Editorial: Research and development

House Republicans introduce innovation act

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Most people agree that innovation is important. But they disagree about how to foster innovation and what role the federal government should play. The short answer is a big one.

President Bush recently visited Silicon Valley, where he touted the administration’s American Competitiveness Initiative and noted that the federal government has already played a mighty role in innovation.

“I believe it makes sense to spend taxpayers’ money on research and development out of the federal government because I have seen what expenditure of that kind of money has done in practical ways. And so have you,” he said during a speech at Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif.

“You may not realize it, but it was investment by the Defense Department that ultimately led to the Internet, which has kind of helped your business a little bit, John,” he said to Cisco President John Chambers.

In the past two issues of Federal Computer Week, we have examined how agencies are looking to spur innovation. Last week’s cover story discussed the CIA’s In-Q-Tel, a six-year-old private, nonprofit venture capital firm. The CIA decided that the best way it could direct innovation was by helping fund such projects in their early stages. This week’s feature package focuses on innovation more broadly by looking at the relationship between government and industry and how the roles of both have changed.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has written about the importance of remaining competitive. His book “The World Is Flat” argues that other countries are increasingly able to compete with the United States.

So we praise the Bush administration for proposing and pushing its American Competitiveness Initiative. If successful, such efforts will not only benefit the United States overall but also government agencies, which depend on those technologies to carry out their missions.

It seems so simple, yet we all know it isn’t. Many priorities compete for attention and funding, but few have the long-term benefits — and potential costs — of R&D efforts. For many reasons, we continue to believe that this one deserves to be near the top of the list.

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About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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