State of the Union

On January 31, 2006, in Policy, by Peter Harsha

Got a “pre-brief” this afternoon from the White House. We’ll like it.
It’ll be webcast live.
We’ll have CRA’s reaction here, right after the speech.
Update (1/31/06 9:20 pm) — Here’s the key passage:

And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.
First: I propose to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.
Second: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.
Third: We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science … bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms … and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.
Preparing our Nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share. I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative … and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.

Update (1/26/06 9:21 pm) — CRA’s response:

January 31, 2006
COMPUTING RESEARCHERS APPLAUD PRESIDENT’S INNOVATION PLANS
WASHINGTON, DC – The Computing Research Association commends President Bush for announcing in his State of the Union address a new focus on U.S. competitiveness and innovation in a plan that would include healthy increases for U.S. science agencies.
The President’s plan, called the American Competitiveness Initiative, would double the federal investment in research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science over then next ten years, reversing a trend that has deemphasized fundamental research, which is typically performed in U.S. universities and long-acknowledged as the fuel for American innovation. The plan would also bolster math and science education, make permanent the research and experimentation tax credit, provide worker training opportunities, and reform immigration policies to ensure the U.S. can continue to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest.
“The President’s proposal is an important step in ensuring the U.S. will have the resources — the people, the ideas, the infrastructure — the country needs to continue to lead in an increasingly competitive world,” said Professor Daniel A. Reed, Chair of the Computing Research Association and Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina.
In the last decade, innovations spawned by fundamental research, particularly research in information technology, have driven U.S. productivity increases and fired the new economy. “But the increasing trend toward short–term efforts puts this innovation cycle at risk at exactly the time when our global competitors are expanding and accelerating their own efforts,” Reed said. “I am very pleased the President is committed to doubling the investment in long–term research to reverse the trend.”
Computing researchers have grown increasingly concerned that while information technology remains central to the nation’s economy, national security, health and the conduct of the sciences, the federal investment in fundamental IT research has been stagnant since 2001, and in fact, declined 4.5 percent in the President’s most recent budget submission.
“That’s why it’s crucial that any reinvestment in fundamental research include a revitalization of the federal Networking and Information Technology R&D program,” said Edward Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington and former co–Chair of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee. “While the payoffs of past research have been dramatic, the field remains in relative infancy. Tremendous opportunities remain — far more can happen in the next ten years than has happened in the last thirty, and it is crucial that America lead the way.”
CRA is also supportive of the effort to increase the participation of American students in science and math education, as called for in the President’s plan and featured in bipartisan proposals in Congress. As part of that effort, computing researchers urge policymakers to focus particular attention on reaching out to members of underrepresented groups.
“The pace of innovation is constrained when significant portions of the population aren’t represented in the research and development process,” said John King, Dean of the School of Information at the University of Michigan. “Building a diverse workforce not only encourages a diversity of ideas that breed real innovation, but it may be the only way to meet the Nation’s workforce needs in the face of the projected growth in the field.”
“The President’s innovation agenda creates an important opportunity,” Reed said. “We’re optimistic that these good ideas are shared by a large and growing number of Members of Congress on a bipartisan basis and look forward to working with policymakers to see them implemented in the coming year. Our nation’s future depends critically on increased investments in advanced education and research in information technology and other fields.”
CRA is an organization of 200 of the Nation’s leading industrial computing research labs and university computer science departments. For more information, visit the CRA website at: http://www.cra.org

Update: (1/31/06 9:51pm) — Standing ovations for:

“Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.”
“With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.”

 

Ok, so that’s about the most played-out cliche in politics, but it’s hard to come up with another phrase that encapsulates how pervasive the competitiveness meme has become in science policy circles — and more encouragingly, in the words of administration and congressional policymakers — over the last year.
Also, apologies for going sort of radio silent here the last couple of weeks, but there’s lots going on surrounding this issue and we’re involved in some of it, which makes chatting about it a little dicey. But here’s where things stand.
At the moment, all eyes (ears?) are focused on the President’s State of the Union speech tomorrow night. In that speech, among the new programs and initiatives he’s expected to announce may be a piece on ensuring U.S. competitiveness, which could feature a number of important planks. Now, I have no specific knowledge about what is actually in the speech, but there’s been a bit of press coverage, plenty of rumors floating around town, and a few tea leaves that can be read.
It seems fairly clear that there will be a focus on education, a focus on workforce/immigration, and a focus on “innovation” that could include increased budgets for federal science angencies. One big clue is the Administration’s apparent fondness for the National AcademiesRising Above the Gathering Storm” report put together by former Lockheed-Martin CEO Norman Augustine. There have been several mentions of the report by folks within the Administration. Maybe the most prominent mention was by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card during his January 11th talk at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This exchange is about 47:28 into the webcast:

Question: There’s a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences, put together by Norm Augustine, called “The Gathering Storm.” It raises some questions about science and technology leadership in the U.S. going forward. Do you have any thoughts on that, especially as it relates to the economy, one of your key issues?
Card: I would encourage you to read this report, which is The Gathering Storm. It’s about our need to have more engineers and scientists in the United States. It is work that was done in the private sector under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, and Norm Augustine did lead the effort. There were some great academics involved.
I actually read the report, not just the summary, but the report. And it is dramatic in its exposure to that which is a problem in the United States, and how few young people are going into the physical sciences, into math, and how they’re not going to college with an expectation that they’ll be a an engineer, or a mathematician, or a physicist.
The life sciences have actually had a little bump up. There’s some excitement about the life sciences, but on the physical sciences side, there is a dearth of students, and there is a death of teachers, and a dearth of scholarships and opportunities at some our major institutions. This report highlights that. It outlines a road map toward solving the problem. It’s a ten year roadmap.
We are taking a very close look at it in the Administration. We are very forward leaning in believing it is the right issue to address. Many of the suggestions are appropriate suggestions, but we have to put them in the context of Josh Bolton’s budget. And we’ll be doing that.
It is a compelling report.

We’ve covered the Gathering Storm report in this space, and it’s filled with things we like. If the Administration embraces the report in any meaningful way — particularly its core recommendation to “sustain and strengthen the nation’s traditional commitment to the long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformational to maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life” — then we’ll be very pleased. After all, this represents a pretty signficant (and welcome) sea change for the Administration, which until recently has maintained, as John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said back in March, that “the U.S. is so far ahead in [science and technology] that we are going to be able to maintain our competitive strength. I don’t see the same danger signs [that others do].”
There are other hints that the President may be willing to adopt an “innovation” agenda, including a number of tidbits in the press. Technology Daily reports today (sub. req’d.) that some high-tech officials who have met with White House senior officials in recent days have come away optimistic about the Administrations commitment to innovation. Yesterday’s Boston Globe indicates Norm Augustine will play an important role in the President’s speech. And the Baltimore Sun has two pieces on the likelihood of “innovation” being a featured part of Bush’s remarks. The big question is whether there will be the funding commitment to accompany any rhetorical commitment to innovation by the President.
If the President chooses to truly embrace the recommendations of the Augustine report, his budget will find a way to provide for a significant increase for the National Science Foundation, and perhaps to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Augustine report specifically recommends an increase of 10 percent a year for the next seven years for “long-term basic research…with special attention paid to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences.” This is the approach taken in both the National Innovation Act introduced by Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and the new “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge” (PACE) Act, introduced last week by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
The strong bipartisan support accorded both bills in the Senate is indicative of the traction the “competiveness and innovation” case has in Congress. A year’s worth of reportsmost familiar to readers of this blog — by some of the most influential academic and industrial entities, all making the same essential points that the world has become an increasingly competitive place and that the US isn’t currently doing enough to ensure our future scientific and innovative leadership, has clearly had an impact on Members of Congress — and now, hopefully, the Administration.
But even if the President does include signficant increases for basic research in his budget, there will be a lot of work remaining. As Congress is fond of pointing out, “the President proposes, Congress disposes.” This is, after all, a time of incredibly tight budgets, with lots of pressure in place to hold down increases in discretionary spending. So, step one will be making sure that the Congressional Budget Resolution includes the same support for fundamental research that we hope will be present in the President’s budget. This is turn will aid in getting “302(b) allocations” (essentially, the amounts each of the 10 or 12 (House v Senate) appropriations subcommittees are allowed to spend for the bills under their control) that are robust enough to let the subcommittees that oversee the science agencies provide the any increases called for in the budget. Then it will be up to this same coalition of partners in university and industry to make the case to appropriators. In past years, the lack of a budget “cap” room has prevented even some of the most ardent congressional champions of research from providing significant increases. A strong budget request and good 302(b) allocations would remove that constraint.
So, I’m cautiously optimistic and very eager to hear the President’s words tomorrow night. If the Adminstration comes through with a proposal that embraces the best of the Augustine report recommendations, it is hugely important that they, and Congress, hear from the community in support of the idea. As we’ve noted in the past, the case for bolstering U.S. competitiveness by bolstering U.S. innovation finds strong support in both parties. Supporting the plan need not commit you to supporting any one party.
But let’s see what’s in the plan, first.
The President will deliver the State of the Union at 9 pm, Tuesday, January 31st.
We’ll have more after the speech (or earlier, if we get some scoop…).

 

At the CRA Bulletin, Jay Vegso has the first part of what will be a three-part look at the new Bureau of Labor Statistics workforce projections for 2004-2014. Some noteable bits:

  • The professional IT workforce added 134,000 jobs between 2002 and 2004, a significant turnaround from the period between 2000 and 2002, when the workforce shrank by 7,000 jobs. The overall workforce added 1.6 million jobs between 2002 and 2004, but numbered 145.6 million in both 2000 and 2004.
  • The professional IT workforce is projected to add a little over a million new jobs between 2004 and 2014, an increase of about 30 percent. In 2004, there were 3.4 million IT professionals out of a total workforce of 145.6 million. The total workforce is expected to add 18.9 million jobs between 2004 and 2014.
  • Six of the 30 occupations that are projected to grow the fastest (i.e., percent gain) between 2004 and 2014 are in the IT profession. Among the 30 fastest-growing occupations, 17 have median salary earnings of $43,605 or above, including all six IT occupations.
  • Two of the six IT occupations listed as the fastest growing also rank among the 30 that are projected to have the largest numeric growth. Only seven of these 30 have median salary earnings of $43,605 or more, including both IT occupations.

Of course, the usual caveats for long-term projections of anything should apply here (“notoriously unreliable,” “a crap shoot,” etc) but this is the current “best guess” of your Federal Government.
We’ve put some additional IT workforce data over at our IT Workforce page. There you’ll also find a link to an article written by John Sargent, a senior policy analyst at the Department of Commerce’s Office of Technology Policy for Computing Research News on the last set of projections. And to top it off, Jay also has a number of good posts on the IT workforce debate at the CRA Bulletin.