Craig Fields, the controversial Pentagon official recently removed as head of the department's advanced research effort, will become president of the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. (MCC), one of the first consortia formed by the nation's high-technology companies.

Fields's decision to leave the government comes less than three months after he was reassigned from his job as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to a less visible Pentagon post. That move sparked considerable protest from congressional and industry leaders who contended it was a thinly veiled attempt by the Bush administration to remove someone it thought was trying to foster a stronger government role in the commercial sector, or a so-called industrial policy.

Fields, aggressive and blunt, had stirred controversy with his outspoken support of government programs designed to promote specific technologies such as high-definition television and other areas of electronics.

Now Fields finds himself leading a private-sector initiative that symbolizes an earlier recognition of the need for cooperation among companies and government.

Fields, 43, will take the No. 2 post at Austin, Tex.-based MCC, which is among the country's largest concerns designed to bring together competitors in joint research projects.

"I've always been a big supporter of consortia and cooperative R&D," Fields said, referring to research and development. "It allows companies to do work that they otherwise might not do."

Fields said he had been talking to MCC about a position on-and-off for two years and had been in contact with its first chief executive, retired admiral Bobby Inman, when MCC was being organized eight years ago.

Fields "had a number of opportunities. He feels strongly that he has {at MCC} an opportunity to continue his dedication to U.S. industrial and technical leadership and participate in a very personal way," said Robert Costello, a former senior Pentagon official who briefly had been Fields's boss. "I think that's very true."

"I think he will be an excellent spokesman and will be able to articulate the achievements of MCC so that the true value will be more obvious to people in government and industry," said J. Richard Iverson, president of the American Electronics Association, a high-tech trade group.

MCC has had a mixed reputation within the high-tech community. Although its members include such prominent companies as Lockheed Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and General Electric Co., its technical achievements have never made headlines. Frequently, the results of its research work are carried back to member companies and incorporated into products without credit to or visibility for MCC.

The vast majority of the consortium's roughly $60 million budget represents funding from 21 companies that own shares in the concern and from 24 so-called associate members that participate in selected research endeavors.

Less than 10 percent of MCC's funding is federal, some of it from Darpa.

Although the consortium conducts research in a variety of areas, including advanced computing, software and superconductivity, it recently has proposed a more broad-based initiative that dovetails with Fields's work at Darpa. That project would employ fiber optics to deliver vast amounts of information to homes and businesses.

Fields will join MCC Monday as president, chief technical officer and chief operating officer, reporting to chairman and chief executive Grant Dove, 62. The appointment was described by an MCC spokesman as "part of a transition of leadership."

Reacting to Fields's move, Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.), described it as "a big gain for the private sector." Levine said Fields, a 16-year government employee, was "an invaluable leader in the government, and it's the public's loss that the Pentagon took the action that it did."

Fields said yesterday he still has "no facts" relating to why he was suddenly removed as Darpa director, although observers believe that the last straw may have been his decision to fund a small Silicon Valley firm under an arrangement that would allow Darpa to share in the firm's financial success.

Despite the widely held belief that administration officials considered some of his efforts at Darpa tantamount to picking winners and losers in the private sector, Fields said that position never was directly communicated to him by the administration's strongest industrial-policy opponents -- Budget Director Richard Darman and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Michael Boskin.

Fields said his only contact with Darman was a "pleasant" day more than a year ago when Darman visited Darpa's Rosslyn offices.

Last fall, word whipped through Congress that the administration had planned to cut spending for Sematech, the government-industry consortium, overseen by Darpa, which is designed to improve semiconductor manufacturing. But Fields said he knew of no such intent.

Fields acknowledged that his efforts to fund high-definition displays were less popular with Pentagon officials, but he said that one proposal from a higher-ranking Pentagon official to slash high-definition funding fell into "the misunderstanding category."