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Former Google exec Eric Schmidt: US government needs to lead on tech innovation

The former Google CEO says Americans have put too much faith in the private sector.

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Eric Schmidt left the board of Google parent company Alphabet last year.

James Martin/CNET

The federal government needs to "get back in the game" if the US wants to maintain a technology lead over China. That's the message from former Google executive Eric Schmidt in an op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times. 

Schmidt, who was CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 and later the executive chairman of parent company Alphabet, said Silicon Valley leaders have put too much faith in the private sector to ensure the US' global leadership in technology. 

"For the American model to win, the American model must lead," Schmidt wrote, adding that the US is now in a technology race with China that could have "profound ramifications for our economy and defense."

Schmidt said the US government should set national priorities for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, with increased funding across those fields. He also called for more training of up-and-coming scientists and engineers, partnerships between the tech industry and the government, as well as government incentives for the "emergence of a competitive alternative to Huawei" for 5G network technology.

Schmidt stepped down as executive chairman of Alphabet in January 2018, but remained a "technical adviser" to the company. He left Alphabet's board of directors last year.