Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Keeping America Competitive Through Investments in R&D

March 6, 2012

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—I would like to welcome all of our witnesses here today to discuss the President’s budget request for federal research and development (R&D) and progress made toward meeting the goals of the America COMPETES Act.

The COMPETES Act has three primary goals to increase American innovation and competitiveness:  double federal R&D investments in science and education; strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – education, and develop a research and innovation infrastructure.  These goals are just as critical, if not more so, than when the original legislation was signed into law five years ago.  

I believe we’re at a critical junction on homegrown job creation—which is why I’ve made it a goal of mine to spark a renaissance in domestic manufacturing in my state of West Virginia.  During a series of roundtables and a field hearing, I have explored ways we can promote exports and redouble our assistance to manufacturing firms—big and small—that want to make products right here in our country.  Not overseas.

Innovation and job creation are essential, yet they are only part of the solution.  We also need to improve job training to align our workforce with the skills demanded by the global economy.  Different industries report that thousands of positions are going unfilled because applicants lack the necessary science and engineering skills.  Over the last decade, the number of STEM jobs has grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs.  And, on average, STEM workers earn 25 percent more and are less likely to be unemployed.  It is critical that we provide the best possible science and engineering education, not just to prepare our children for tomorrow’s high-tech jobs, but to train people to fill these jobs today.

I am encouraged that the Administration maintains its commitment to improving STEM education throughout the nation, proposing a nearly 3 billion-dollar investment in this area.  I am also pleased that the President’s budget proposes a significant investment in manufacturing as a centerpiece of our economic recovery. 

While the request maintains support for successful programs, such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, it also increases investments in advanced manufacturing, and expands programs like NSF's (National Science Foundation) Innovation Corps to help commercialize research discoveries and build an entrepreneurial network for our best scientists.

Cybersecurity is also a major priority of mine, and a key focus is research on the “science of security.”  The President’s request for the Networking and Information Technology R&D program includes activities for several defense agencies to address the basic science of cybersecurity—but surprisingly, not the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Suresh, NSF has the capability to play a very helpful role as the country addresses its cybersecurity needs, and I would like to hear how you’re making sure NSF leverages its resources to do that. 

As Chairman, I plan to work with the President and my colleagues to pursue these crucial investments in R&D, education, and job creation in the budget for the coming year, and I look forward to our conversation on these topics today.