Computing Research Policy Blog

Slides from CRA Computing Leadership Summit Online!

Thanks to all who attended CRA’s annual Computing Leadership Summit. We were treated to a great series of talks from:
John Sargent, Senior Policy Advisor, Technology Administration, US Department of Commerce. Sargent went over a fascinating set of statistics he and his colleagues at the Technology Administration have managed to pull out of Bureau of Labor Statistics sources (and elsewhere) that paint an interesting picture of the current and future IT workforce. His slides on “Adequacy of the US Science and Engineering Workforce” and offshore outsourcing are chock full of data.
Peter Rooney, Deputy Chief of Staff, House Science Committee. Rooney brought the summit participants up to date regarding the Science Committee’s plans for IT R&D in the coming year.
Anthony Tether, Director, DARPA Tether described the focus of DARPA’s IT R&D efforts and addressed concerns university researchers have about the research funding regime at the agency (but was relatively unsympathetic).
Erik Jacobsson, Director, NIGMS Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Jacobsson described NIGMS’ efforts to ramp up its IT R&D efforts as part of NIH’s new Roadmap for Medical Research.
We’ve been able to post on the CRA government affairs site some of the slide presentations used by the speakers. Thanks to all who participated!

TIA Fades to Black

Though Congress killed DARPA’s TIA project and eliminated the office in which it was housed, this AP story details how much of the research formerly funded by the agency has been transferred to classified programs at unspecified intelligence agencies.
This is emblematic of a worrisome trend at DARPA of taking formerly unclassified, fundamental research projects and turning them “black” or classified. While there are likely quite a few areas of research which rightly should be classified for national security reasons, there should also be some concern that programs aren’t being turned “black” — and therefore out of public scrutiny — simply because they might be controversial. There is a cost to the progress of science when research goes black — results aren’t disseminated, certain researchers and institutions are barred from working in the area (for reasons of US or institutional policy), and public oversight doesn’t occur….

Big Problems for NIST, Cybersecurity in FY04

Thanks to Spaf for pointing out this piece that ran in Government Executive Magazine. Here’s the most relevant bit:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) acting chief of staff Mat Heyman has warned that a proposed $22 million budget cut for the agency in fiscal 2004 would force NIST to cut back on its cybersecurity projects, stop all activities under the Help America Vote Act and seriously curtail efforts under the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). NIST currently does important work to secure utility control systems and has played a “prominent role in helping state and local election officials implement new voting systems.” Under the budget cuts, these efforts, along with the MEP, would have to be significantly scaled back or halted. Members of the House Science Committee are unhappy with the proposed cuts and are looking for ways to mitigate them.

The Administration says it’s taken care of most of this shortfall in its FY05 budget request, however the numbers aren’t quite there. The Administration does include an increase at NIST in the President’s request, but doesn’t include an estimated $36 million believed to be required to shut down the ATP program at NIST as called for in the budget request.
One possibility is that the FY04 shortfall could be made up in a supplemental appropriation like the one that will be necessary to cover the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns (costs also not included in the President’s budget request).

What about “insourcing”?

Another perspective on the outsourcing issue, from an editorial in The News & Observer on February 2nd. Makes the point that even as some computing programming jobs have headed offshore, a large number of “heavy industry” jobs, including the manufacturing of vehicles, computers, electronics and other machinery have actually been “insourced” because “U.S. is still an attractive location for the siting of plants matching advanced technology and equipment with highly skilled labor and modern research.”
Click below for the full editorial….

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Science Committee to Hold Visa Policy Hearing

Just learned today that the House Science Committee is planning a hearing for February 25, 2004, to consider the impact of the current US visa policy on science. CRA has been among many groups within the scientific community that have raised concerns that tighter visa policies post-9/11 have affected international collaborations, conferences, and the participation of foreign students and faculty in US research efforts. No word yet on hearing witnesses, but I’d think the committee would be looking for folks who can speak broadly about the policy implications across disciplines.
More details as they emerge….

Software Bug Contributed to Blackout of 2003

Demonstrating the critical role software plays in the nation’s critical infrastructure, a software bug in a widely-used energy-management system appears to have suppressed an alarm that should have alerted one of the first utilities involved in the blackout early enough for them to have averted its spread. Security Focus has the story.

Highlights from the House Science Budget Hearing

The biggest news from the annual House Science Committee budget briefing was confirmation that NSF Director Rita Colwell was indeed resigning and that NIST Director Arden Bement would become interim director beginning February 22, 2004.
Colwell will become head of the newly created Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., and accept academic appointment with UMD and Johns Hopkins University.
Other budget hearing highlights:

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More on Colwell

The Chronicle for Higher Ed reports that NSF Director Rita Colwell will announce her resignation today and that Arden Bement, current director of NIST, will take over NSF on a temporary basis beginning Feb 21. Here’s the scoop: The Chronicle: Daily news: 02/11/2004 — 02
I’m headed to the Science Committee budget hearing today, so I’ll fill in the rest of the details when I get back.

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