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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 12/16/2010

President's advisory group finds most federal IT funds being misused

By Cecilia Kang

Every year, federal agencies get roughly $4 billion for research and development of information technology. The goal of that funding is to bring the best available networking and communications technology into government.

But an independent study by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — a group that includes Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and Microsoft Chief Technologist Craig Mundie – has found that a scant amount of that money actually goes toward information technology development.

At the National Institutes of Health, for example, just 2 percent of the $575 million in awards were used for network research and development. The report found that about only 4 to 11 percent of awards in more than a dozen agencies were used on information technology R&D. Instead, the funds went toward infrastructure, other R&D projects, and other technology -- not for their purpose of advancing networking communications within the government.

The report, scheduled to be released Thursday, seeks to emphasize the importance of accounting for spending within government agencies and to highlight how the United States risks falling behind other nations that are investing more heavily in IT research.

Many agencies use information technology to advance research in their own fields, such as the large databases of protein sequences that are important to biomedical research. These applications represent important infrastructure and are legitimately categorized as R&D expenditures, but they are not "information technology" R&D, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.

"They involve using today's information technology to advance the forefront of other fields, not driving the forefront of networking and information technology," said Ed Lazowska, a co-chair of the the working group that developed the group’s

Lazowska will present the report to national Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Vivek Kundra, federal Chief Information Officer, during a Thursday afternoon event on research and development in federal information technology.

By Cecilia Kang  | December 16, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
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I gotta say the obvious here. Is there no board of review, no accountability review each quarter to follow implementation? Is there no application of how funds will be used before it is decided who or what projects get the funds? If there are no closely held criteria for awarding funds, no tracking built into the funding, what else would you expect? A complete misappropriation of taxpayer money! Put these bureaucrats in jail!

Posted by: jcluma | December 16, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

And you think that Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and Microsoft Chief Tech. are impartial? All they want is for the Federal Government to funnel the money directly into their own pockets. The real solution is to update the definition of this program so it includes 'creating unique IT solutions for real problems'.

Posted by: Wonka1 | December 16, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

First off, the headline seems a little misleading - it says "...most Federal IT funds being misused", while the article only discusses money for network research and development.

Second, $4 billion is being spread across Federal agencies for IT network research and development? NIH is getting $575 million for IT network research and development? How are NIH or most other Federal agencies even qualified to fund that sort of work?

Posted by: woodcbru | December 16, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

The problem is the lack of interdisciplinary collaboration. A research project in networking needs to have networking specialists deeply involved. Yet, most researchers in computers have little knowledge of the NIH, since they are usually funded by NSF. If the government wants the NIH to be making advances in networking (and one could ask, why?) then they need to require that project proposals have deep involvement by researchers who know networking.

Posted by: bkmny | December 17, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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