House S&T Committee Focuses on IT at NITRD Hearing
CRA’s incoming Board Chair Peter Lee, Deborah Estrin of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Chris Greer of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) National Coordinating Office testified before the House Science and Technology Committee last week on the NITRD Act of 2009. The Act incorporates the findings and recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for the NITRD program. The hearing was well attended by members of the committee as well with a dozen attending at least part of the hearing.
All three witnesses praised the legislation for incorporating the PCAST recommendations for NITRD and for addressing a need in the research infrastructure. Lee specifically pointed out how easy it would be for the United States to lose the lead in IT R&D to other countries if it is not a focus, a comment picked up on by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) during the question and answer portion of the hearing.
Questions from the Members of Congress ranged from agency participation in NITRD to security to education. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) asked about the need for intervention in the education system to fill the pipeline of scientists particularly for attracting women and minorities. Estrin spoke to the importance of reaching children in junior high school or earlier and making the connection between computer science and the larger societal problems that it can help fix such as energy and environmental issues and healthcare improvement. Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) and Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN) both brought up the issue of national security, noting that there are daily attacks from other countries on our systems with the intent of uncovering sensitive data and that our networks are vulnerable to hacking. Greer noted that security is always a challenge at the forefront of NITRD. Estrin and Lee both stated that there are numerous research projects underway attempting to increase the security of networks and Estrin emphasized the necessity of having security parameters that are usable by the average person.
The committee has not yet introduced the Act, though it’s expected to shortly after the current congressional recess ends next week. When the bill is dropped, we’ll have a complete analysis of it here, so stay tuned. In the meantime, the full written testimony as well as the webcast of the full hearing is available on the Committee’s web site.