"The National Summit on Competitiveness has one fundamental
and urgent message: if trends in U.S. research and education continue,
our nation will squander its economic leadership, and the result will
be a lower standard of living for the American people." So
began a six-page Statement released on December 6 at a half-day meeting
in Washington of 63 senior-level officials from high technology corporations,
government, academia, and associations.
"The National Summit on Competitiveness: Investing in U.S. Innovation"
was instigated by House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf
(R-VA) at the urging of Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI). At a Capitol Hill briefing
on May 12, Wolf was joined by several of his colleagues and senior association
officials to highlight a provision that had been inserted in a supplemental
appropriations bill stating: "the Secretary of Commerce shall convene
a national conference on science, technology, trade and manufacturing."
Wolf explained, "our hope is that the conference will bring together
the nation's best and brightest to help develop a blueprint for the
future of American science and innovation. It also will look at where
there has been slippage and why, and what needs to be done to reverse
the trend" (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/080.html
There were public and private sessions at Tuesday's summit. The 90-minute
public session was convened by John Engler, President of the National
Association of Manufacturers, who set the tone for this session. He
cited previous reports highlighting problems in America's competitive
position and recommended policy actions. Engler outlined his concerns
about shortages in the future science and engineering workforce. Pointing
to science and technology advancements in India and China, Engler told
Summit participants that "The United States of America is in a
race." Engler's views were supported by other speakers during the
The purpose of the Summit was not to produce a new report, but to call
attention to previously issued reports. The Statement released that
day outlined three major Tasks and implementation steps, which are as
"Task One: Revitalize Fundamental Research
- "Increase the federal investment in long-term basic research
by 10 percent a year over the next seven years with focused attention
to the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics.
- "Allocate at least 8 percent of the budgets of federal research
agencies to discretionary funding focused on catalyzing high-risk, high-payoff
"Task Two: Expand the Innovation Pool in the United States
- "By 2015, double the number of bachelor's degrees awarded annually
to U.S. students in science, math, and engineering, and increase the
number of those students who become K-12 science and math teachers.
- "Reform U.S. immigration policies to enable the education and
employment of individuals from around the world with the knowledge and
skills in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics to boost
the competitive advantage of the United States.
- "Provide incentives for the creation of public-private partnerships
to encourage U.S. students at all levels to pursue studies and/or careers
in science, math, technology, and engineering."
"Task Three: Lead the World in the Development and Deployment
of Advanced Technologies
- "Provide focused and sustained funding to address national technology
challenges in areas that will ensure national security and continued
U.S. economic leadership, including nanotechnology, high-performance
computing, and energy technologies."
Following the plenary session which ended at 11:30, the Summit participants
went to various breakout sessions with several cabinet secretaries that
were closed to the public. A press conference was held from 2:30 until
3:00, at which point the Summit adjourned.
The full text of the Summit's Statement and its participants can be
found at http://usinnovation.org/
One of the major objectives of this Summit was to convey to the Bush
Administration the wide-spread concern there is about America's future
competitiveness. The extent to which this objective was met will be
indicated by President Bush's FY 2007 budget request for science and
technology programs that will be sent to Congress in early February.