"Dear Mr. President:
"America today finds herself at a crossroads when it
comes to leading the world in science and innovation. We can continue
down the current path, as other nations continue to narrow the gap,
or we can take bold, dramatic steps to ensure U.S. economic leadership
in the 21st century and a rising standard of living for all Americans.
"I know you share my concern about the future competitiveness
of American industry and are committed to improving job opportunities
for all Americans. However, our current levels of investment in innovative
research and development are not enough to keep us at the forefront.
Countries such as China and India are quickly gaining ground on the
United States and few people realize it. This trend should be setting
off alarm bells, especially as more high-tech products, and the high-tech
jobs behind them, are located elsewhere.
"The United States faces stiff competition in sheer
volume because our population is a fraction of that of China and India.
In 2000, Asian universities accounted for almost 1.2 million of the
world's science and engineering degrees and European universities
accounted for 850,000. North American universities accounted for only
about 500,000. Additionally, according to the National Science Foundation,
the United States has a smaller share of the worldwide total of science
and engineering doctoral degrees awarded than either Asia or Europe.
This is most alarming when you consider that since 1980, the number
of science and engineering positions in the United States have grown
at five times the rate of positions in the civilian workforce as a
"Foreign advances in basic science also now often rival
or even exceed America's, and published research by Americans is lagging.
Physical Review, a series of top physics journals, last year tracked
a reversal in which American scientific papers, in two decades, dropped
from the most published to minority status. In 2004 - the most recent
year statistics are available - the total number of American papers
published was just 29 percent, down from 61 percent in 1983.
"America also is losing ground in the area of patents.
The percentage of U.S. patents has been steadily declining as foreign
nations, especially in Asia, have become more active and in some fields
have seized the innovation lead. The U.S. share of its own industrial
patents now stands at only 52 percent. Another measuring stick is
number of Nobel prizes won. From the 1960s through the 1990s, American
scientists dominated. Now, the rest of the world has caught up as
our scientists only win about half of the Nobel prizes with the rest
going to Britain, Japan, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and
"Federal research support serves two essential purposes.
First, it supports the research required to fuel continued innovation
and economic growth. Second, because much of it takes place at the
nation's colleges and universities, it plays a critical role in training
our next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and others
who will comprise the future scientific and technological workforce.
I am concerned that with the current levels of federal investment
in research and technology our country will fall victim to the fierce
manpower competition we face from developing countries.
"America has a proud history of rising to the occasion.
We need to be mobilized as we were after the former Soviet Union launched
Sputnik, when we made a commitment in the late 1950s to build our
space program and greatly enhance our educational system in the name
of national defense through the passage of the National Defense Education
Act. Most recently we fulfilled the commitment to double the National
Institutes of Health budget to jump-start work on medical research
to help find cures to debilitating and fatal diseases.
"Our nation must make a similar bold commitment to invest
in the future of our country by tripling the innovation budget - federal
basic research and development - over the next decade. We need to
inspire young people to study math and science. As chairman of the
Science-State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations subcommittee, I understand
the difficult budget environment the nation is facing. But bold leadership
from the White House wil1 help establish this as a national priority
in your next budget request to the Congress.
"We must ensure for future generations that America
continues to be the innovation leader of the world. Investing in research
and development is a critical part of optimizing our nation for innovation,
a process that will require strong leadership and involvement from
government, industry, academia and labor. We must choose whether to
innovate or abdicate.
"I urge you to seize this opportunity to rally our nation
to the cause of innovation and stand ready to assist you in this 21st
century challenge. I hope you will work with Congress, with manufacturers
and other producers and services providers, and with the academic
and scientific communities to develop the necessary consensus to that
wil1 ensure America will remain the world's leader in innovation.
The competitive and economic future of America is at stake.
"Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress"