Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: January 7, 2009

Steering and Policy Committee Forum Highlights the Role of Science and Technology in Job Creation, Economic Recovery

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) participated in a Steering and Policy Committee forum on the economic outlook and the components of an economic recovery plan to spur job creation and create long-term growth.

Steering and Policy Committee co-chairs Congressman George Miller (CA-7) and Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) chaired the forum. Also participating were the chairs of the House Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, Budget, Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees.

“During the 110th Congress, we enacted the key components of the Speaker’s Innovation Agenda, including the America COMPETES Act,” said Gordon.  “COMPETES implemented the actions recommended by a National Academies panel headed by Mr. Augustine, recommendations that our best experts determined to be critical to maintain our country’s competitiveness and economic growth.  Today’s economic situation should not delay these actions—on the contrary, funding and implementing COMPETES, which invests in research key to technological innovation and job creation and helps train people for new, higher-skilled jobs, is more urgent than ever.”

In FY08, COMPETES received $10.8 billion in funding.  The FY09 authorization is $13.7 billion. 

Witnesses included:

  • Norman R. Augustine, chair of National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report committee 
  • Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics at Harvard University and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research
  • Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Dr. Mark M. Zandi, Chief economist and cofounder of Moody’s Economy.com
  • Maria Zuber, E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The panel discussed the need to balance short-term investment infusions that will create jobs immediately while addressing the larger structural problems with the economy to ensure lasting job and economic growth.

“We need to secure our overall competitiveness, otherwise we could create new jobs now only to lose them to foreign competition later,” said Mr. Augustine.

“Investments in basic research and STEM education will foster innovation that will reinvigorate our economy and create desirable and lasting jobs,” said Dr. Zuber.

The panel discussed the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, as a vehicle to foster innovation in energy technology development.

“ARPA-E could be the bridge to the new energy economy and, with it, the ‘green’ jobs we need,” said Gordon.  “Many companies are pursuing new energy technologies—as they should—but the burden cannot fall exclusively to the business community.  Companies have to be accountable to stockholders, and this is a time when we need radical breakthroughs, not incremental change.  However, because ARPA-E will bring industry to the table from the beginning, we’ll be able to get these technologies to the market quickly.  ARPA-E could be the foundation of a new sector of our economy, the way DARPA formed the underpinnings of the multi-billion dollar defense industry.” 

During the panel, Chairman Gordon also quoted from a letter calling funding for COMPETES “an urgent and necessary step that will enhance our country’s economic strength [and] competitiveness.”  The letter was signed by about 250 stakeholders from the business, academic and science communities. 

 

Background information

The National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, published in 2005, was requested by Chairman Gordon and several other Members of Congress to assess the nation’s future competitiveness.  It predicted a stagnating economy, an ill-equipped educational system, the U.S. losing its place as a scientific world leader, and—for the first time in American history—a lower standard of living for the next generation of Americans. 

The America COMPETES Act (PL 110-69) implements the report’s recommendations and aims to strengthen American competitiveness, create high-quality jobs, and improve access to clean, affordable energy.  It creates and strengthens science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs, sets basic research in the physical sciences on a path to double funding in seven years, supports young researchers by expanding early career grant programs, and addresses our need for innovation in the energy sector by creating an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).

ARPA-E was modeled after the highly successful DARPA program, which gave the Defense Department breakthroughs like stealth technology, GPS, and the internet.  ARPA-E will be a non-bureaucratic agency at the Department of Energy that will bring together the best and brightest from industry, academia, and the national labs to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy research. 

 

Two of today’s witnesses have testified before the Committee on Science and Technology in the 110th Congress.  Mr. Augustine testified at the hearing “Science & Technology Leadership in a 21st Century Global Economy” on March 13, 2007.  Mr. Augustine and Dr. Zuber testified before the Committee at the hearing “NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges” on July 30, 2008.

 

Please visit the Committee’s website for more information, including the Executive Summary of the Rising Above the Storm report and the Committee’s agenda for the 111th Congress.  

  

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