Impact of Bush IT advisory panel remains unclear

WASHINGTON -- Technology industry officials are hoping President Bush's appointment of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Floyd Kvamme to co-chair an advisory committee will help keep IT issues at the top of the administration's agenda. But it's still unclear just how much influence Kvamme and his panel will have on government policies.

Bush announced yesterday that Kvamme will be co-chairman of the President's Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America trade group in Alexandria, Va., said he believes the appointment will offer the IT industry "another critical avenue into the president and his high-tech advisers."

But Dave McClure, president of the Washington-based U.S. Internet Industry Association, said he doesn't expect Kvamme's committee to play a big role in formulating technology-related policies. "I can't see it being a major player because the action is not at the White House," McClure said. "The action is in Congress."

The committee's other co-chair will be Bush's science advisor, a post that hasn't yet been filled. In making Kvamme's appointment public yesterday, Bush steered clear of controversial issues, such as data privacy and Internet taxation, and instead called on technology industry executives to support his tax cut and education initiatives.

Kvamme, a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in Menlo Park, Calif., is "a risk taker [who] understands risk and reward," Bush said during a meeting with high-tech officials at the White House. "But more importantly, he knows the [IT] players, the people who can bring good sound advice to this administration."

Bush also reiterated support for a permanent research and development tax credit as well as for legislation pending in Congress that would revamp computer export controls and make it easier for PC and server vendors to ship high-end systems overseas.

In a conference call after the White House event, Kvamme described his expected role primarily as one of responding to requests from administration officials to investigate certain issues. "The role here is to be an adviser against assignments that are tasked to us," he said. But the committee will also look at issues raised by the technology industry, he added.

Robert Herbold, an executive vice president at Microsoft Corp. who attended yesterday's meeting with Bush, said Kvamme and his committee will help bring "focus" to the administration's IT policies. "The way to get things done is to focus attention on them," Herbold said.

But it remains to be seen who else will serve on the committee. And those additional appointments may be critical to how the panel shapes issues for Bush's consideration, said Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., a privacy advocacy and consulting firm in Green Brook, N.J.

On the privacy issue, for example, Bush said during last year's presidential election campaign that he "favored privacy and opt-in [mechanisms] and could leave the details to his advisers," Catlett said. "So it's tremendously important that these advisers not be company executives whose commercial interests are against privacy [protections]."

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Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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