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Clinton budgets more for high tech

The Clinton administration's proposed 1999 fiscal budget earmarks billions of dollars for technology research and education initiatives.

    The Clinton administration's proposed 1999 fiscal budget earmarks billions of dollars in tax breaks and funding for technology research and education initiatives.

    The entire $1.73 trillion budget includes substantial Congress shapes high-tech, Net policy dollars to build a better Internet, create new jobs in the high-tech industry, and fight Net crimes. Keeping his State of the Union promise to support high-tech innovation, the president has proposed a $78.2 billion budget for science and technology research.

    "These investments are vital; they help to create new knowledge, train more workers, spur new jobs and industries, address our health care challenges, strengthen our understanding of environmental problems, better educate our children, and maintain a strong national defense," the president stated in the budget released yesterday.

    A total of $31 billion is laid out for the Research Fund for America, which supports numerous federal science and technology programs. If approved by Congress, the allocation would represent an 8 percent increase in funding from last year.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) could get $3 billion of the research fund, which will likely trickle down to colleges and universities. In addition, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is slated to receive $260 million next year. NIST develops technology standards and fosters cost-shared research and development projects between the government and industry.

    One project the NSF is working on is the White House's Next Generation Internet (NGI). Clinton also is asking Congress to approve $110 million in 1999 for the five-year project. The NGI aims to create new online applications and networking technologies to improve communication among the nation's academic and research centers, as well as within federal agencies and the health care industry.

    Lawmakers have been skeptical about the NGI plan because it lacked detail when the White House hit up Congress for $105 million for it last year. NGI only got $85 million, and Clinton officials were warned they needed a clearer blueprint if they wanted more money in 1999. (See related story)

    As expected, the budget also focuses on shaping computer-savvy public school students, but a new emphasis is being put on teacher training.

    Two years ago, the White House promised to dedicate $2 billion over five years for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, which gives states capital to purchase computers, Net connections, software, and teacher training for schools that apply for grants. So far, the technology fund has received $625 million, and the president's 1999 budget would tack on another $475 million.

    Schools that partner with corporations to buy education technology also can apply for Technology Innovation Challenge Grants, which could get $106 million next year. In addition, $50 million per year for the next five years has been earmarked for the Education Research Initiative, a private-public endeavor to improve students' performance by using technology to teach traditional subjects such as math and reading.

    However, Clinton wants states to spend at least 30 percent of the technology challenge grants on teacher training. As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, experts say a lack of teacher training has been the No. 1 setback in effectively integrating technology into America's classrooms. In the past, most schools have only spent an average of about 15 percent of their education-technology dollars on training. (See related story)

    The new budget provides $75 million for state grants and teacher colleges to help churn out educators who use computers and easily as chalkboards. "The budget supports that there is at least one teacher who can serve as a technology expert in every school to help other teachers use technology," the budget states.

    Finally, not ignoring his administration's ongoing stance that crime on the Net is increasing, Clinton also managed to slip in $27 million to support agencies in countering so-called cybercrimes. Another $37 million could go to the Justice Department to protect and enhance its high-tech infrastructure.

    Reuters contributed to this report.