Presidential Advisory Committee Report Spurs $366 Million Information Technology Initiative

Recognizing the critical importance of strengthening the nation's technological leadership and opportunities, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have proposed a $366 million, 28% increase in the government's investment in information technology research. Known as IT2 (Information Technology for the Twenty-First Century), the initiative is largely a result of recommendations made by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). Established in 1997 by President Clinton, PITAC is co-chaired by CRPC Director Ken Kennedy and Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems. Kennedy and Joy together received the CRA Distinguished Service Award this year for their work on PITAC (see "CRPC Director Ken Kennedy Wins Computer Research Association Distinguished Service Award").
PITAC members at their February 1999 meeting held at NSF headquarters in Arlington, VA. Co-chair Ken Kennedy is in the second row, far right.
"Information technology presents enormous opportunities for growing the economy and improving health care, education, public safety, the environment, and many other areas of importance to the nation," Kennedy stated at an October 6, 1998 hearing that focused on the PITAC Interim Report. "To capitalize on these opportunities, we should be increasing federal investments in this critical area to levels commensurate with its importance to the nation and to the government. We urge you to take steps now to ensure that the people of the United States continue to enjoy the fruits of the information revolution into the next millennium."

The final PITAC Report to the President, released in February 1999, concluded that the government was under-investing in long-term IT research relative to its importance to the nation. The committee, comprised of leaders from industry and academia, concluded that the private sector was unlikely to invest in the long-term, fundamental research needed to sustain the Information Revolution.

"This committee strongly recommends that the Federal Government embark upon the kind of leading-edge, visionary research necessary to continue the revolution that has transformed the lives of our citizens in ways not thought possible just 30 years ago," the final report states. "The recommendations of this committee also stress the needs to: 1) upgrade the knowledge base and skills of our workforce so that our citizens will face a new century fully prepared for the technological challenges that are yet to come; and 2) give all Americans the opportunity to participate in the information age, so that our citizens will be able to fulfill its promise. These steps, if taken now, will bring handsome returns to the nation over the coming decades."

According to the White House Office of the Vice President, IT2 will support three kinds of activities:

  • Long-term information technology research that will lead to fundamental advances in computing and communications, in the same way that government investment beginning in the 1960s led to today's Internet;
  • Advanced computing for science, engineering, and the nation that will lead to breakthroughs such as reducing the time required to develop life-saving drugs; design cleaner, more efficient engines; and more accurately predict tornadoes;
  • Research on the economic and social implications of the Information Revolution, and efforts to help train additional IT workers at our universities.
The potential breakthroughs that may be possible as a result of IT2 include:
  • Computers that can speak, listen, and understand human language, are much easier to use, and accurately translate between languages in real-time;
  • "Intelligent agents" that can roam the Internet on our behalf, retrieving and summarizing the information we are looking for in a vast ocean of data;
  • A wide range of scientific and technological discoveries made possible by simulations running on supercomputers, accessible to researchers all over the country;
  • Networks that can grow to connect not only tens of millions of computers, but hundreds of billions of devices;
  • Computers that are thousands of times faster than today's supercomputers, or are based on fundamentally different technology, such as biological or quantum computing;
  • New ways of developing complex software that is more reliable, easier to maintain, and more dependable for running the phone system, the electric power grid, financial markets, and other core elements of our infrastructure.
The initiative builds on previous and current programs in computing and communications, including the High-Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program and the Next Generation Internet, as well as the PITAC recommendations. The agencies involved in IT2 include the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more information on IT2, see To access the PITAC Final Report, see

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