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Panel: White House needs a top techie

Panel: White House needs a top techie

The White House should hire a single point person on federal technology policy, according to recommendations by President Clinton's Information Technology Advisory Committee.

The panel of outsiders called for one individual responsible within the White House to establish and set long-term information technology goals "to maintain U.S. leadership in the vital part of our economy." This "senior policy official" for IT research and development should be located in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the panel said.

Just this year, the White House replaced high-tech guru Ira Magaziner with a pair of executives. They include David Beier, senior domestic policy adviser to Vice President Gore, and Sally Katzen, deputy director of the National Economic Council. Much of the daily work has shifted to the Commerce Department, where Eliot Maxwell, special adviser to Secretary William Daley, is coordinating efforts between agencies to implement the White House's e-commerce directive.

The panel also recommended that the National Science Foundation be designated to take the lead in federal IT research and should foster inter-agency collaboration on R&D. Other recommendations include increasing research to create a faster, more secure Internet, expanding industry and academic partnerships, bolstering software development and high-end computing, such as neural networks, and more collaboration between federal agencies.

Members of the panel, headed by Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy and Rice University Professor Ken Kennedy, were generally quite pleased and even a bit surprised with Clinton's FY 2000 budget request for $366 million over five years in technology research funding. "It was very gratifying... we had wanted $200 million" when the panel made its initial recommendations to the administration last August, said panel member Vinton Cerf, senior vice president of Internet Architecture and Engineering at MCI/WorldCom.

The president's advisory panel was created in February 1997 to advise the administration on high-tech policy. A final report of the panel's most recent recommendations will be released in several weeks, according to a spokeswoman.