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Federal investments caused 'real harm' to emerging tech, former official says

Flickr user dfarber

While there is broad support for government research funding, the Obama administration's willingness to step in as a commercial partner with certain businesses has caused "real harm" to emerging technology programs, according to a former administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

"The problem is when government views itself as a partner and is driving economic decisions for favored political entities," John Kneuer said Wednesday in an interview for C-Span's "The Communicators."

Kneuer served as a top telecommunications official under George W. Bush and describes himself as an "enthusiastic supporter" of President Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

He said much-needed federal funding is often little more than "development in drag." That, he said, is a role the government should not be playing.

"It's when the government views itself as an equal partner steering the ultimate outcome I think you run into danger," Kneuer said.

But Ed Paisley, vice president for editorial at the Center for American Progress's Action Fund and a self-identified Obama supporter, said a second Obama term would make fewer mistakes like those that led to the controversy surrounding the now-bankrupt solar firm Solyndra.

"I think they've learned a number of lessons," he said during a taped appearance on the same show. But such problems don't lessen the need for government help to get cutting-edge innovations into the market, Paisley said.

"There's a huge gap between what the government will do and what the private sector will do," he said. "It's got to be done collaboratively."

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