ers.1 This federal dominance—or at least heavyweight status—in the IT sector was also manifested in government’s investment in efforts to establish federal data-processing standards, a substantial fraction of which was aimed at information systems security (reflecting a long-standing federal interest in this area).

As the commercial market for computing grew in the 1960s, federal support for IT research continued to reap benefits. Over time, government lost its position as the leading customer for computers, but because information technology remained critical to its various missions and because government led demand in many specific respects, federal support for IT research continued. In the 1980s, the Strategic Computing program, for example, was launched in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in order to accelerate the development and transition of information technologies critical to defense applications. Expanding on Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) research aimed at meeting military requirements, and on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) energy research, NASA space research, NSF basic science, and the mission research of several other agencies, the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative was created in the early 1990s to help address “grand challenge” applications in areas of government interest such as health, education, libraries, and crisis management, and to accelerate innovation in critical supporting information technologies.

The history of federally funded IT research shows that problems motivated by government needs, such as networking and parallel processing, when suitably framed in a well-designed research program have proved to have wide commercial application (as evidenced by the Internet, distributed transaction processing, and data mining). Broad goals were often pursued in order to infuse new thinking into the technology supply chain of vendors and technology developers for a mission agency. Examples of the success of this approach include process separation for security in operating systems (funded by DARPA in the 1970s and 1980s), computational science (NSF, DOE, and NASA in the 1980s), and custom very-large-scale integrated circuit (VLSI) chip design (DARPA in the 1970s and 1980s).

Ideas were transferred to the commercial sector through direct sponsorship, or through employment or entrepreneurship of laboratory re-


Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), National Research Council (NRC). 1999. Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., Chapter 4.

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