Bush dissolves IT advisory group

President Bush has let a council of independent information technology experts lapse.

The President's IT Advisory Committee (PITAC) has been shut down and will not examine any other issues, a committee member said.

After releasing a June 16 report on U.S. competitiveness in computation science, PITAC had planned to take a broad look at IT research and development, as a follow-up to its 1999 report, according to PITAC members.

PITAC is a congressionally mandated committee comprised of industry and academic experts appointed by the president. At the moment, the committee is vacant. The president's executive order establishing the most recent PITAC expired June 1, and Bush did not reappoint current members or select new members.

The committee acts a check to the Federal Networking and IT Research and Development (NITRD) Program. PITAC has influenced policy-making through reports on topics such as cybersecurity and health IT.

PITAC's recommendations played a role in spurring the Bush administration to name a national health IT coordinator, said Peter Harsha, director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association. A 1999 PITAC report helped convince lawmakers to increase funding for IT research at the National Science Foundation, he said.

The first PITAC formed in February 1997 under an executive order signed by President Clinton.

Members of the latest committee included Marc R. Benioff, chairman of Salesforce.com; Pedro Celis, a software architect in Microsoft’s SQL Server group; F. Thomson Leighton, Akamai Technologies co-founder; and Randall Mott, chief information officer of Dell.

Last week's report recommended a fast-track study on ways that federal investments can bridge computational science research across academia, industry and government agencies. Other advice touched on topics such as repositories for computer science data and software, centers for software sustainability, high-end computing leadership centers, and programs to connect those centers. It also prescribed a multidecade road map for computational science.

The findings came out of the PITAC Computational Science Subcommittee, led by Dan Reed, vice chancellor and CIO at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, director of the Institute for Renaissance Computing and the next chairman of the Computing Research Association.

"People are a little demoralized about the fact that PITAC hasn’t been renewed," Reed said.

It would be unfortunate if PITAC does not get the chance to review the nation's IT research, Reed said. "Six years in the information technology business is a lifetime, and it seems opportune," he said today. "My personal hope is that PITAC will be reconstituted quickly."


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