Bolstering Competitiveness, One Key Step at a Time

By May 22, 2006General

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced a new American Competitiveness Initiative that proposed increased funding for federal R&D, support for improved science and math instruction in the nation’s schools, and increases in the budgets for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

We gave this initiative a ringing endorsement because U.S. manufacturing depends on our leadership in cutting edge technologies. These are issues the NAM, which chairs the Compete America Coalition, has been out front on for many years. We need more Americans studying math, science and engineering, and also greater access to the best talent among foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, engineering, technology and math.

This week, competitiveness is front and center in the House which considers an appropriations bill that includes funding for research, math and science, and in the Senate which considers an immigration bill that we hope will ensure that U.S. employers have access to high-skill foreign nationals with advanced degrees.

Manufacturing is the seedbed for innovation in the U.S. economy accounting for two-thirds of all private sector R&D. The United States cannot hope to compete with labor costs in Asian nations; we must maintain and enhance our leadership in innovation. We cannot take our technology leadership for granted. Our foreign competitors are going all-out to overtake us. China is graduating five times as many engineers each year as the U.S. and India isn’t far behind.

Bolstering competitiveness is not a one-shot-and-it’s-accomplished proposition. It requires an ongoing commitment on the part of our policymakers to make it a priority in their work. This week provides a key opportunity for our lawmakers to advance U.S. competitiveness, and we encourage them to make it their highest priority for the week.