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Editorial: The need for IT advice

Editorial: The need for IT advice

We were deeply disappointed when we heard that the Bush administration had decided to allow the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) to expire.

PITAC has been around for more than a decade. The group was established by an executive order and chartered by Congress to guide the administration in its efforts to speed the development and adoption of technologies "vital for American prosperity in the 21st century," according to a White House press release announcing PITAC members in 2003.

PITAC handled important issues. Its most recent report, for example, looked at the lack of IT research and development in the United States. The report warns that the nation is at a tipping point "with generation-long consequences for scientific leadership, economic competitiveness and national security if we fail to act with vision and commitment."

Panels like PITAC can serve a vital role in public policy by providing elected officials with candid, nonpartisan perspectives on complex issues. Another example of a similar panel is the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission. But PITAC has been playing that public policy role for years.

Worse yet the Bush administration has put forward nothing more than pabulum in its comments about PITAC. "The administration values external advice on IT and will continue to seek it," said a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology. "After renewing the PITAC charter twice in the previous term, the administration is evaluating the best mechanism for providing this advice. No decisions on what that should be have been made at this time."

The statement implies that the administration does not consider these issues important. We certainly hope that is not the case. The future of IT is important, and this administration — or any administration — needs expert advice. We hope there is some formal mechanism for those voices to be heard.

Meanwhile, at the very least, the president's team ought to do a better job of keeping the public and the IT community in the loop on this matter.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 18, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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