FROM THE ARCHIVES: Innovation and Competitiveness (January 30, 2006)

In celebration of COSSA’s 40th anniversary, we are diving into the decades of Washington Update archives to share articles from years past that resonate with today’s news.

In a recent New York Times column Nicholas Kristoff asked whether China or India would be the world’s dominant economic power in the year 2100. In order to stave off this unpalatable future, the U.S. science and engineering community in concert with key policymakers on Capitol Hill have put forth a new innovation and competitiveness agenda. For some long-time policy observers it is “déjà vu all over again.” In the 1980s this same agenda successfully drove proposals to increase science and engineering funding, although at that time the dangerous foe was Japan.

A National Academies report released last fall, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, has become the catalyst for numerous pieces of introduced or soon-to-be-introduced legislation. The message of the Academies panel, chaired by former Lockheed-Martin CEO Norman Augustine, is that U.S. economic dominance is under threat and that the proven way, citing studies by economists Robert Solow and Moses Abramovitz, to repel that threat is to increase federal support for enhancing America’s “scientific and technological prowess.”

Working from the recommendations in the report, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who requested the Academies’ study, have joined with their colleagues, Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to introduce three bills under the rubric “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Acts” (PACE). Many of their proposals mirror earlier bills introduced in the House by Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee. In addition, Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John Ensign (R-NV) have introduced “The National Innovation Act,” which is based on the Council on Competitiveness’ National Innovation Initiative Report.

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