With US dominance challenged by emerging countries like India and China, a bipartisan legislation aimed at preserving its competitive edge in science and technology was introduced in the Senate.
The "America COMPETES, Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science, Act of 2007" was introduced by Democratic senate majority leader Harry Reid with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Describing the measure "as a down payment, a modest first step to ensuring that America retains its competitive edge," Reid said it flowed from a report of National Academies which were asked two years ago to make recommendations on the steps US should take as a nation to maintain its competitive advantage.
"...Our position of dominance has been lost" today, said he. "We are challenged by emerging countries like India and China, where national investment in basic research and subject areas such as math and science continues to grow at a far greater pace than here in the United States."
"Rising Above the Gathering Storm," the Augustine panel report from National Academies, cited many examples, but some of the statistics are striking, Reid said.
"Consider that in 2005, more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China, compared to 350,000 in India and only 70,000 in the United States. China's population is more than three times that of the United States, yet they graduate more than eight times the number of engineers," he noted.
And even though technological giants like Microsoft, Apple, and Intel are American companies, the report indicates that the United States is now a net importer of high technology products-a shift from the early 1990s, when it had a $54 billion surplus in high-tech exports.
"As other countries become more competitive, it is clear we must refocus our energies on enhancing the Federal commitment to funding basic research and education," he said.
The report warned that the US' traditional advantages "are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength," and that "decisive action is needed now."
The proposed legislation will double the Federal investment for the National Science Foundation over the next 4 years, and for the Office of Science at the Department of Energy over the next decade, Reid said.
America COMPETES will create a research project at the Department of Energy and increase investment for basic research at NASA and other science-related Federal agencies.
The bill provides grants to States in order to better align elementary and secondary school curriculum with the knowledge and skills needed for the global economy. It will strengthen US' math and science teaching workforce by recruiting and training teachers to teach in high-need schools.
America COMPETES will expand the important Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, IB, programmes by increasing the number of math, science, and foreign languages AP and IB courses, and preparing more teachers to teach these challenging courses.
The bill will help develop an infrastructure for innovation by establishing a President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness to promote innovation and competitiveness. Also, this legislation will help improve math instruction at the elementary and middle school level, through Math Now grants, Reid said.