Strategic Planning Document -
America in the Age of Information

Executive Summary

VISION: Building on more than forty years of both federal and industrial investments in information and communications research and development, our nation leads the world in developing and applying this crucial technology for the 21st century. Today we stand at the threshold of its widespread dissemination throughout society, with the potential to revolutionize the way we live, learn, and work. While America leads the world in developing and applying information and communications technologies, the continued acceleration of technological change and the global recognition of the strategic value of these technologies means that any nation can make bold advances if it makes wise investments. At stake is the technology that will determine our Nation's ability to sustain its economic well-being, to compete successfully in the global marketplace, and to enable affordable national security. The 21st century will be the Age of Information. Implementation and support of this plan will help ensure America's continuing preeminence in information technology as our country enters the 21st century. This plan describes the mechanisms for continued coordination and implementation of interagency research programs and activities, and begins an important process of engaging industry, academia, and government to work together for the benefit of all Americans. As part of the NSTC, the Committee on Information and Communication' s goal is to accelerate the evolution of existing technology and nurture innovation that will enable universal, accessible, and affordable application of information technology to enable America's economic and national security in the 21st century.

AGENDA FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: The Federal government has a crucial role to play in sustaining U.S. technological leadership in information and communications research. It supports (1) long-term scientific and technical research in information and communications that are the foundation for our Nation's 21st century industrial, commercial, and defense technologies; (2) university research that trains our country's future leaders in information and communications, science and engineering; (3) information and communications research and development needed to meet critical Federal missions; and (4) research and development in information and communications technologies that are critical to all of NSTC's overarching societal goals.

To efficiently exploit its long-term science and technology investments, it is essential that the government identify and coordinate its fundamental research strategies. The NSTC has embraced the six overarching societal goals to which all Federal science and technology programs must respond. To ensure that research and underlying technology development is fully responsive to end-user applications and to national goals, activities must be strategically focused and efficiently coordinated. Together with each of the agencies, the CIC has developed six Strategic Focus Areas to guide Federal research and technology investments in information and communications into the next century.

Strategic focus areas represent key opportunities to focus, coordinate, and accelerate information and communications science and technology development:

Global-Scale Information Infrastructure Technologies
High Performance / Scalable Systems
High Confidence Systems
Virtual Environments
User-Centered Interfaces and Tools
Human Resources and Education

The CIC' s use of these interdisciplinary areas will efficiently focus the underlying R&D activities, which include research in components, communications, computing systems, support software and tools, intelligent systems, information management, and advanced prototype applications.

APPLICATION' S STRATEGY: The ultimate customers for information and communications R&D are the users of tomorrow's systems. Each agency' s mission is linked directly to research in information and communications. Geographic distance, time to accomplish tasks, separation of people from resources, and outdated organizational structures are impediments that inhibit the ultimate achievement of all these goals. Information technology has a pervasive and unprecedented ability to remove these barriers to progress. As part of the strategic planning process, CIC has identified three broad classes of user-driven applications: (1) high performance applications for science and engineering - pushing the envelope of computational capabilities and enabling new discoveries in science and engineering; (2) high confidence applications for dynamic enterprises - improving integration, privacy, security, and reliability of information flows within and across enterprises; and (3) high capability applications for the individual - empowering individuals with universal, easy-to-use access information, and providing customization and support of their information space.

TODAY' S FOUNDATION AND BEYOND: Identifying future research directions in rapidly advancing technology areas requires continuous planning and evaluation. Building on the extraordinary successes of the interagency High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program, this strategic plan sets forth a high level strategy for the Federal government's research and development investment in information and communications technologies. The HPCC investment in science and technology forms the FY 1996 foundation of the CIC' s plans for the future of information and communications research and development..

The CIC is following three principles to achieve success: (1) streamlined collaboration with industry and academia; (2) cooperative program management across agency bounds; and (3) collective support of agency programs. During the coming year, the vision, strategy, and projects described in this document will be brought to CIC's stakeholder communities, and detailed implementation plans developed to complement critical on-going efforts. The CIC technical agenda will evolve rapidly, supported by long term, sustained commitment from the agencies. By focusing interagency cooperation, the Strategic Focus Areas will dramatically aid cooperative management when coupled to the baseline and complementary investments unique to each agency. In the coming year, the proven HPCC coordination structure will evolve to support CIC processes.

The diversity of applications across agencies, coupled with the commonality in basic information and communications research, highlights the critical importance of this strategic research agenda. These critical investments, integrated into the strategic planning process described here, will help ensure that America will continue to lead the world in the technologies essential to the Nation' s success as we enter the age of information.