Where the Candidates Stand on IT

Technology policy ought to be topic number one (or two, or at least three) on the campaign trail, considering its importance to the economy and everyday life. Understandably, candidates are talking about jobs and the mess in Iraq instead. So in order to find out what President Bush and his Democratic challengers think about IT and its impact on the nation, we sent them questionnaires asking about their positions on five policy areas that will be important to CIOs in the next four years and beyond. These include critical infrastructure security, jobs, privacy, corporate governance and information technology?a category that encompasses their priorities for IT research and development, as well as their approach to IT standards, innovation and e-commerce. (Read about the decisions the next president will have to make concerning these issues in "The Next President’s IT Agenda," Page 54.)

Only Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) responded in full. Meanwhile, CIO writers and editors combed the candidates’ records and interviewed sources who have interacted with the contenders in the political arena and in the boardroom.

Find out where each candidate stands. Then decide which of them really gets IT.

George W. Bush

Party: Republican

Age: 57

Hometown: Midland, Texas

Current job: President, 2001-present

Website: www.georgebush.com

I.T. experience: In both his White House and campaign policy papers Bush cites the tech sector as a wellspring for economic growth. Actions such as his signing the USA Patriot Act demonstrate Bush’s willingness to seek new IT-enabled capabilities to aid government agencies in the war on terrorism. When it comes to new rules that affect business processes and IT systems, he has been less aggressive. Federal regulations issued under Bush for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) made it easier for CIOs to comply with these laws.

Background: During the 2000 election against Democrat Al Gore, Bush campaigned as "a compassionate Conservative," a devout Christian who is pro business, anti taxes and supports spending on education. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reshaped Bush’s view of his presidency and led to his declaring war on terrorism. Bush is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Policy Positions

Critical infrastructure: Bush has continued former President Clinton’s policy of asking for, rather than requiring, the private sector’s cooperation in securing corporate networks.

Bush has signed two acts that together put the federal government’s infrastructure on the front burner and sent annual federal IT spending past the $50 billion mark. The E-Government Act of 2002, sponsored by Bush’s potential rival in November, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), promotes better IT security within federal agencies. In response to 9/11, Bush signed a law creating the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet-level office that merged 22 federal agencies. Among numerous IT projects, the agency is working to create one network to share unclassified data and communications about threats and responses with 50 states and thousands of local emergency responders.

Jobs: Bush has credited tax cuts he initiated with spurring the creation of 124,000 new jobs last October. He has not moved to maintain the ceiling on foreign worker visas, which Congress allowed to dip in 2003. The administration will not try to stop companies from sending IT work offshore, said Chris Israel, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy, at a September IT services symposium.

Privacy: As part of the war on terrorism, Bush signed the USA Patriot Act, which gives federal investigators sweeping powers to ask for data (such as library borrowing lists and consumers’ purchases) that was considered private.

In 2002, the Bush administration eased some restrictions on sharing patient records under HIPAA that were put in place by President Clinton; the revised rules don’t require a patient’s written consent to share the records, simply a "good faith effort" to get consent.

Corporate governance: In the wake of corporate accounting scandals at companies such as Enron and WorldCom, Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires corporate officers to vouch for the accuracy of financial data. The law prompted a flurry of activity to reconcile IT systems to this accountability mandate, but subsequent regulations issued by the SEC made compliance easier.

Information Technology: The DHS is working with the National Institute of Science and Technology and through its procurement process to encourage the development of products based on open standards, especially for wireless communications. Bush favors making permanent an R&D tax credit set to expire June 30, 2004.

-Michael Goldberg

Wesley K. Clark

Party: Democratic

Age: 60

Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.

Current job: Presidential candidate

Website: www.clark04.com

I.T. experience: Clark served as a board member or adviser to several high-tech companies including Acxiom, Entrust and WaveCrest Laboratories. At Acxiom, he was a member of the board’s audit committee. He also scouted many high-tech companies as managing director of Little Rock-based investment banking company Stephens. He’s an avid BlackBerry user.

Background: After successfully leading the Kosovo war as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the four-star general was maneuvered out of his job in 2000 and forced to retire from the military. He then entered the business world. Working with small companies that develop technology and security solutions for the government, Clark provided them with an entree into the Pentagon and insight into soldiers’ and commanders’ needs. He also impressed his new colleagues with his understanding of economics and world markets as well as his management advice. One former business colleague says Clark made more accurate predictions about the wireless market than the technology analysts. Acxiom CEO Charles Morgan says that in 2002, when executives discussed how to reduce personnel costs, Clark was the first to raise the issue of how layoffs and pay reductions would affect morale.

Policy Positions

Critical infrastructure: Clark understands that the country needs to use information technology to identify security threats. In the press release announcing his appointment to Acxiom’s board in December 2001, Clark says the ability to assemble, integrate and understand information "will be one of the most important drivers of the global economy and security." Clark’s plan for homeland security calls for investment in technology to help detect and respond to chemical and biological threats.

Jobs: In an essay on his website titled "The 100 Year Vision," Clark says he understands the economic forces that drive U.S. companies to countries where labor is cheap. To counter those forces, Clark has proposed giving up to $5,000 in tax credits to businesses for each American they hire full-time in 2004 and 2005.

Privacy: Thanks to his membership on the board of data-mining software vendor Acxiom, Clark is well-versed in the technology available to comb private records in search of suspected terrorists. His involvement with the company provoked criticism from rival Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who during an interview on Fox News last September said that Clark’s relationship with Acxiom raises concerns about his regard for individual privacy rights. For his part, the general says he wants to balance homeland security and protecting privacy.

Clark helped craft a report for the Markle Foundation titled "Protecting America’s Freedom in the Information Age," along with a group of tech-industry luminaries that includes former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, who supported President Bush in 2000. One of the report’s recommendations is that information owned by private companies that is relevant to the fight against terrorism should be left in the companies’ hands and not consolidated into government databases.

Corporate governance: Clark says he would put more money behind the SEC’s enforcement efforts and undertake reforms to restore investors’ confidence in the financial markets, though he provides no details.

Information Technology: Clark does not have a public position on this issue. -Meridith Levinson

Howard Dean

Party: Democratic

Age: 55

Hometown: East Hampton, N.Y.

Current job: Presidential candidate

Website: www.deanforamerica.com

I.T. experience: As governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002, Dean promoted science and engineering education. Otherwise, his IT leadership has been less than exemplary, according to the Government Performance Project sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with Governing Magazine. Vermont got a C+ for its IT in 2001, because its CIO had only one staffer and the state was slow to put transactions on the Web.

Background: Dean is the poster boy for using the Internet in this campaign season. His website has been instrumental in energizing supporters and raising money, particularly from small donors. In the third quarter of 2003, 60 percent of contributions to Dean were of less than $200, and about half of those were made online, according to Dick Rowe, director of the Internet and information services for the Dean campaign. The site also hosts an official blog, lets volunteers sign up to canvass voters door to door and helps supporters organize "meet-ups"?910 gatherings in some 600 cities on Dec. 3 alone?without consulting campaign managers. The latter is a sea change from the traditional presidential campaign, in which campaign officials have complete control over events. (For more on Internet fund-raising and campaigning, see "Dean Profits from Web Campaign," Page 24.) In early December, Dean got the endorsement of former Vice President (and Internet booster) Al Gore.

Policy Positions

Critical infrastructure: Dean wants to provide more communications equipment and protective gear to emergency personnel who would be the first responders in case of a terrorist attack. He also advocates more spending on border security, including new technology to better detect threats "before they cross our borders." In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in 2002, he said that states should make their networks more secure immediately; one method he advocates is the use of smart cards with digital chips containing personal information to ensure the identity of state employees when they access a network. Dean also said smart cards could replace citizens’ drivers’ licenses as the most widely used form of personal identification and be used to enhance security at borders and other vital checkpoints.

Jobs: Dean doesn’t mention high-tech jobs in speeches, but says he would find ways that U.S. companies could meet their need for workers at all skill levels without pitting foreigners against Americans. As governor of Vermont, Dean requested that the Vermont Technology Council produce the state’s first science and technology education plan, which it did in 1994. In 1995, as part of the implementation of the plan, he endorsed the creation of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering, a nonprofit group that honors distinguished achievement and promotes science and technology in the state.

Privacy: Dean says he’ll balance national security and protecting civil liberties. He says he’s concerned about provisions of the Patriot Act that allow law enforcement agencies to obtain personal information from places such as banks and libraries without "individualized suspicion and without meaningful judicial review." He has also questioned parts of the law that allow investigators to track a person’s Internet use without probable cause and allow wiretaps in criminal cases using the less strict guidelines reserved for intelligence investigations.

Dean says privacy could be enhanced through the use of the smart cards he advocates as ID cards for citizens. Card readers could confirm a person’s identity but limit access to any more information than necessary for a particular transaction. For example, an emergency medical technician could access a person’s medical history in the event of an accident, or a clerk in a liquor store could access a person’s age?but all other information about the person would be off limits.

Corporate governance: Dean decries inadequate corporate governance, including a lack of independent corporate boards. He would support legislation and Securities and Exchange Commission regulation to mitigate conflicts of interest, such as when vendors and customers serve on each other’s boards. His agenda to establish greater corporate accountability includes requiring companies to issue annual corporate governance reports.

Information Technology: He believes state government networks should be able to share information when appropriate and suggests at least some IT standards would be necessary to accomplish this. For example, one state’s smart card reader should be able to read smart cards from other states.

-Todd Datz

John R. Edwards

Party: Democratic

Age: 50

Hometown: Seneca, S.C.

Current job: U.S. senator

Website: www.johnedwards2004.com

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