American Competitiveness Initiative: First Numbers Posted

We have so much to catch up on in the wake of the President’s State of the Union speech and his introduction of an American Competitiveness Initiative that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. So let me start to wade through the torrent of new material.
First, the White House has posted the supporting documentation for ACI online. I’m still working my way through the document, but figured I should get the word out as soon as I could.
One interesting aspect of the document is that includes the FY07 budget numbers for NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science, so we don’t need to wait until Monday to see how each of the agencies fared. In it we learn that NSF will see a 7.8 percent bump to $6.02 billion, an increase of $440 million over FY 06.
DOE Office of Science actually does a little better, growing 14 percent to $4.10 billion in FY 07, an increase of $500 million.
NIST “Core” (Labs + Construction…not ATP or MEP) will decline $30 million from FY 06, but in twisted Washington DC logic, that’s actually an increase of 24 percent. The White House claims to have stripped $137 million in earmarks to the NIST budget from FY 06, so it’s actually an increase of $100 million in NIST core R&D.
Here’s a handy chart showing not only the proposed increases for next year, but the 10 year commitment the President is proposing (chart stolen from the President’s proposal).

I’d also like to include a lengthy quote from the President’s speech today at 3M in Minneapolis — the first of his “post-SOTU road show” speeches focused on competitiveness — that I found particularly, well, amazing. It would have been hard impossible to have imagined these words coming from the President even two months ago. (And apologies to History majors for the slight in the speech…hope it doesn’t apply to English majors, too):

I want to talk about another important issue, and I’ve come to 3M to highlight this issue. And the truth of the matter is, in order to stay competitive, we have got to lead the world in research and development, and got to lead the world in having people — scientists and engineers that are capable of helping America stay on the cutting edge of technology. And 3M is a perfect place to come. (Applause.)
There’s an economic reason why we need to do this. The economic reason why we got to stay on the leading edge of technology is to make sure that people’s standard of living here in America goes up — that’s what it is. And there’s a direct correlation by being the most innovative country in the world and how our citizens live.
Secondly, the second practical application to make sure we’ve got young scientists and engineers coming up, is that if we don’t have people that have got the skill set to fill the jobs of the 21st century, because we’re in a global world and a competitive world, they’re going to go somewhere else. And so I want to talk about an initiative to make sure America remains competitive.
The first element is, is that for the federal government to continue its role — oh, by the way, when we went on the tour, so I asked, how you doing? Fine. What do you do? This. Where did you get your education? We met engineers and chemists and physicists. I didn’t meet any history majors. (Laughter.) I met people who are incredibly capable, smart thinkers that are able to take their brainpower and come up with ways to make practical products that changes Americans’ lives. And so — and the federal government has a role in this, and our taxpayers have got to understand a good use of your taxpayers’ money is to promote research and development — research into the physical sciences.
Again, I’d repeat to you that if we can remain the most competitive nation in the world, it will benefit the worker here in America. People have got to understand, when we talk about spending your taxpayers’ money on research and development, there is a correlating benefit, particularly to your children. See, it takes a while for some of the investments that are being made with government dollars to come to market. I don’t know if people realize this, but the Internet began as the Defense Department project to improve military communications. In other words, we were trying to figure out how to better communicate, here was research money spent, and as a result of this sound investment, the Internet came to be.
The Internet has changed us. It’s changed the whole world. It’s an amazing example of what a commitment to research dollars can mean. The iPod — I’m a bike guy and I like to plug in music on my iPod when I’m riding along to hopefully help me forget how old I am. (Laughter.) But it was built — when it was launched, it was built on years of government-funded research and microdrive storage, or electrochemistry, or single compression — signal compression. See, the nanotechnology research that the government is helping sponsor is going to change the way people live.
And so what I said to the Congress was, let’s be wise with taxpayers’ money. Let’s stay on the leading edge of technology and change, and let’s reaffirm our commitment to scientific innovation. I think we ought to double the federal commitment to the most basic critical research programs in physical sciences over the next decade.
This year alone we’re proposing $6 billion go to the National Science Foundation to fund research in physics and chemistry and material science and nanotechnology. We’re proposing $4 billion goes to the Energy Department’s Office of Science to build the world’s most powerful civilian supercomputer. We’re proposing $535 million to the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to research electronics information technologies and advanced computers.
I wouldn’t be proposing this if I didn’t believe that there will be tangible benefits for the American people. We may not see them tomorrow, but your children will see them. We’re staying on the leading edge of technology for a reason. If America doesn’t lead, if we try to kind of forget that we’re in a competitive world, generations of Americans won’t be able to realize the standard of living that we’ve been able to realize.

So that’s just the first speech on the topic. He plans to deliver a few more. Also, I wouldn’t get too hung up on the examples of research he mentions for the agencies — it’s not a comprehensive list. I’m far more interested in the overall message of the speech.
Anyway, we sort of need to enjoy this moment while we can. As one congressional staffer put it this morning, “Today is the best it’s going to get.” There are some tactical issues that will make realizing the full extent of the President’s plan problematic. Come Monday and the actual release of the President’s budget, some constituencies will feel slighted and there will be some hurdles to clear in Congress. But that’s a post for tomorrow or Monday.
Today I’m still reveling in what has to be considered one of the bigger wins for the science community, and more importantly, for the nation, in quite some years.
Update: (5:02 pm 2/2/06) — The House Democratic response is great — very positive:

February 02, 2006
Pelosi Statement on President’s Competitiveness Speech
Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement this afternoon in response to President Bush’s speech on American competitiveness in Minnesota today:
“In September, House Democrats launched the Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America Number One.  With this Innovation Agenda, House Democrats laid down a challenge to the President and to Congress to renew our commitment to the public-private partnerships that will secure America’s continued leadership in innovation and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention, and growth.
“I am glad that the President addressed this vital issue in his State of the Union Address, and in Minnesota today.  House Democrats are ready to work with the President to move our country forward and keep America competitive – nothing could be more important.
“We must now go beyond words and speeches and make the commitment in next year’s budget to a sustained investment in technological innovation and educational excellence to ensure that our country remains competitive against formidable international competition and generates high quality jobs throughout the 21st century.  Nothing less is at stake than America’s economic leadership.”

American Competitiveness Initiative: First Numbers Posted