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Dear Supercommittee, Leverage IT for Deficit Reduction

The closely watched deliberations of the so-called “supercommittee” on deficit reduction represent an inflection point, not just for congressional efforts to rein in federal deficits and begin paying down America’s public debt, but also for the growth prospects of the US economy. The supercommittee’s assignment is no easy task, to be sure, but it offers a clear mandate to focus federal spending on things that will increase efficiency and maximize return on investment while minimizing waste.

That is why BSA joined a coalition of leading technology associations in urging the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to leverage information technology for deficit reduction. In an October 27 letter to the supercommittee’s co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), BSA and five other technology associations — TechNet, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and TechAmerica — proposed a series of tax reforms, targeted investments, and debt-stabilizing measures.

Taken together, the recommendations constitute a forward-looking agenda for spurring technology innovation. And the real beauty of the agenda is it comes with no new price tag, only positive returns.

Take the government’s use of information technology: BSA’s members are strong proponents of the Obama administration’s “cloud first” initiative, because cloud computing solutions can help transform the way government does its business while saving billions of dollars. Simply put, the cloud lets you do more with less. But even beyond that, embracing the cloud will also help position America to lead the growth of a critical new market.

That’s because there are a host of international policy issues that we have to get right for cloud computing to flourish — things like cross-border data transfers, and privacy and security rules. If the US government is an early adopter, America can stake its claim in that debate. It is the only way to ensure there is a level playing field for US companies to succeed in the cloud era the way they have in previous phases of the IT revolution.

The letter says: “we recommend greater investments in those activities with clear economic benefits because of their transformative potential.” It cites several examples, like scientific research and workforce development, which BSA strongly supports. But worthy of special attention are programs that protect intellectual property, because they are the sine qua non for spurring technology innovation.

In the global economy — especially the IT sector — America has long differentiated itself on its innovative capacity. If we want that to continue, then we have to keep setting the standard with programs that encourage and protect our innovators.

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