Implementation Plan, Sections 1-2

Strategic Planning Document -
America in the Age of Information

Information and Communications (CIC)
National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)


1.0 Vision

Building on more than forty years of both federal and industrial investments in information and communications research and development, our nation leads the world in developing and applying this crucial technology for the 21st century. Today we stand at the threshold of its widespread dissemination throughout society, with the potential to revolutionize the way we live, learn, and work. While America leads the world in developing and applying information and communications technologies, the continued acceleration of technological change and the global recognition of the strategic value of these technologies means that any nation can make bold advances if it makes wise investments. At stake is the technology that will determine our Nation's ability to sustain its economic well-being, to compete successfully in the global marketplace, and to enable affordable national security. It is crucial for the U.S. to continue to develop this technology. Any nation that dominates information technology will be a leading superpower of the 21st century.

The goal of the NSTC's Committee on Information and Communications is to:

Accelerate the evolution of existing technology and nurture innovation that will enable universal, accessible, and affordable application of information technology to enable America's economic and national security in the 21st century.

As the information revolution unfolds, information and communications technology will lead to dramatic transformations in our Nation's economy, defense, and society. Geographic distance, time to accomplish tasks, separation of people from resources, and outdated organizational structures are critical barriers that inhibit our country from ultimately achieving national goals. Information technology has a pervasive and unprecedented ability to remove these barriers to progress. Never before has there been an opportunity on such a grand scale to harness such a diverse range of technologies and to integrate them into such a pervasive array of interconnected information systems. These emerging and potential systems will benefit not only all Americans, but people everywhere.


2.0 Agenda for Research and Development

The Federal government has a crucial role to play in sustaining U.S. technological leadership in information and communications research. It supports:


2.1 Strategic Planning Process

To efficiently exploit its long-term science and technology investments, it is essential that the government identify and coordinate its fundamental research strategies. The NSTC has embraced six overarching societal goals to which all Federal science and technology programs must respond. Federal agencies accomplish their missions by defining goals, which require information and communications end-user, high-level, technologies (called "applications"). These applications are often specific to agency missions, but are built upon a common base of technologies which typically come from underlying research and development activity areas.

To ensure that research and underlying technology development is fully responsive to end-user applications and to national goals, activities must be strategically focused and coordinated. Strategic Focus Areas represent key opportunities to focus, coordinate, and accelerate information and communications science and technology development and to ensure that the underlying research is maximally responsive to the next generation of end- user applications and technologies that will further societal and agency goals. This process is illustrated in Figure 1.


2.2 Strategic Focus Areas

The Committee on Information and Communicationsí Strategic Implementation Plan is built around Strategic Focus Areas designed to focus fundamental information and communications research and to accelerate development in ways that are responsive to NSTC's overarching goals, agency mission goals, and our Nation's long term economic and defense needs. Based on a collaborative process among the Federal agencies and numerous studies and workshops devoted to identifying government, industrial, and academic research and development priorities for information and communications technologies (see Bibliography), the CIC has developed six Strategic Focus Areas to guide Federal research and technology investments in information and communications into the next century:

Global-Scale Information Infrastructure Technologies: These are advanced applications building blocks and widely-accessible information services, available to applications developers and users, that provide a network interface upon which to construct large-scale integrated and distributed applications, such as those required for the National Challenges [HPCC 94]. Examples include services for usage metering and payment, technologies for building repositories of network-linked objects, and mechanisms for partitioning applications.

High Performance / Scalable Systems: High performance / scalable systems will broaden the deployment of all CIC technologies by allowing both "high performance" and "low end" applications to operate in an integrated, seamless fashion. Future software, storage, computing, and networking technologies must be scalable across a wide range of parameters so that they can be effectively employed for diverse users, applications, services, and communication technologies. At the high end, scalable technologies will facilitate the exploitation of high performance computing technologies for computationally intensive Grand and National Challenge [HPCC 94] problems. At the low end, these technologies will facilitate highly capable, efficiently packaged computing technologies for personal information processing.

High Confidence Systems: High confidence computing and communications systems will provide the availability, reliability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy needed by the increasingly diverse users of our Nationís emerging ubiquitous information infrastructure.

Virtual Environments: By allowing diverse groups of people to interact in real time and in increasingly realistic ways over large distances, virtual enterprise technology will play a fundamental enabling role in enterprise restructuring, particularly in the distributed environments of the evolving information infrastructure. As this new technology evolves, virtual environments in science and telemedicine will continue to play a transforming role in scientific experimentation, and an increasingly important role in education and training.

User-Centered Interfaces and Tools: An increasingly diverse user population requires that technology developers understand how to make computing and communications technologies more "user-friendly" across a wide range of applications. Interfaces must be easy to use regardless of physical ability, education, and culture Such "human-centered" information systems will encourage broader use of information infrastructure technologies, and easier navigation and "mining" of information resources for organizational and personal activities over the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Concurrently, "user-centered" application and service development environments will allow end users to easily tailor and develop applications and services to meet individual needs.

Human Resources and Education: An essential goal of the CIC's research and development program is the education of people with the knowledge, skills, and insights to lead research in science and technology and to apply the resulting discoveries to industrial needs. In collaboration with the Committee on Education and Training, research in advanced information technologies will establish a foundation for new educational technologies necessary to allow a diverse workforce and student population to participate in the 21st century information revolution.


2.3 R&D Activity Areas

The Strategic Focus Areas focus the underlying interagency information and communications R&D efforts in ways that are maximally responsive to national and mission agency goals. The underlying R&D activities can be characterized into seven broad areas: components, communications, computing systems, support software and tools, intelligent systems, information management, and applications.

As shown in Table 1, the underlying individual R & D activity areas support each of the Strategic Focus Areas in varying degrees. Specific milestones for each area will be developed and will evolve based upon Agency planning, implementation plans for specific programs, and feedback of the industrial and academic research communities to this plan.

The strategic planning process used by the CIC is designed to ensure that investments undertaken in each underlying R&D activity area are consistent with the achievement of overall national and agency goals, as expressed through the Strategic Focus Areas. Further details about these seven R&D activity areas, their interrelationships, and how they relate to the Strategic Focus Areas are provided in Appendix A. Milestones, metrics and priorities for current programs are contained in existing or forthcoming documents. Milestones and metrics for the Strategic Focus Areas will evolve from this important baseline after engaging industry, academia, and government sectors over the next several months. An evolving shared vision of information and communications research and development is emerging and being embodied into Agency programs.

Figure 2 gives a initial summary of FY95 Federal spending for each of these seven R&D activity areas.(2)

The Federal High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program plays a central part in overall Federal information and communications activities, as illustrated in Figure 2. The HPCC program, its relationship to the Strategic Focus Areas and to CIC's future plans is discussed in detail in Section 4. The HPCC program is the largest ongoing Federal cross-agency science and technology program and is currently CICís most important program. It has been extraordinarily successful in research and development of high performance computing and communications technologies, and is a successful model for interagency cooperation.


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