Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry over at the Personal Democracy Forum are proposing the creation of a government-run emergency response force for information technology. It's part of their 6-point platform for America's first "'TechPresident."
"Create a National Tech Corp," the authors advise,
because as our country becomes more reliant on 21st century communications to maintain and build our economy we need to protect our communications infrastructure and be able to have an emergency response capability to establish emergency communications, rebuild networks and databases, and provide tech support for all relief and recovery efforts. It's time to create a "National NetGuard" of technically skilled Americans who can volunteer to be trained and deployed to respond to any terrorist attack or natural disaster. Part of this program should be the creation of a tech equivalent of the federal oil reserve, but for computer and communications equipment, that would be maintained by our country's computer equipment manufacturers in a revolving inventory and would be available to be used in an emergency.
Noah Shachtman seemed to anticipate this proposal in his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
But Josh Trevino from the Pacific Research Institute calls this a bad idea. "The 'National Tech Corps' is a bizarre and mostly unneeded entity — who thought IT support was a pressing need after Katrina and 9/11? — that duplicates the existing function of the Signal Corpsmen in the National Guard."
What Rasiej and Sifry have in mind is a domestic force, but it's a small step to put them in uniform and send them overseas. Plus there are parallels between this proposed Tech Corps and military theorist Thomas Barnett's SysAdmin force that would sweep into conflict zones to rebuild failed societies. (Barnett is pictured delivering a lecture in the virtual world of Second Life.) Nobody would dispute that the internet is the critical system of the emerging cellular, globalized, open-source economy ... and a vital resource for developing countries aspiring to join this economy. The critical question is: should we make government responsible for protecting and promoting the 'net? Or is this a function better left to the private sector?
--David Axe, cross-posted at War Is Boring