At a March 15 hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, and John Kelly, senior vice president for technology and intellectual property at IBM, urged lawmakers to enact legislation to improve math and science education, encourage broadband deployment and increase the budgets of key research agencies, including the National Science Foundation.
The worry is that the United States is not producing enough scientists and engineers. By 2010, 90 percent of the worlds scientists and engineers will live in Asia, said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who is sponsoring a bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., to address the concerns raised by industry.
Later this year, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., will introduce an alternative package of legislative proposals focusing on education, energy reform and health care reform to ensure that Americans can sustain their standard of living, he said.
"India, China and other nations are on the rise," Baucus said. "They have plans in those countries. We must make policy changes now."
Comparing the United States competitive position to a "frog thats being slowly boiled," Norman Augustine, retired CEO and chairman of Lockheed Martin, told the committee that the looming crisis in innovation took decades to create and will take decades to resolve.
One of the forces driving the problem is a change in the character of research investment, Augustine said. In the past, industry supported one-third of basic research, but with todays focus on quarterly returns, industry puts most of its research funds into development.
"Industry is abandoning slowly the R part of R&D," Augustine said, adding that the government must fill the void.
With obligations to shareholders, private sector companies cannot afford to direct a great percentage of resources to basic research, Intels Barrett told the committee in his testimony.