Technology and the Obama Budget

15 February 2011

Several defining characteristics separate those that live and work inside the Beltway from the rest. For example, you know you’re from D.C. if:

o   Your trips to the Mall have nothing to do with shopping

o   The Washington Monument is your main tool of navigation

o   You put the Virginia-Maryland rivalry on par with Capulets vs. Montagues, Michigan vs. Ohio State, and Harry Potter vs. Voldemort

Monday reminded me of another annual event that mainly pertains to those of us inside the Beltway: you know you’re from D.C.  if you get genuinely excited about the release of the President’s budget proposal.

Yes, President Obama has released his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He and his Democratic allies will need to gear up for a battle, as Congressional Republicans have already expressed their strident objections.

While the budget features across the board spending cuts, the technology industry actually emerged relatively unscathed. Indeed, the federal technology budget actually increased 1.3 percent to $80.5 billion. This is partly explained by major internal appropriations for cloud computing solutions, which is expected to eventually result in substantial reductions to the federal government’s IT costs.

Obama put his money where his mouth is, following through on several major initiatives announced at his State of the Union address. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the nation’s most prominent physical science research laboratories, is the eager recipient of an additional $100 million in appropriations pending Congressional approval. And wireless broadband was a big winner, as the Administration is officially proposing $5 billion to bring wireless broadband to rural areas and $10 billion to produce a national wireless network for public safety agencies.

Long a proponent of renewable energy, President Obama is proposing further investment in green technology to the tune of $8 billion. He elaborated on this commitment in his official statement to Congress: “We are eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels and instead making a significant investment in clean energy technology—boosting our investment in this high-growth field by a third—because the country that leads in clean energy will lead in the global economy.” Specifics include implementing three additional Green Energy Innovation Hubs as well as a plan to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015.

In his statement, President Obama was clear on his vision to bring the U.S. out of the depths of the recession: “a serious commitment to research and technology; and access to quality infrastructure like roads and airports, high-speed rail, and high-speed Internet. These are the seeds of economic growth in the 21st century. Where they are planted, the most jobs and businesses will take root.”

It’s easy to recognize the vast potential of the tech industry, but it won’t matter until these investments produce a tangible impact on the American economy  and – perhaps more importantly – begin creating jobs. Is President Obama making the right call by doubling down on wireless broadband and green technology? Post your thoughts below!

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