Paul Ryan is no friend of tech, yet

There's a gulf between GOP ticket's VP pick and tech that has yet to be bridged

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Mitt Romney's platform describes government's basic research efforts as an area Romney "plans to cut."Romney says research is important to innovation and something he will support.

WASHINGTON - At a Facebook Live event last fall, the so-called Young Guns of the U.S. House, Republicans Paul Ryan, the budget chair, along with Eric Cantor, the majority leader, and the majority whip, Kevin McCarthy, dispensed with ties and jackets to blend in.

But somehow the three political leaders still looked as if they were wearing their suits. The shirts seemed too starched, and the Young Gun label too dated compared with the audience of Facebook employees. It was something both Ryan and forum moderator Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, joked about.

"I see that we are raising the age average in this room here," said Ryan, 42, which Sandberg quickly corrected by saying that he was only "helping," referring to her own age in relationship to people such as 28-year-old Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Despite the humor and the interest in meeting tech firms in Silicon Valley, Ryan may be tough sell to the tech industry.

Ryan hasn't been a leader on tech issues and his campaign donations reflect this. His top contributors include accounting, financial services firms, insurance and retail, according to campaign donation records kept by OpenSecrets.

Compare Ryan's contributors to someone like Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who heads the House Judiciary Committee and deals with issues critical to tech. Microsoft, Dell and AT&T appear on his list of top donors.

Here's how Ryan stands on some of the issues that matter to tech:

Immigration and tech

Ryan has not played a leading role in the H-1B cap, Green Cards and other tech related immigration issues. A more recent stance by him on immigration was to oppose the Dream Act, as did Congressional Republicans generally, But that position is seen as a problem for tech. The tech industry wants more work visas, especially green cards for advance degree science, technology, engineering and math graduates, the so-called STEM degrees. But it's going to take compromise, especially with lawmakers who support the Dream Act.

Federal research

Tech hasn't lined up to give money to Ryan because as House Budget Committee chairman, he might as well be running a fantasy football league. The committee's budget blueprints are far from what actually gets adopted.

There are, nonetheless, concerns about a Ryan budget. Tech companies and universities benefit from money spent by the government on research, which includes development of world's largest supercomputers. But the 99-page 2013 budget resolution put out by Ryan's committee doesn't mention the word "science" once.

The budget resolution calls for continuing funding of "essential government missions," including "basic research and development" but it wants to end what is categorized as applied and commercial research.

Mitt Romney's platform describes government's basic research efforts as important to innovation and something he "will support." Without details, budget watchers say they can only wonder what these statements mean.

Government IT spending

The IT spending that supports the federal government and defense is a question, at least as sequestration, or the planned automatic budget cuts, are concerned. These cuts, which will trim billions in government spending, will take effect Jan. 2 if there's no deficit reduction plan.

Apart from sequestration, it's hard to know how a Ryan budget will affect IT spending. Ray Bjorklund, vice president and chief knowledge officer of Deltek Information Solutions, believes IT spending will rise under any electoral scenario.

"In an austere budget environment, there is almost always a place to apply technology to operate more efficiently, " Bjorklund said.

Stop Online Piracy Act

Ryan was seen as a supporter of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. He announced his opposition to it earlier this year. The legislation was heavily opposed by tech, and Ryan's initial support will likely keep some wary.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies