The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, of which CRA is a very active member, hosted another successful competitiveness briefing on Capitol Hill today. A full room heard from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), an introduction by the president of the National Academy of Engineering Dr. Charles Vest, and a keynote address by Norm Augustine. Also, in attendance was Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) who has backed the issue of increased basic research funding since before the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report was released.
Senator Bingaman echoed Dr. Vest when he said that the difficult work was still ahead because the current appropriations meltdown. He also said that the efforts of competitiveness were a long-term project. Senator Alexander said that it was important to continue to broaden the base of support for competitiveness issues in Congress but that it would be a mistake to think this issue was solely the responsibility of Congress. He said that everyone needs to be involved in order to keep America competitive.
Norm Augustine, who in addition to chairing the National Academies panel that produced the hugely influential “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report and has since chaired a follow-up called “Is America Falling off the Flat Earth?”, pointed out that while great progress was made toward funding basic research in the FY07 appropriations, sustaining the momentum of increases in FY08 was critical. He said, “Leadership in science and technology is not a birthright of the United States” but is something that needs to be fought for and won every day. An interesting statistic that he used was that two-thirds of the increased labor productivity over the last several decades was contributable to federal investment in research.
The event ended with a screening of the Task Force YouTube contest winning video that we’ve previously mentioned here.