technological base and long-term competitiveness. The functional separation of the CTA from the activities of existing mission agencies would further facilitate its work by removing it from long-standing private and public sector constituencies that until now have served the purposes we contemplate.

Moreover, a new agency would give special status to technology commercialization, making it a legitimate purpose of the government. It would signal the importance of pre-commercial R&D to technology in strategic sectors, acting as a catalyst in promoting R&D even outside projects receiving CTA support. The success of DARPA in some projects to develop military and dual-use technologies under similar conditions suggests that a CTA has a reasonable likelihood of success, not only because of its role as a catalyst, but also because of its ability to manage a changing portfolio of investments.

Disadvantages of the CTA

A CTA would face several potentially serious obstacles. It would likely be dwarfed in size, budget, status, and influence (at least initially) by existing agencies. Its establishment would face opposition from agencies and congressional committees anxious to guard existing prerogatives over discrete technology areas. Unless its purpose were clearly defined and its authority affirmed, the CTA might simply add to the federal bureaucracy without achieving many concrete results.16

The most serious disadvantage of a CTA is its placement in the executive branch. This would increase the likelihood that support of projects would be influenced by the interests of Congress and executive branch officials. Congress might be expected to intervene in the planning and implementation of specific projects in order to satisfy regional special interests. An agency of the federal government, whether housed in an existing organization or independently controlled, is a central part of the political process. The closer to the political process, in most instances, the farther it is from the market process.

Placement of a CTA in an existing federal agency would likely distort its focus and intended mission. Forcing a new or reorganized agency to coexist with the sharply different missions of the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, or National Science Foundation could distort its original purpose. The potential for success of the CTA could also suffer as a function of its existence in agencies without specialized technical staff.

Furthermore, the operation of a CTA would rely heavily on recruitment of staff analysts skilled in evaluation of pre-commercial research proposals in civilian technology. None of the current mission agencies have staff

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement