enhance national security.”

Brooks concluded his statement saying, “At a time when American competitiveness and national security are at risk, it is important that we maintain our lead in the development of these crucial technologies.”

In the 111th Congress, the House passed a bill to reauthorize NITRD and further prioritize and strengthen federal information technology activities.  It would have improved program planning and coordination to focus on large-scale, long-term research.  The legislation also specified that NITRD support R&D in cyber-physical systems and human-computer interactions.  The Senate did not act on this legislation, and later stripped the reauthorization language from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.

In December 2010, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report stressing the necessity of advances in NIT.  The report said such advances would be a key driver of economic competitiveness, creating new markets and increasing productivity. Reflecting priorities outlined by the PCAST report, the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request for NITRD totals $3.9 billion, a 1.9 percent increase from FY10 expenditures.

Witnesses today echoed the importance of federal investments in NIT.  Discussing the “multiplier effects of Federal NIT R&D,” Dr. George Strawn, Director of the National Coordination Office for the NITRD Program, said “The results of these investments have spawned a myriad of technological innovations, novel products and communications capabilities, and an entirely new, multibillion-dollar economic sector in NIT that has been responsible for significant expansion in well-paying job opportunities.”

Discussing the importance of basic R&D, Dr. Robert Sproull, Retired Director of Oracle Labs, said “The NITRD program has demonstrated an ability to coordinate Federal investments in essential research, starting with high-performance computing and now extending to a broader set of national goals.”  Dr. Sproull said that it is now critical to convince a broad set of NITRD mission agencies that “long-term investments in fundamental NITRD research lead to large rewards for their missions and for the nation.”


The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Dr. George Strawn, Director, National Coordination Office, Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program
Dr. Edward Lazowksa, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

Dr. Robert Sproull, Director, Oracle Labs, retired

Dr. Robert Schnabel, Dean, School of Informatics, Indiana University