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

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Past NTIA administrator John Kneuer blames Obama Administration for favoring political allies.

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."