Bush encourages using technology to fight terrorism

Technology is a key aspect in fighting terrorism and will also help lead the United States toward economic prosperity, U.S. President George W. Bush said to more than 100 IT executives in a speech Thursday at the White House.

“I was interested to read that our government plans to spend US$53 billion on information technology next year. Now, if you’re one of the recipients of that $53 billion, make sure that the product actually works, please. It is important,” Bush told the audience to some laughter and applause during the speech, which is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/.

The IT industry has not been a major focus of the Bush administration, and the speech was the first address focused on technology issues that the president has given since the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., a White House spokeswoman confirmed.

Guests attending the 21st Century High Tech forum included IT luminaries such as AOL Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Case, Hewlett-Packard Inc. CEO Carly Fiorina, Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore and AT&T Corp. CEO Mike Armstrong.

Before Bush’s remarks, attendees took part in three panels: technology and national security; economic recovery and long-term growth and service; education and the workforce.

Bush broadly praised the IT industry and the assembled group, while also stressing that certain technologies such as broadband need to be further developed by both the government and industry.

“This country must be aggressive about the expansion of broadband; we have to (be),” Bush said.

The president expanded on his own experience with broadband telecommunication technology. “When I’m down at Crawford (Texas), I’m in constant contact with our administration. We’ve got secure teleconferencing capacity there. And it’s pretty good. It can be better. It can be more real-time. It’s an important part of life and it’s time for us to … move, move with an agenda,” Bush said.

Bush’s comments on the IT industry were general and he did not outline specific plans for his administration or for the government to encourage broadband growth.

“Hopefully, we’re doing a pretty good job of working to eliminate hurdles and barriers to get broadband implemented. I’ve fought off — or worked with Congress, is a better way to put it — to prevent access taxes on the Internet. It ought to be a tax-free environment in order to encourage use. And, of course, a lot of the action is going to come through the FCC (U.S. Federal Communications Commission). I know that, you know that,” Bush said.

More in the vein of a pep talk than a blueprint on how the Bush administration views the working relationship between the government and the IT industry, Bush did allude to problems with corporate disclosure of revenue and assets that have been highlighted since the collapse of energy company Enron Corp.

“If you’re running your company, by the way, you’re responsible for fully disclosing your assets and your liabilities. And it’s happening, it’s happening,” Bush said in his closing remarks.

His remarks were politely received, with some IT companies and groups releasing statements supporting Bush and praising his stance on broadband.

Telecommunication company Sprint Corp. said in a statement that “Sprint applauds President Bush for his encouragement to the Federal Communications Commission to continue to create policies that promote broadband technologies, create competition and address consumer needs. The president has shown true leadership by emphasizing the role of regulators in creating a competitive broadband environment that serves the interests of consumers.”

The Business Software Alliance said in a statement: “The BSA commends President Bush’s efforts in bringing the issues of broadband deployment, international trade and research and development funding to the fore.”