Recommendation 2. The National Science Foundation and DARPA should assess their investment in basic telecommunications research and consider increasing both their emphasis on and their level of investment in such research.
Even with the creation of ATRA, both NSF and DARPA will retain important roles in strengthening U.S. telecommunication research. Both have successful research management cultures that complement each other and the activities envisioned for ATRA. In particular, both have been very effective at identifying, building up, and supporting research communities in areas of national interest.
As a starting point and as a periodic activity, both NSF and DARPA should look across their programs to determine how much funding is actually being directed to telecommunications research and should then develop criteria for establishing the appropriate level of funding going forward. Relevant criteria include (1) the size of the telecommunications research community and the number of highly rated proposals that can be funded, (2) the size of the telecommunications industry’s R&D budget, and (3) provision of support for telecommunications research within the broader IT research budget in proportion to the size of the telecommunications segment compared with the size of the IT industry as a whole.
Recommendation 2.1. The National Science Foundation should continue to strengthen its support for telecommunications research.
NSF has significant strengths in supporting basic research, training researchers, and building research communities that can play an important role in strengthening the U.S. research base in telecommunications. CISE’s growing commitment to supporting research in this area is evident, and the committee encourages NSF to sustain such attention.
In addition, and reflecting the greater emphasis being placed in this program area, NSF should also consider establishing programs aimed specifically at attracting and developing young research talent in telecommunications. Options would include supporting graduate and postdoctoral fellowships in telecommunications or establishing a young-investigator program that would provide start-up support for promising research talent, targeted at telecommunications.
Finally, existing mechanisms such as the CISE Advisory Committee or new ones, such as formal or informal consultations with the director of the proposed ATRA, should be used to keep abreast of new ideas, major challenges, and promising research directions emerging from academia and industry.
Recommendation 2.2. DARPA should continue to invest in telecommunications research for military applications even if there is some chance that the commercial sector will develop such technologies.
In light of the importance of maintaining a cutting-edge telecommunications capability in a network-centric military, DARPA should periodically reexamine its investments in telecommunications. Factors to consider include (1) the telecommunications capabilities attainable by potential U.S. adversaries by virtue of the burgeoning commercial telecommunications sector overseas and (2) the risks associated with having to rely on components and systems that are increasingly being developed overseas. DARPA’s role would be complementary to that of NSF and the proposed ATRA. Compared to NSF, for example, DARPA has a culture of focused programs with more active management and significant industry participation.