Fueling the IT Economy

Fueling the IT Economy

Bill Clinton

By Steve LeSueur

President Clinton wants to spend more than $2 billion in 2000 on advanced computing and research into new information technologies, according to the new federal budget.

"The major new investment in this budget is in information technology," said Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, which will oversee part of the spending. "As Internet growth has gone through the roof, IT has become the essential fuel for the nation's economic engine."

While the $366 million Information Technology Initiative has garnered the most attention, the president's proposed fiscal year 2000 budget also provides robust funding for ongoing IT research and development programs.

For example, there's $1.46 billion in continued funding for the High Performance Computing and Communications program to pursue breakthroughs in high-end computing and computation, large-scale networking and high-confidence systems. This includes $543 million for the Department of Energy's Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative to support the nuclear weapon stockpile.

And spread among various agencies is an estimated $250 million for Human Centered Systems programs examining how people work with computers.

The requested research and development funding, which must be approved by Congress, represents a more than 25 percent increase over last year's investment in these areas.

In supporting budget documents, administration officials said the IT industry now constitutes a $700 billion cornerstone of the U.S. economy and employs 7.4 million people at wages that are more than 60 percent higher than the private sector average. Studies suggest that the industry has generated one-third of the recent growth in the U.S. economy.

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