Bipartisan Group Accepts “American Innovation Proclamation” on Behalf of Congress

(Washington, DC)  Some of the nation’s top business leaders, innovators and academics gathered today before the House Committee on Science and Technology to underscore the critical importance of science and technology to our nation’s prosperity.

Their focus – legislation currently before the Committee authored by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and based upon a widely regarded 2005 report from the National Academies entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.”  That report was requested by Chairman Gordon and former Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), along with Senate colleagues Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

That report found that “absent decisive action” on the part of government, the U.S. standing as the global innovation and technological leader is in jeopardy.  The report suggested action items – key among them, placing well qualified science and math teachers in the nation’s K-12 classrooms and substantially increasing basic research funding.

“In order to produce the most innovative scientists and engineers in the world, our children must be the highest achieving science and math students in the world,” said Chairman Gordon.  “That’s going to take a sustained investment of real dollars and a commitment to getting the job done for the long-term – not just putting a short-term bandage on it.”

Since the National Academies’ report release in the fall of 2005, the Committee has kept up a steady drumbeat in Congress on the need to secure and improve our nation’s economic competitiveness.  Many of the Committee’s legislative efforts serve as a cornerstone for the Majority’s Innovation Agenda.

“Today’s workers increasingly require a solid academic foundation in science and math, as well as technical know-how, in order to succeed in today’s high-tech workplace,” said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX).  “While there are no quick fixes, we can take steps now to reexamine and improve how teachers teach and students learn math and science, and I am pleased to see the Science Committee doing just that.”

At the hearing, Norman Augustine, Retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and Chair of the National Academies’ report, noted that their report “concluded that America’s ability to compete for jobs in the years ahead will depend heavily upon our ability to maintain a strong position in the fields of science and engineering.  It will be these fields that will underpin the innovation that in turn will create quality jobs for Americans.  And to fill those jobs, all our citizens will need the basic tools required to function in a high-tech world.”

Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies – and Chairman of the Business Roundtable – pointed out that federal support for research has declined relative to the size of the economy and cautioned that “the wellsprings of innovation require constant nurturing, and maintaining U.S. innovation leadership demands hard work and investment.”

Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation, also expressed his support for the Gordon legislation and summed up its need saying, “Here’s the point: a good teacher, a research lab, an engaged student – these are the resources that are critical to innovation, the creation of new technologies and new industries.  America has always taken for granted that these foundations of innovation will be there, providing the basis for American economic success…but we can no longer take those things for granted.”

“This is not a one-year competition in which we find ourselves – it is a seismic change, comparable to what the nation underwent when it encountered a shift from 84 percent of its workers being involved in agriculture in the early 1800’s to about one percent today,” added Norm Augustine in his testimony. 

Chairman Gordon and Committee Members will continue to advance their innovation package of legislation.  A mark-up of H.R. 362 is expected later this month, with full House consideration of that bill and others – including H.R. 363 – in the coming months. 

“This Committee has pledged to do its part and we’re getting that job done,” concluded Chairman Gordon.  “These bills aren’t the ‘cure-all’ but they are good ideas that address key pieces of the puzzle.  We’ll work to get them enacted and we’ll keep sounding the alarm on behalf of American teachers, students and workers until the National Academies’ valuable recommendations are implemented – and U.S. leadership in the global economy is sound and assured.”

Prior to the Committee meeting today, business and higher education leaders representing more than 270 U.S. businesses and universities presented the “American Innovation Proclamation” to Congress, emphasizing their support for quick consideration and passage of legislative efforts to increase investments in U.S. research and improve student achievement in science and math. 

Chairman Gordon accepted the proclamation on Congress’ behalf saying, “I’m worried that my five-year old daughter and your children and grandchildren will be the first generation of Americans to inherit a lower standard of living than their parents.  The industry representatives who signed on to this proclamation are worried too, and Congress needs their support to move forward on our innovation agenda.”