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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Richard Russell
Office of Science and Technology, Associate Director
April 26, 2004

Richard Russell
Hello from Air Force One. I'm Richard Russell, I'm just returning from a trip with the President to Minnesota where the President outlined an ambitious innovation agenda which included not only prioritizing education, but also a discussion of the administration's accomplishments on R&D, the President's strong support for the hydrogen fuel research, his goal to assure that most Americans have electronic health records within the next 10 years, and his pledge to make broadband universally available by 2007. Let's take your questions.

Troy, from Coral Gables writes:
Richard Please respond to this: Newt Gingrich recently said, "it's a grave risk for the country's future not to be investing heavily in basic research."

"There are five parallel revolutions under way in science," he said, listing information technology, communications, nanoscience, quantum mechanics and biology. "These five will change our world," he said.

"The amount of scientific knowledge we gain in the next 25 years will equal or exceed that of the whole 20th century. For the United States not to be in the forefront of that is to risk our national security and our economy.

"We're not going to be able to compete with China and India in the next 25 years if we graduate more lawyers than we do scientists," he added. "We're engaged in a huge misallocation of priorities to spend as much as we do overall and not spend more for science."

Richard Russell

I agree that funding basic research is critical to the future prosperity of the country and more importantly the President has championed basic research funding during his time in office.

As the President stated today, he has increased R&D funding by 44 percent during his time in office totaling $132 billion in his 2005 budget request.

Funding for basic research is up 26 percent since the President has been in office to $26.8 billion in his budget request for 2005

The National Science Foundation, one of our critical research agencies, now has a budget of $5.7 billion (2005 budget) -- a 30 percent increase from the start of the administration and critical research on nanotechnology has been doubled and now totals roughly $1 billion.

As the President stated today, continued support of R&D is critical to the long term competitiveness of our economy.

It has and will continue to be a priority for the administration.

Sean, from Mesa writes:
I've heard about the promise of fuel cells forever. However, you never see any progress. Sorry to be skeptical, but is this a publicity stunt? What exactly are we doing to make fuel cells a reality?

Richard Russell
Thank you Sean. Actually hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already exist. In fact, fuel cell buses are in operation in several European cities. The auto industry has invested over $1 billion in the technology.

There are still significant issues however that need to be overcome. Despite the fact that the performance, reliability and cost has improved by an order of magnitude since 1990, significant challenges remain including: making hydrogen powered vehicles and the infrastructure that fuels them commercially feasible on a large scale.

That is why the President has proposed an ambitious 1.2 billion dollar, five year initiative to address these issues.

Today he announced DOE will be giving out $350 million in grants to make hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles a reality in the future.

wendy, from annehurst writes:
I haven't heard the President talk about broadband for 3 12 years. It's election year and this is the first I've heard him discuss it. Seems to me this is a last-minute move to show the technology industry that the Bush Administration is interested in technology.

Richard Russell
Thanks Wendy for your comments....

In fact the President has talked about broadband on a number of occasions. For example, in 2002, he spoke forcefully about the benefits of broadband and the need for the government to ensure it was creating an environment that would facilitate deployment.

Last year, he directed the Department of Commerce to create a spectrum task force to make proposals for innovative ways to improve spectrum management and to make more spectrum commercially available.

Following on recommendations from the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, today he signed an executive Memorandum directing agencies to streamline their rights of way processes to make it easier for broadband deployment.

The administration has been working hard to develop policies that enable new broadband technologies. The President has pledged to make broadband universally accessible by 2007 and we will meet this goal.

Rikki, from Chicago writes:
What is the current broadband access tax?

Richard Russell
The President opposes access taxes on broadband. Currently, a number of states are charging taxes on broadband access such as DSL services. The President supports and the House has passed a permanent ban on access taxes on broadband. The Senate is poised to consider the bill. And the President has called on the Senate to act.

Janice, from Shaker Heights writes:
What exactly are we doing with the Rights-of-Way problem? It is a substantial problem.

Richard Russell

Federal agencies take up to two years to process applications to access federal lands to deploy telecomm services including broadband. Broadband providers have been running into the same obstacles.

The President today directed federal agencies to follow the recommendations of the Department of Commerce's Rights of Way report which will streamline the process making it easier for broadband deployment across federal lands.

Matt, from Des Moines writes:
How far in the future is reliable wireless broadband?

Richard Russell

The future is now but the limitation is spectrum. Already in markets such as San Diego and Washington DC, next generation wireless broadband exists and is receiving good reviews. To make sure that all of America will have access to next generation services by multiple providers the Administration has identified 90 MHz of fed spectrum that will be auctioned for commercial use.

In addition, new wireless technologies like wi-max hold great promise for high speed wireless broadband

These and other technolgies will be available in the next year.

Javier, from Boston writes:
The idea of transmitting x-rays, lab results, and prescriptions over the internet concerns me. The first two for reasons of privacy: What is to stop someone from obtaining patients' personal information that is being sent over the internet? Identity theft is everywhere and this is just one more avenue for that. Also, ordering prescriptions online is precarious because if someone taps into the system, pretty soon you can have people running percoset on the street. Just a thought.

Richard Russell
Thank you for your question.

Security is always a concern when dealing with medical records. However, it is possible to secure records for transmission online. Technologies, such as encryption allows for transmission over the Internet while protecting it from unathorized disclosure

Using broadband for remote diagnosis will help improve the delivery of healthcare in rural areas and one of the reasons the President has pledged to make universal access to broadband available for all Americans by 2007.

Marc, from WA,Seattle writes:
Hello. Did you give the President this idea to make the moon inhabitable??

Richard Russell
Thank you Marc for your question. The vision is to enable space exploration into the future and a return to the moon. I don't foresee the moon as a luxury resort anytime soon.

Richard Russell
Thanks all for your questions. Today was a big day. Go to /infocus/technology/ to learn more.

Thanks again

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