APS News

National Summit Urges Commitment to Competitiveness

Time to Celebrate and to Look Ahead
Mike Lubell speaks with Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Photo by Marvin T. Jones & Associates

On September 20, members of Congress, Congressional staffers, and science advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to celebrate passage of the America COMPETES Act, which President Bush had signed into law the previous month. The bill authorizes improved funding for science education, innovation and basic scientific research. Here APS Director of Public Affairs Michael Lubell (left), who lobbied tirelessly for this legislation over many years, chats with Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), one of two PhD physicists in Congress, who was one of the chief sponsors of the bill. As Lubell pointed out, the effort by science societies to focus congressional attention on the competitiveness issue began in 1997, with the impetus of the late D. Allan Bromley, who had previously served as science adviser to President George H.W. Bush and later as APS president. Ehlers emphasized that with the authorization bill passed, Congress now has to focus on implementing its provisions by appropriating the necessary funds.
Congress should maintain a long-term investment in basic research, innovation and education to keep the nation competitive in the face of increased global competition, said high-ranking public and private officials who participated in the recent National Summit on American Competitiveness in Washington, D.C.

“We have fallen behind (our international counterparts) in math, science and basic research and development,” said Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corporation’s board of directors, whose comments generated thunderous applause from the near-capacity crowd at the Reagan Center Amphitheater.

The purpose of the summit, which took place in September, was to explore how to support and develop the human talent and creativity that have made America the envy of the world.

Barrett added that the recently passed America COMPETES bill, which authorizes the expenditure of $33.6 billion over seven years, including the doubling of funding for scientific agencies, must be fully funded to help the country regain its hard-fought global economic leadership.“Just do it,” he said, adding, “we’ve been talking about this for years.”

The COMPETES legislation will go a long way in preparing students to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world economy requiring highly skilled workers, said the summit’s participants.

“Every nation gets the connection between education and the next-generation economy,” said G. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech University. Clough pointed out that Georgia Tech has a cooperative study abroad program that enables students to learn and work overseas to prepare for jobs in an international economy.  

Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, said his state is funding training for workers for highly skilled jobs such as energy construction projects. “We are investing in people,” he said.

Students must understand what is required of them in the high-tech workforce, said Gary Jacobs, chairman of High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego.

“All juniors have to participate in an internship as part of our curriculum,” said Jacobs, who noted that 100 percent of the school’s students attend college and pursue technical degrees. 

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff