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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
DARPA, the CTA's management might be set up under the general policy oversight, although not day-to-day direction, of a board of directors. The board would be comprised of representatives of government agencies, the private business sector, and other nongovernmental institutions.
The budget of the CTA would have to be large enough so that investments affect commercial market decisions. The CTA would be authorized to extend federal loan guarantees and to make investments in cooperative R&D projects. An important goal would be to keep administrative costs at a minimum. As is true at DARPA, a high percentage of agency funds, about 90 percent, should be devoted to technology development and R&D commercialization efforts.15
A CTA would require substantial funding over an extended number of years in order to support large-scale projects involving firms in a wide range of industry sectors. Projects that involve substantial start-up costs or that would benefit from a focus on vertical or horizontal integration in a sector might be among those emphasized by CTA management. Industries with the potential for long-term commercial benefit to the nation, such as advanced ceramics and high-and low-temperature superconductors, might merit special attention. CTA backing might help lengthen private sector time horizons in such cases. (Further discussion of technology areas for consideration are included below in the discussion of a Civilian Technology Corporation.)
Another focus of a CTA could be technologies with far-reaching importance to the nation's economic and technological base, such as new generations of semiconductors or advanced telecommunications networks that may not be receiving sufficient financial support from either the private sector or current mission agency programs. R&D projects on cross-cutting technologies that require research teams with multidisciplinary expertise, or work on technologies with potential for high add-on value, might also be considered.
Advantages of the CTA
The government currently has no formal system for evaluating and supporting important, nonmilitary technologies in a systematic fashion. There have been attempts at crafting "critical" technology lists in both military and civilian branches of government, as well as within private business groups. Not surprisingly, such lists closely resemble each other. These lists and accompanying suggestions have, however, no connection to the process through which government funding decisions are made. The CTA would place much of the authority and responsibility for long-term, strategic civilian technologies in a single agency.
A CTA would provide a mechanism for designing and implementing an organized approach to financing projects in sectors important to the nation's