I rise in support of H.R. 1736, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2009, and yield myself such time as I may consume.
It is fitting that H.R. 1736 is the coming to the Floor of the House in the same week as the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, because science and technology can play a truly unique role in improving our foreign relations. Science is a universal language built on a foundation of prior discoveries and advancements that have originated from all corners of the globe.
As President Obama stated in Cairo last week, “It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.” A scientist in the Middle East today may not have access to the same richness of S&T resources in her in own region today, but through the internet and conferences, she is able to collaborate with a scientist at the University of Washington or the University of Texas.
Science diplomacy presents a unique and essential opportunity to develop and sustain friendships and collaborations into the future. International surveys consistently show that people in other nations admire our scientific and technological achievements and opportunities more than almost any other feature of the United States. What is more, in countless nations many of the political, economic, and social leaders have at one time or another studied in our nation or worked for an American business. From a diplomatic perspective, the benefit of these connections is valuable beyond measure.
The scientists, their students, and of course the science itself all benefit from this scholarly exchange. But so do our national security and economic prosperity. The intellectual input of the foreign scientists helps build that foundation of discovery that leads to new technologies and new intellectual property in the United States. And the exchange of scientists and their students help to build mutual trust and understanding between people who may otherwise be inclined to avoid or even fear each other.
The Science side of Scientific Diplomacy receives comparable benefits from international collaborations. While the U.S. continues to lead the world overall in scientific and technological achievements, by no means do we have a monopoly on knowledge or talent. Our scientists, students, industry, and academic institutions are all dramatically enhanced by interactions with international peers.
Science diplomacy is also central to meeting shared global challenges and opportunities. Climate change, ocean acidification, drug resistant diseases, economic crises, energy shortages, poverty, food and nutrition, internet and telecommunications, space exploration, and conflict resolution are all being addressed and advanced thanks to international scientific collaboration. In an interconnected world, everyone is impacted by these challenges, everyone has a stake in the solutions, and we can only succeed if the brightest minds from around the world work together effectively. Ideally, Science diplomacy is not just about U.S. scientists working collaboratively with others, it is about all scientists working together will all scientists regardless of physical location or national boundaries.
I have listed the Diplomatic, Scientific, and Global Challenge aspects of science diplomacy because I believe that all three elements should be considered together and simultaneously throughout our scientific and diplomatic endeavors and in our efforts to meet global challenges. Hence, let me stipulate from the outset that when I refer to Science diplomacy, I am using the term intentionally to mean that our Science efforts and our Diplomatic efforts should, in so far as possible, take both functions into account and that in doing so the benefits should be synergistic for Science, for Diplomacy and for our nation.
The bill before us today is by no means the end of the story of what we can do to maximize the benefit of science cooperation to our foreign policy or to our own prosperity and security. However, it is a good start. H.R. 1736 would reconstitute a Committee on International Science, Engineering and Technology (CISET) under the National Science and Technology Council, which is the interagency coordinating council managed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
A renewed and reinvigorated CISET would strengthen interagency coordination among the technical agencies and between the technical agencies and the Department of State. It’s purpose would be to ensure that the richness of the S&T resources within our technical agencies are brought to bear on our foreign policy wherever appropriate; and that our own domestic agencies are working closely with the State Department to leverage scientific and technical expertise and resources around the world in pursuit of solutions to global challenges and opportunities. While this bill does not specify any subject matters for this committee to tackle and the priorities will naturally change over time, issues such as water resources, nanotechnology, information technology and energy technologies are all ripe for greater international engagement and cooperation. We simply can’t afford to do it all alone, and in some cases, in this interconnected world, going at it alone could lead to significant unintended roadblocks in the future.
H.R. 1736 is a bipartisan bill which Dr. Ehlers and several other Members of the Science and Technology Committee joined me in introducing. I want to thank Dr. Ehlers for his many years of leadership on this issue and for joining me in making it a priority for our Committee in the last couple of years. Together we held several hearings with experts from both the foreign policy and the scientific communities, and all agreed on the tremendous value of international science and technology cooperation to our country. I also want to thank Chairman Lipinski of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee for his leadership and for helping me carry forward this legislation after he assumed the gavel. Finally, I want to thank Chairman Berman of the Foreign Affairs Committee for collaborating with us on this bill.
H.R. 1736 is a good bill. It doesn’t cost anything. It just makes sure we apply our existing activities and resources as wisely as possible to the benefit of our security and prosperity. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1736 and I yield back the balance of my time.