Chattanooga Times Free Press - Lee Pitts
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., voiced his concerns Thursday to President Bush about U.S. competitiveness in science and math and suggested technology investment be the centerpiece agenda of President Bush’s final three years in office.
The Oval Office meeting with President Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Sen. Alexander and two other senators lasted about 25 minutes, officials said.
"I’m very impressed with the receptivity of the administration to this," Sen. Alexander said. "We don’t have science and technology because we are rich; we are rich because we have science and technology. The rest of the world has figured that out."
Sen. Alexander said he hopes President Bush uses the findings of a recent National Academies of Science report in his annual State of the Union address next month.
The report, commissioned in the spring by Sen. Alexander and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., described a dire science outlook in the United States and contained 20 suggestions for allowing the United States to maintain its competitive edge in science and technology fields in the global marketplace.
President Bush said he had read the report, and he seemed familiar with its issues, according to Sen. Alexander.
"He said he was very intrigued by it," Sen. Alexander said. "It is right up his alley. He knows these issues and is familiar with them as governor of Texas."
But Dr. Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said it would be difficult for the administration to devote a lot of time to the report in the face of other issues such as Hurricane Katrina recovery, the war in Iraq and immigration reform.
"It would be fairly far down the list of things to do," Dr. Baker said.
The proposal has a $9.3 billion price tag for its first year.
Sen. Alexander said legislation would be introduced in Congress next year modeled after the report.
He said he told the president that such initiatives would complement his No Child Left Behind education reforms and help ease the country’s energy problems by leading to greater innovation.
The findings in "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" call for measures such as recruiting new science and math teachers and increasing federal investment in math and science research. It also recommends tax credits and incentives for companies in the science and technology sector.