The U.S. House of Representatives made the approval of $903 million for cyber security research its first order of business Tuesday, unanimously passing legislation that will create scholarships, grants and research centers at American colleges and universities. The Senate has already approved the legislation, and the bill now goes President George W. Bush, who is expected to sign the measure.

The bill, the Cyber Security Research and Development Act (H.R. 3394), more than triples federal spending on security research. Approved on a voice vote, the legislation increases government spending on cyber security research over five years from its current annual level of approximately $60 million to $111 million in 2003 and peaking at $231 million in 2007.

The money will be distributed through the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The bill also calls for the NIST to establish a technologies security check list for federal agencies. It does not require the agencies to use the technologies recommended by the NIST, but they must report whether or not it was used.

The Senate had originally proposed the NIST check list be mandatory but pressure from the IT industry killed that provision.

The two largest appropriations in the bill call for $275 million in post-doctoral fellowships related to computer systems security, and $233 million in research grants for a wide range of projects including cryptography and wireless security.

Another $144 million is dedicated for the establishment of Computer and Network Security Research Centers at U.S. colleges and universities.

One of the first groups to praise Congress for the legislation was The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).

"ITAA commends House and Senate leaders for making an important investment in the future of cyberspace. This bill will make all information systems safer by providing federal funds for cyber security research, building a larger base of information security professionals, and improving information sharing and collaboration among industry, government and academic research projects," said ITAA President Harris N. Miller.