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President's budget proposal partisan on tech

President Bush's budget proposal contains technology funding for companies and the military, but it provides little direction for those looking to bridge the digital divide.

    President Bush's budget proposal contains technology funding for companies and the military. However, the plan provides little direction for those looking to bridge the digital divide.

    The budget, which was unveiled Wednesday, proposes increased technology funding for the National Science Foundation, more money for an e-government initiative known as FirstGov, and a permanent research and development tax credit. It also would boost military technology funding and increase spending on drilling and clean-coal technology.

    The budget proposes funding for more inner-city tech training centers and requirements for states to publish report cards comparing the performance of different schools on the Internet.

    However, the plan suspends the Commerce Department's $190 million Advanced Technology Program, a public-private partnership that funds new technology projects. The budget also fails to mention plans for digital divide programs including e-rate and the Technology Opportunities Program, which Bush administration officials have hinted they might cut.

    The budget proposal provides a preliminary sketch of where the administration would like to see government money spent and saved. The president will reveal more details of the plans in the coming months.

    While campaigning, Bush called himself the "first e-publican," but his budget is somewhat short on tech plans, focusing instead on schools and the military. During a speech Tuesday night that outlined highlights of the plan, Bush named education his No. 1 concern. "Education is my top priority and, by supporting this budget, you'll make it yours, as well," he said.

    The president failed to mention the New Economy during the address, which prompted critics to accuse him of looking to the past for his budget strategies.

    "The fact that you can have a budget in the first year of the 21st century and not mention the New Economy is astounding to me," said Rob Atkinson, director of the Progress and Freedom Foundation's New Economy Project. "Overall what their budget really is is 1980s-style supply-side economics."

    Atkinson said the $56 million, or 1 percent, increase in the NSF research budget is actually a cut because it doesn't keep pace with inflation. The budget also doesn't mention any plans for Cyber Corps, a technology training project first proposed by Clinton and funded though the NSF.

    But Bush does propose $20 billion over five years for developing military technology, more money for charter schools, $10 million for electronic government initiatives, and $1.3 billion for U.S. attorneys to fight cybercrime, a 7 percent increase over last year.