Former feds decry cuts to Tech Administration

A group of former Commerce Department technology undersecretaries and assistant secretaries has sent a letter to Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) protesting the defunding of the Technology Administration (TA).

“Defunding and de-authorizing the agency is a big mistake, particularly in light of the fact that the global...economic competition and innovation is increasing,” said Kelly Carnes, chief executive officer for consulting firm TechVision21 and assistant secretary of technology at Commerce from 1997 to 2001.

TA is an agency within Commerce that promotes technological growth and innovation in industry through market and workforce analysis, grant awards, the dissemination of educational information and the establishment of technology standards. A section of the National Competitiveness Investment Act would eliminate the office and the position of undersecretary of technology at Commerce.

Also getting the axe is the Office of Technology Policy, which handles the education and analysis responsibilities for TA.

Carnes is one of seven former officials who signed the letter. Others include Philip Bond, president and chief executive officer of the Information Technology Association of America, and Mary Good, chairwoman of the Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America.

Carnes said TA allows the government to understand and keep track of technological innovations -- American and foreign -- and formulate policy to promote technological competitiveness in industry.

“We are in effect disarming the United States [while] every other country is making innovation...one of their top priority issues,” Carnes said in the letter.

The other two wings TA presides over are the National Technical Information Service — a research and development information repository — and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Neither office will be eliminated, but it is unclear where they will report if TA is eliminated.

Although Carnes said she and the other signers hope funding will be restored to the administration, she said TA’s budget has been shrinking for several years, resulting in a loss of staff and business functions.

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