Commerce issues plan to reorganize technology agencies

The Commerce Department on Thursday proposed legislation that would reorganize the department's technology and telecommunications policy functions.

The proposal would consolidate the Technology Administration, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the e-commerce policy functions of the International Trade Administration. The plan requests slightly more than $8 million for the new agency.

"This bill modifies and modernizes the organizational structure of the Department of Commerce to enhance the formulation of technology, electronic commerce and telecommunications policy issues," Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said in a letter accompanying the draft.

He sent the proposal to Vice President Richard Cheney, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and the chairmen and ranking Democrats of the Senate Commerce and House Energy and Commerce committees.

Under the proposal, the new agency would be called the Technology and Telecommunications Administration, and it would be headed by an undersecretary chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The current undersecretary for technology policy, Phil Bond, would serve as undersecretary for the new agency until the president appoints a successor.

The undersecretary's responsibilities would be to advocate technology and telecom policy at the federal, state and local levels as a way to promote economic growth, job creation, national security and safety, the draft says. "We need to adjust our thinking and adjust our structure to keep pace with the world, our economy and innovation," Evans said in a statement.

House lawmakers on Energy and Commerce, which would have jurisdiction over a bill to implement the plan, are still studying the proposal. "We are going to look at it very carefully and keep an open mind, but Chairman Tauzin is not making any other commitments at this time," panel spokesman Ken Johnson said of W.J. (Billy) Tauzin, R-La.

Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., also is reviewing the legislation but remains undecided about the issue, Upton's spokesman said.