Later this morning, Texas Instruments Chairman, President, & CEO Richard Templeton will testify before a House committee on the critical importance of federal support for science and R&D, and how the U.S. stacks up against global competitors. (The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. ET, and you can watch it live here.) Before the hearing, Mr. Templeton and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson co-authored an op-ed this morning in Politico to argue that long-term federal support for R&D shouldn’t be jeopardized by short-term policy decisions to address the nation’s fiscal challenges. To do so would rob America of the foundation of our economic strength and give other nations a clear-cut advantage.
“Governments around the world are investing heavily in energy, health care, telecommunications and other arenas, in partnership with their colleges and universities and with existing and emerging businesses. And they are investing in their people, preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers. We need to meet these challenges.
“In the coming weeks, Congress has a decision to make that will determine if the partnership between government, universities and industry in scientific discovery and technological innovation will continue in the robust way it has in the past.
“Looming across-the-board budget cuts — known as the sequester — are set to significantly reduce vital federal investments in scientific research and development, and in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. These indiscriminate cuts may save money in the short term.
“But there will be a significant, long-term, irreparable price to pay if the U.S. government slashes its support for science and engineering and for those who pursue those fields. We urge Congress to approach this challenge in a thoughtful, strategic way, allocating scarce funds in a manner that creates economic growth and security both now and in the future. Good times or bad, one must manage for the future. Discovery and innovation is the pathway there.” (Full op-ed)
The staff for House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Tex., in framing the hearing, agreed with the economic imperative inherent in these areas.
“Although the U.S. still remains the leader in annual total investments by both the public and private sectors, nations such as China and India are making substantial investments in R&D and promoting policies to attract innovative companies and educate a technically-trained workforce. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will continue to take the lead on legislation to provide direction on federal R&D spending and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.”
The Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF) estimated the immediate economic harm that would occur as a result of the federal science and R&D sequester. ITIF reported that sequestration would lead to a cut of $12.5 billion of federally funded R&D in 2013, with similar cuts through 2021. GDP could drop by as much as $860 billion. And the country could lose approximately 200,000 jobs every year from 2013-2016.
Those cuts are real. They would hurt our nascent economic recovery. And they would jeopardize the engine to our long-term economic strength. Hopefully, Congress and the President can find a way to preserve these investments while addressing our fiscal challenges. To do anything else would be penny-wise, but pound-foolish.