Briefing Paper on PITAC

Office of Science and Technology Policy

For Immediate Release 
Contact:  456-6108
August 10, 1998 


Briefing Paper on the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC)
Interim Report to the President



The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) is issuing an interim report to the President today.  The report presents two major findings.  First, the Committee believes that the Federal government is currently under-investing in information technology (IT) research and development (R&D).  Second, the Committee feels that the research agenda is too heavily focused on near-term problems, to the exclusion of vital long-term, fundamental research needed to sustain future economic competitiveness, provide tools to enable lifelong learning for all Americans, and solve critical problems affecting the environment, health care, and national security.  Additionally, the report calls for increased investment in software, scalable infrastructure, high-end computing, and socio-economic and workforce impacts.


The Committee is mandated to provide the President with guidance and advice on the Administration's efforts to accelerate development and adoption of information technologies that will be vital for American prosperity in the 21st century, with emphasis on evaluating and strengthening future information technology R&D programs of Federal agencies involved in Computing, Information, and Communications  R&D.

The 26 members of the PITAC include corporate leaders from the computing and communications industry, two recipients of the National Medal of Technology, and experts from the research, education, and library communities. The Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Ken Kennedy, Director of the Center for Research on Parallel Computation and the Ann and John Doerr Professor of Computational Engineering at Rice University, and Mr. Bill Joy, co-founder and Vice President for Research at Sun Microsystems.

Since its inception, the PITAC has held five public meetings and been briefed by Federal and private sector computing and communications experts on topics such as high end computing, networking, critical infrastructure protection, societal issues, and the regulation, deregulation, and growth of the Internet.  Early in its tenure, the Committee was instrumental in securing support for the President's Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, providing testimony at Congressional hearings and endorsing the initiative at national research forums.

 Over the past year, the Committee has undertaken an evaluation of Federal research programs to support development of advanced information technology. In a letter to the President in early June 1998, the Committee urged that public investments in computer, communication, and other information technology research be significantly expanded to ensure an ever-increasing standard of living and quality of life for our people.  The Interim Report describes the Committee's findings and details recommendations for prioritizing and managing increased investments for Federal IT R&D.


In its Interim Report, the Committee indicates that the Federal government currently is under-investing in the long-term, high-risk research to develop tools and technologies needed to facilitate future IT innovations. The Committee  recommends that IT R&D investment increase by roughly a billion dollars over the next five years -- double today's spending -- with emphasis placed on support for basic research.

The Interim Report identifies four IT research priorities to help the U.S. meet critical national economic and defense needs and maintain its global leadership position in IT:

The Report also recommends that better balance in the Federal research portfolio can be achieved by instituting two new mechanisms for broader IT research:
  Over the next few months, the Committee will solicit feedback from the public on the recommendations made in the report.  The Committee will hold a public Town Hall meeting at “SC98,” an annual international supercomputing conference, in Orlando, Florida, during the week of November 8-14, 1998.  The PITAC expects to issue a final report by February 1999.

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