President Obama’s proposed budget may be going nowhere fast, but the tech industry will likely be encouraged.
Technology companies have consistently offered themselves as key players in an economic recovery and Obama’s budget signals that he agrees. On the top of tech companies’ wish lists (besides general corporate-friendly policies like tax reform) are federal research and development funding and better education, both of which got boosts in the president’s budget.
“Employers today are looking for the most skilled, educated workers,” Obama said on Monday as he unveiled his budget proposals. “I don’t want them to find them in India or China. I want businesses to find those workers right here, in the United States.”
Overall, Obama is seeking a 2.6 percent increase to $3 billion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. The budget outlines goals to increase the number of STEM college graduates by 1 million over the next decade.
Companies have complained of a lack of skilled workers to fill high-tech positions, and government and industry alike say they lack the work force needed to address problems like cybersecurity.
Obama would also increase R&D spending by $2 billion or 1.4 percent over last year’s appropriations. While defense R&D spending would drop, non-defense spending would increase 5 percent. More money would flow to programs at agencies like NASA, the Energy Department, and the Homeland Security Department, which would see a 26 percent increase in R&D funding.
Not all agencies would see more dough, however. Besides the drop in defense programs, spending at the Agriculture Department, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would remain flat or decrease.
“The priority the President attaches to R&D and STEM education, as reflected in his 2013 budget, is justified by the historic truth that investments in innovation and education today will more than pay for themselves tomorrow,” John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said on Monday. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to nourish the seeds of exploration and discovery that will, in the years ahead, grow into breakthroughs yielding new products, services, and jobs, new therapies and cures, and a better quality of life for all Americans.”
The administration is proposing a slight cut in funding for federal information technology programs, but there could be a silver lining for providers of cloud computing and other services that federal agencies are increasingly relying on to cut costs. The budget calls for $78.8 billion for federal information technology programs, a reduction from the $79.4 billion for such programs in the current fiscal year. Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told reporters Monday that the administration is trying to “do more with less” by embracing cloud computing and consolidating federal agency data centers. “We flattened IT spending and innovated more,” Van Roekel said.
The Health and Human Services Department, Treasury and Veterans Affairs would all get IT budget increases. But the departments of Energy, Commerce and defense would be cut.
Juliana Gruenwald contributed contributed to this article.