Report Describes Clinton Administration's Technology Policies
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 158: November 18, 1996
Four more years of a Clinton-Gore White House and a Republican Congress is
likely to mean four more years of disagreement over the proper role for the
federal government in promoting technology development. While both parties
agree that the government should support basic research, the country's science
and technology infrastructure, and a business climate that encourages
innovation, consensus ends there. The Republicans, intent on limiting the
federal government, feel it should stay out of technology development for
commercial applications. The Clinton Administration argues that government is
needed to encourage the development of technologies which would benefit the
nation but are too risky, expensive, and long-term for any single company to
Earlier this year, President Clinton's National Science and Technology Council
(NSTC) released a 87-page report, "Technology in the National Interest."
Based on a 1993 Clinton-Gore policy document entitled "Technology for
America's Economic Growth," (see FYI #23, 1993), this report documents the
programs and policies put into place or strengthened by the Clinton
Administration to improve the economy through advances in technology.
"Technical progress is the single most important factor in generating
sustained economic growth," the report says, "estimated to account for as much
as half the Nation's long-term growth over the past 50 years." Five main
goals are outlined for federal policies: creating a business environment
conducive to technological innovation; encouraging private-sector technology
development and commercialization; investing in infrastructure; integrating
the military and civilian industrial bases; and maintaining a world-class
workforce. The NSTC report cites a number of initiatives endorsed by the
Clinton Administration to accomplish each of these goals.
The first goal, achieving a good business climate, is described in the report
as "perhaps the most important factor in the equation for national growth and
prosperity." Deficit reduction, removal of anti-trust barriers, extension of
the research and experimentation tax credit, and attempts to eliminate
unnecessary regulations and revise regulatory policies are advocated by both
the Clinton Administration and the Republican Congress. Trade policies, such
as NAFTA and GATT, help level the playing field so American companies have
access to, and can compete fairly in, foreign markets.
Goal Two involves fostering technology development and diffusion. "Today,"
according to the report, "the development of new enabling technologies and
emerging technologies...is at risk." Government-industry partnership programs
such as NIST's Advanced Technology Program and Manufacturing Extension
Partnerships, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and the
Environmental Technology Initiative are designed to use government resources
to encourage and leverage private-sector investments.
While federal support for highways, power and communications infrastructure is
still essential, the report says that "new kinds of infrastructure and
innovative ways of managing and using existing facilities" are also needed.
Federal investments have aided industry development of the National
Information Infrastructure, a network of computers, communications, databases,
and consumer electronics. The report adds, "there remain essential roles for
government...[to] ensure the growth of an information infrastructure available
to all Americans at a reasonable cost."
Goal Four is the integration of military and civilian industrial bases. The
NSTC report claims that spin-offs from defense R&D are no longer sufficient
for the US to lead the world in civilian technologies, and the nation cannot
afford to maintain two distinct industrial bases. The Administration's
efforts to break down the barriers between civilian and military sectors
include dual-use technology programs and defense acquisition reform.
The final goal is the development and maintenance of a world-class workforce.
Clinton Administration proposals to improve education and training include the
Goals 2000 program to strengthen K-12 education; direct federal loans and tax
deductions for higher education and training; fellowships and job training;
and an emphasis, largely through the National Information Infrastructure, on
The report is available through the Department of Commerce's Office of
Technology Policy Publications Request Line at: 202-482-3037, or on the World
Wide Web at: http://www.ta.doc.gov/techni/techni.htm
Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
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