Commerce Department-wide council may replace Technology Administration

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 22, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

The Bush administration is proposing a new agencywide technology council at the Commerce Department to handle the implementation of technology policy and promote U.S. technological innovations in the world economy.

The Technology Administration (TA) currently handles most of these functions. But in its fiscal 2008 budget proposal the Bush administration seeks to eliminate funding for TA, which works with U.S.-based technology industries to promote competitiveness in the world economy.

The administration wants to eliminate TA because the role of technology in commerce has evolved, according to a Commerce statement.

The promotion of technology in advancing America's competitiveness has become an integrated part of the mission across the bureaus of the department, the document states. The administration seeks to modernize the department's approach to technology by elevating those activities to the secretary level, it adds.

The council would report to the deputy secretary of commerce. TA’s head was the undersecretary of commerce. So TA’s activities and issues would effectively be elevated to the secretary level because the deputy speaks for the secretary of commerce.

The new council would consist of representatives from 10 Commerce agencies, which are:
  • The senior policy adviser for technology.
  • The director of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
  • The undersecretary for international trade.
  • The director of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
  • The undersecretary for industry and security.
  • The international intellectual property rights enforcement coordinator.
  • The administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The undersecretary of economic affairs.
  • The assistant secretary for economic development.
  • The administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The new council would allow greater flexibility for the private sector to approach technology-related issues through different avenues, such as international trade, security, supporting research and development and protecting intellectual property rights, the administration said.

“If a private-sector entity identifies issues they want to bring forward, they would basically start with the senior adviser for technology or go right to the appropriate undersecretary or assistant secretary of the agency that has the portfolio that's appropriate,” a TA spokesperson said.

Of the three departments under the administration, NIST would report directly to the secretary of commerce, the National Technical Information Service would report to NIST and the Office of Technology Policy would be dissolved.

The Bush administration would spend $1.6 million to lay off employees at TA. Its budget was $6 million in fiscal 2006 and an estimated $2 million in 2007.

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