Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
FROM: NEAL LANE AND JACOB J. LEW
SUBJECT: FY 2001 Interagency Research and Development Priorities
The President is a strong supporter of science and technology investments. He has consistently proposed growth in high priority research and development (R&D) budgets -- all the while emphasizing the importance of a balanced portfolio of federal investments. Through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), the President has also encouraged the Federal agencies and departments to identify a set of R&D areas that are important national efforts requiring coordinated investments across several agencies. These interagency priority areas reflect our objectives of maintaining excellence, maximizing effectiveness, and minimizing costs.
This memorandum serves three primary purposes. First, it reiterates the investment principles that apply to all Federal R&D programs, especially those programs in the 21st Century Research Fund. Second, it identifies a set of activities that require a significant level of interagency coordination and on which our offices will focus for the FY 2001 budget cycle. Finally, it describes the R&D performance measures and accountability standards departments and agencies will be expected to observe.
You and your staff have assisted us in the preparation of this memorandum. We anticipate that you will give these Administration priorities full consideration in development of your FY 2001 budget requests. Staff-level coordination will continue throughout this Spring and Summer, and these issues will be on the table during department and agency budget hearings this Fall. We expect that the NSTC will convene in September to review the S&T investment portfolio and help ensure the strongest possible R&D budget proposal for FY 2001.
The Administration's approach to investments in science and technology is guided by several fundamental principles. In general, Federal R&D investments should: a) sustain and nurture America's world-leading science and technology enterprise, through pursuit of specific agency missions and through stewardship of critical research fields and scientific facilities; b) strengthen science, mathematics, and engineering education, ensure their broad availability, and contribute to preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers; c) focus on activities that require a Federal presence to attain national goals, including national security, environmental quality, economic growth and prosperity, and human health and well being; and/or d) promote international cooperation in S&T that would strengthen the advance of science and achievement of Administration priorities. These principles apply to all Federal R&D investments. They are particularly vital to the success of investments made through the 21st Century Research Fund, which provides long-term stability and near-term growth for the highest priority research programs.
More specifically, in making investment decisions on Federal R&D, the Administration will:
- Favor investments that focus on long-term, potentially high-payoff activities and outcomes that would not occur without Federal support, such as activities in the 21st Century Research Fund.
- Ensure that the government-wide portfolio of R&D investments establishes a desirable balance among fields of science.
- Maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of Federal R&D investments, for example by:
- Favoring activities that employ competitive, peer-reviewed processes.
- Encouraging collaboration among agencies, industry, academia, and the states when such efforts further the goals of the research.
- Encouraging strategic collaboration with key international counterparts that will address fundamental science priorities as well as global energy, environment, security, and health challenges.
- Improving, phasing down, or eliminating programs that are not resulting in substantial benefits or are not important to an agency's mission.
- Encourage agencies to fund program proposals within FY 2001 budget guidance, rather than requesting additional funding, in keeping with the Administration's continuing effort to maintain a balanced Federal budget. The Administration encourages agencies to fund new, high-priority activities by substituting them for lower-priority or recently completed activities. Funding above guidance levels will require a compelling rationale that the activity is important, that the agency is the best one to conduct the activity, and that funds from lower priority or recently completed programs cannot be substituted within the agency's guidance.
Interagency Priorities for Research and Development Budgets
Among the high-priority Federal investments in science and technology, NSTC coordinates a small number of selected interagency science and technology investment priorities. During preparation for FY 2001, NSTC expects to focus on 11 activities listed below. The more mature, congressionally mandated programs (the U.S. Global Change Research Program and Information Technology R&D) are managed as formal interagency crosscuts (defined below). Management of the other nine priority programs listed below includes three requirements that, as the programs mature, may be phased in by NSTC working groups that have developed the programs: 1) a clear and concise definition of program activities and priorities; 2) an inventory of the programs in the baseline budget; and 3) an implementation plan.
Departments and agencies involved in this set of NSTC activities will participate in working groups that integrate development and planning of programs, including full exchange of budget information. OMB and OSTP staff will participate in the working groups as appropriate. In the Fall, OSTP will attend agency-specific OMB budget hearings related to R&D, during which OMB and OSTP staff may engage each agency in a discussion of the listed interagency programs as appropriate.
This is not a comprehensive list of all Administration S&T priorities, e.g., it does not include priorities that fall within the purview of a single agency. The NSTC also is actively involved in a number of interagency R&D issues that, unlike the issues described below, do not require near-term Administration policy or budget decisions. Some of these issues may emerge as priorities for FY 2001 over the next few months. One such area we wish to highlight is research on asthma and other types of research related to children's environmental health. The Administration may also reorder some of our existing priorities to accommodate new needs. We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.
NSTC FY 2001 Priorities
The following are NSTC priority programs for FY 2001. Agency budget requests in any of these areas should be within guidance.
- Information Technology R&D: By August 1999, integrate the Information Technology for the Twenty-first Century (IT2) initiative, High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) (including the Next Generation Internet initiative, and both formal and informal program components), and elements of the Energy Department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative into a single cross-cut. The integrated program will stimulate information technology innovations -- including digital government, tele-health, universal access, crisis management, real-time environmental monitoring using networked sensors, the development of a 'Digital Earth,' and advanced manufacturing -- and serve a broad range of scientific and engineering needs. Agencies must justify investment levels based on commitments made in 1999 interagency planning documents, such the IT2 and HPCC implementation plans. The NSTC should engage the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee to conduct an external assessment of the integrated IT2 and HPCC program plan by September 1999.
- U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP): By August 1, 1999, complete a long-term research plan that will serve as the basis for the FY2001 budget and will take into account the redefinition of USGCRP programs. The USGCRP will implement the carbon cycle initiative begun in FY 2000 and will examine and sharpen the focus of climate observing and modeling programs.
- Climate Change Technology Initiative: Promote and coordinate research aimed at technologies capable of achieving reductions in U.S. carbon emissions at the lowest possible cost. Technologies include products and production methods that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the efficiency of energy and materials used in transportation, buildings, and manufacturing while lowering the cost and improving the quality of the goods and services delivered and technologies which provide cost-effective renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. These include technologies managed under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, and technologies that use biological materials as substitutes for fossil-fuel feedstocks and which substitute bioprocessing techniques for conventional chemical processes, and agroforestry technologies that will help to sequester carbon.
- Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID): Enter the next phase in the interagency effort to address emerging infectious diseases, pursuant to PDD/NSTC-7. Program priorities include Hepatitis C, antimicrobial resistance, emerging viral infections, pandemic influenza, and the effort to address global emerging infectious disease challenges. Activities will address technologies and methodologies for surveillance and response, factors associated with emergence and reemergence, research, training, and capacity building. Agency budget requests should be based on the EID task force plan for this phase, which will be completed by July 1, 1999.
- Protecting Against 21st Century Threats: Promote and coordinate research to reduce vulnerabilities in our nation's critical infrastructures; promote the research and development of technologies that will detect, contain, and mitigate attacks against or other failures in these infrastructures. Agency budget requests in critical infrastructure protection R&D should be based on PDD-63 and the specific recommendations of the Critical Infrastructure Protection R&D Interagency Working Group, which will be drafted by May 1999. Promote and coordinate research to enhance our ability to detect, respond to, and heal the effects of possible terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, radiological, and related weapons. Program priorities should include improving our medical response capabilities, developing detection, protection, and decontamination technologies, and conducting modeling and simulation efforts. Agency budget requests in weapons of mass destruction prevention (WMDP) R&D should be based on PDD-62 and the specific recommendations of the WMDP R&D Interagency Subgroup, which will be drafted by May 1999.
- Aviation Safety, Security, Efficiency, and Environmental Technologies: Support research and development aimed at (a) reducing the aviation fatal accident rate by eighty percent by 2007; (b) strengthening the security of our aviation system; (c) continuously improving our national airspace system and airports to increase their capacity and efficiency of operations; and (d) fostering the environmental compatibility of our aviation system. These activities encompass the recommendations of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.
- Plant Genome: Promote the coordinated development of plant genomic information, new technologies, and resources that will improve our understanding of plant biology and be applied to the enhancement of economically important plants. Agency budget requests should be based on existing coordinated interagency plans that address the program priorities contained in the 1998 NSTC report, National Plant Genome Initiative. In addition, by August 31, 1999, agencies will be expected to provide plans to OSTP on engaging the private sector and international partners.
- Food Safety: Promote food safety research that provides a scientific foundation for sound food safety policy and regulation, innovations in food production to increase safety, consumer education to improve food safety practices, and global monitoring (surveillance) and response to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Agency budget requests should be based on the inventory of current research activities and interagency priorities established by the NSTC Interagency Working Group on Food Safety Research and the Joint Institute for Food Safety Research. The inventory and priorities list will be finalized by July 30, 1999. Specifically, priorities must reflect the President's Food Safety Initiative and be based on an assessment of the existing research portfolio. Agencies are expected to provide to OSTP and OMB a coordinated budget plan prior to or simultaneous with agency budget submissions to OMB.
- Integrated Science for Ecosystems Challenges: Develop the knowledge base, information infrastructure, and modeling framework to help resource managers predict/assess environmental and economic impacts of stress on vulnerable ecosystems, with particular focus on invasive species, water and air pollution, changes in weather and climate, and land and resource use. Agency budget requests should be based on an implementation plan, to be completed no later than August 1999, by the NSTC's Ecological Systems subcommittee. The implementation plan will reflect priorities recommended by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Research Council and will emphasize the importance of fundamental research on which all priority areas depend.
- Educational Research Initiative: Support research to strengthen understanding of the learning process and to apply that understanding to the development and evaluation -- particularly through large scale, long-term, and experimental studies -- of educational systems, technologies, and other approaches aimed at improving educational and training outcomes. Agency budget requests should reflect a coordinated, five-year interagency plan, prepared by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. The plan will be completed by July 30, 1999, and address previously-identified priorities, including recommendations contained in the report from the PCAST on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States.
- Nanotechnology: Promote and coordinate a long-term nanoscale R&D agenda that could lead to the following potential applications: nanoparticles for improved drug delivery, miniature sensors for earlier detection of ovarian cancer, computer chips capable of storing trillions of bits of information on a pin-head, advanced materials that are much stronger than steel, and artificial photosynthesis for clean energy. The NSTC Committee on Technology Nanotechnology Interagency Working Group will be establishing R&D priorities and the Agency budget requests for FY 2001 in a coordinated interagency plan that will be presented to the Committee on Technology in June 1999. This interagency plan will be reviewed by experts in nanotechnology who represent industry and academia, as well as the federal agencies.
Formal NSTC Crosscuts
The FY 2001 budget includes two formal NSTC interagency R&D crosscuts: Information Technology R&D and USGCRP. OMB's Circular A-11, a revised version of which will be available in the early summer 1999, outlines the definitions of these crosscuts and how agencies must submit data to OMB.
To promote more uniform management and accounting, each crosscut must include the following:
- Concise program performance goals and measures, finalized in time to be sent to OMB as part of the FY 2001 Budget submission. Goals and measures should be quantitative if possible, but may be qualitative where appropriate.
- A program implementation plan for the FY 2001 budget outlining specific agency activities and budgets, and the linkages between them. Agency activities contributing to the crosscut should be tied clearly to overall crosscut goals and performance measures. Agency budget information should include estimates for FY 2000-2005. Funding for the crosscut activities should be within OMB budget guidance. Activities whose funding cannot be accommodated with the budget guidance should be clearly delineated. Agencies should provide such information in a timely fashion if they plan to participate in the interagency program; late submittals may not be accepted. Implementation plans should be finalized no later than September 1999.
- Written assurance, incorporated in the crosscut implementation plan, by each participating agency that all agencies involved in the crosscut have reviewed each others' projects, and that these projects directly contribute to the goals and objectives of the crosscut and are well coordinated.
- Budget hearing with OSTP and OMB staff in September 1999.
- Supplement to the President's budget, to be released to the public no later than end of March 2000.
This schedule emphasizes the requirement for agencies to coordinate and share information on development of the FY 2001 budget as part of each interagency program.
R&D Performance Measures
We encourage agencies to include the following R&D goals and measures in their agency performance plans. The Government Wide Performance Plan that accompanied the President's FY 2000 budget included similar measures for Function 250 activities.
Federally funded research will be of the highest quality.
- We encourage each agency to establish a goal for the percent (by amount of funds) of its research project portfolio that will be allocated through a merit-based competitive process. The goal should reflect a thoughtful balance between those mission driven research programs that are managed by other processes, and research for which the merit-based competitive process is most appropriate. (In the President's FY 2000 budget, the goal is 80 percent or greater for Function 250 activities).
- We encourage agencies to ensure that independent assessments of their research programs evaluate both the quality and the progress of the agencies' research toward stated goals. The goal will be to achieve a "satisfactory" rating from such assessments, consistent with the format provided in the Government Performance and Results Act. Existing advisory committees, groups within the National Academy of Sciences, or other outside groups could conduct the assessment.
Major scientific facilities will be built and operated efficiently.
As established by law in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, agencies will keep the development and upgrade of facilities on schedule and within budget, not to exceed 110 percent of estimates. In operating R&D user facilities, agencies will establish a goal for unscheduled down time as a percent of total scheduled possible operating time. (In the President's FY 2000 budget, the goal is less than 10 percent unscheduled down time.)