CRA commends the Administration for recognizing the importance of Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Information Science to the Nation’s security and competitiveness, and for addressing that with significant new investments in the President’s Budget Request for FY2021. However, we take issue with the proposed cuts to a large number of other areas of science.
Failing to adequately fund a broad portfolio of research puts the nation at risk of missing key breakthroughs and the leadership position to capitalize on them. It also threatens to constrain progress in the same critical fields the President has chosen to highlight. For example, the social sciences will be crucial to developing appropriate ethical guidance for the development of AI systems, economic scientists will help us understand the impact of AI and quantum computing on our workforce, and breakthroughs in materials science will be required for advanced manufacturing and quantum science progress.
A broad Federal research investment portfolio also builds the science and technical workforce that is vital to support design, building, operation, and extending technologies fundamental to industry and defense. Cutting research funds will have a long-term, negative effect on the growth and training of that crucial community. Additionally, our technical workforce has consistently benefitted from adding personnel who are well-educated in the liberal and fine arts. Their perspective in human-centric design, aesthetics, cultural norms, psychology, history, and other aspects outside the STEM disciplines has resulted in a more robust and global set of solutions within the STEM space. Furthermore, those individuals bring new problem-solving insights and paradigms to bear on technological problems, giving us a distinct, innovative advantage over countries that consistently devalue non-STEM disciplines.
The United States has maintained its scientific, economic and military leadership in part because of its broad support for research across disciplines; recognizing that the interplay among scientific fields has provided extraordinary benefits; and understanding that perfect knowledge of where the next great breakthrough will arise is impossible. While we agree that areas such as AI and Quantum Science are ripe for priority, any additional investment should not come at the cost of progress in all other fields.