Commerce council to lead tech competitiveness efforts

A new council consisting of the heads of Commerce Department agencies will be the focal point of the agency’s efforts to keep the country technologically competitive.

The Commerce Technology Council will take on the role of providing a forum for and coordinating technology policy departmentwide. Joel Harris, senior adviser for technology and privacy and director of the department's Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, will be chairman of the council.

“Technological innovation has evolved to a point where it plays a critical role in competitiveness and impacts every sector of the economy,” Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a press release. “The creation of this council will assist in providing sound and coordinated policies across the department and help America keep its competitive edge in the world economy.”

The council will take on the same responsibilities that were given to the Technology Administration, which ceased to exist with President Bush’s signing of the America COMPETES Act Aug. 9.

The Technology Administration had suffered from dwindling funding in the past several years, dropping from a budget of $7 million in fiscal 2005 to $1 million in fiscal 2007. Undersecretary of Technology Robert Cresanti, who headed the administration, announced his resignation Sept. 14.

Several former technology undersecretaries and Commerce executives signed a letter protesting the administration’s demise, saying that technology policy is better served by a permanent agency rather than a council that meets periodically.

“We are, in effect, disarming the United States [while] every other country is making innovation [one] of their top-priority issues,” said Kelly Carnes, assistant secretary of technology at Commerce from 1997 to 2001.

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