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January 2005

Logoff: Government tosses pennies toward information security

Guess how much the federal government spends annually on unclassified cybersecurity research? How about $5 billion? That's a little more than 1 percent of the amount spent on defense. Nope, guess again. OK, how about $189 million? That's the amount of tax breaks given to General Motors dealers who sold the now-discontinued Oldsmobile line. Ah, no, keep guessing. Maybe $92 million? That's how much NASCAR is pocketing thanks to federal economic incentives. Now you're getting warmer. The actual amount is $74 million, according to a report by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). That may seem like a lot of money, but $74 million is ridiculously low compared to the size and scope of the need. To understand why this is so, you first need to navigate the muddy waters of applied vs. basic research and classified vs. unclassified civilian funding. Applied research attempts to solve short-term, finger-in-the-dike-type problems. Basic research, on the other hand, examines big picture challenges without a ...

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