Oak Ridge, Tenn.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and U.S. Representatives Bart Gordon (D-Tenn. 6) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn. 3) joined industry, government, and academic leaders here today to discuss how science and technology can help keep America competitive.
Today’s National Science and Technology Summit was created by the America COMPETES Act, bipartisan legislation backed by Alexander, Gordon, and Wamp that was signed into law in August 2007. It called for the President to convene a summit to assess progress toward the goals of the expansive America COMPETES Act and to examine the health and direction of the United States' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics enterprises. The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy chose to hold the national summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“One of the key ways we can reduce high gas prices is by providing more support for the basic science and research that will help us innovate our way to clean energy independence,” said Alexander, who on May 9th in Oak Ridge proposed a new Manhattan Project for clean energy independence. “Research funding through the America COMPETES Act will help us reach the breakthroughs necessary to get us off foreign oil and onto the clean energy technologies that we can produce right here in America. Science and technology research is critical to discovering the alternative, sustainable sources of energy that would allow us to stop sending money overseas to the oil producing countries who are funding terrorists seeking to kill us. We must make sure we are funding the science development necessary that will make this future a reality.”
"Yesterday, I was at the Nissan plant in Smyrna where I got to see several hydrogen-powered vehicles from major auto manufacturers," Gordon said. "These vehicles show the technology of tomorrow is here today. We already have many of the tools we need to be more energy independent, and we can do even better by supporting the research efforts of our local institutions in the Oak Ridge Corridor."
“The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is uniquely positioned to host the very first National Science and Technology Summit,” said Wamp. “Strengthening our science and math education programs will help keep America’s innovation edge. When we create the world’s best and brightest right here at home, we can enhance our manufacturing base and provide a new generation with valuable job prospects that benefit our country’s economic future.”
In 2005, Alexander and Gordon – joined by two other members of Congress – requested the National Academies study that became the basis for the America COMPETES Act. Alexander led Republican efforts on the bipartisan legislation for more than two years prior to its being signed into law last August, serving as both the Republican manager of Senate floor debate on the America COMPETES Act and the lead Senate Republican during final negotiations with the House of Representatives. Gordon sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives where the measure received strong support from Wamp, whose district contains the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The America COMPETES Act seeks to preserve America’s brainpower advantage in order to keep good jobs here instead of moving overseas. It puts research programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on a path to double their budgets during the next decade. It focuses on two primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving U.S. innovation in the 21st century: increasing research investment; and strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school.
The theme of today’s Summit was “Science, Technology, and American Competitiveness: Progress and Direction Forward.” The more than 250 attendees attending the Summit reviewed progress in achieving goals to increase U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, identified key challenges preventing the nation from achieving those goals, and developed recommendations to achieve the consensus goals and increase competitiveness. The Summit featured key government, university and private sector leaders, such as: the Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College; the Chairman and CEO of National Semiconductor Corporation; and IBM’s Senior Vice President and Director of Research.
“This Summit is the latest sign that the ‘Oak Ridge Corridor’ is earning its place among America’s premier job-creating centers of research and development excellence similar to California’s Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle,” Alexander said. “Comparing the Oak Ridge Corridor with Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle is more and more accurate because along the Corridor there are now 2,180 Ph.D.s working, as well as 3,000 more scientists and engineers who visit each year for two weeks or longer, 25 percent of whom are from industry.”
“We need to continue to unite our efforts through regional partnerships to produce high-tech jobs and the highly-skilled workforce needed to fill these jobs. I want to ensure that all Tennesseans have the opportunity to find a good job, close to home,” Gordon said.
Gordon is chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. Alexander and Wamp are members of their chambers’ Appropriations Committees, which will oversee funding for the America COMPETES Act.