Alexander Applauds Senate and House Passage of Law to Keep America’s “Brainpower Advantage, So Our High-Paying Jobs Don’t Head Overseas”

Posted on December 21, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) praised House passage today of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, a bill he said will help America “keep our brainpower advantage” by investing in scientific research and math and science education. The Senate passed the bill this past Friday, and the president is expected to sign it into law.

“America has most of the best universities in the world, yet our nation is falling behind. This legislation continues an aggressive effort to preserve America’s brainpower advantage, so our high-paying jobs don’t head overseas to places like India and China,” said Alexander, a cosponsor of the bill and one of the authors of the original America COMPETES Act of 2007. “At a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment, this legislation is more important than ever.”

“This bill’s investments in scientific research are one part of a pro-growth agenda that should also include keeping tax rates low and cutting regulations that put a wet blanket on job creation. The process for putting together this legislation could serve as a model: Getting the recommendations of experts and working together step-by-step in a bipartisan way.”

The legislation reauthorizes the America COMPETES Act, which was sponsored by Democratic and Republicans leaders of the Senate, passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, and became law in 2007. Alexander was both the Republican manager of Senate debate on the 2007 legislation and the lead Senate Republican conferee during final negotiations on the bill with the House of Representatives. 

The 2007 bill was a response to recommendations found in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, which itself was a response to questions asked by Alexander and other members of Congress.  In 2005, Alexander, Congressman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and then-Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) asked the National Academies for specific recommendations to keep America’s brainpower advantage. Their question was: “What are the top actions that federal policymakers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so the United States can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the global community of the 21st century?” 

The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act reauthorizes research programs at federal scientific agencies: the Department of Energy’s Department of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The bill also includes innovative efforts to better train math and science teachers.

The National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report points out many data about America losing its edge. Among these are:

 

  • The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 48th in quality of mathematics and science education.
  • United States consumers spend significantly more on potato chips than the government devotes to energy R&D.
  • GE has now located the majority of its R&D personnel outside the United States.
  • The total annual federal investment in research in mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering is now equal to the increase in United States health care costs every nine weeks.
  • In May 2010, a supercomputer produced in China was ranked the world's second-fastest. (In October, after the report was published, Chinese scientists announced they had created the world’s fastest supercomputer.)

 

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