As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver the State of the Union address tomorrow night, many reporters, political experts, and pundits are whirling about, attempting to predict the substance of the speech. Meanwhile, we here in the tech sector see this speech as a chance to outline an agenda of opportunity – a chance for policymakers to create economic opportunity for our country.
Here are 10 issues – tech’s top 10 – that we would like the president to highlight as part of his speech on Tuesday:
- Trade Promotion: The U.S. is poised for a series of landmark trade deals that will enable American-based companies to grow and innovate at home while competing and winning around the world. The president should call on Congress to enact trade promotion legislation and pass the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 as a critical first step in strengthening the U.S. economy.
- Information Technology Agreement (ITA) Expansion: It has been 18 years since the ITA, which eliminates tariffs on tech products, has been updated. That means nearly two decades of innovation and technological breakthroughs are conspicuously absent from the agreement. President Obama should appeal to world leaders to agree on an expanded ITA, making the newest technology products cheaper and more available to consumers worldwide; thereby creating jobs, spurring economic growth, and advancing innovation at home and abroad.
- Immigration Reform: For the tech sector, comprehensive immigration reform is essential to ensure the U.S. remains the central hub of the innovation supply chain. Immigration reform already has been approved by a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate, and efforts are underway to jumpstart progress in the House. President Obama should urge Congress to devote 2014 to finish what it started and make our immigration laws work for the benefit of the American economy.
- Bridging the Skills Gap: While our national unemployment rate is seven percent, vacancies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields outnumber qualified applicants by nearly two to one. While immigration reform can help fill these jobs in the short-term, President Obama must continue to push for policies supporting education and skills training that will equip Americans for tomorrow’s global marketplace.
- Surveillance Reform: After carefully listening to the concerns and suggested reforms voiced by the tech sector, President Obama recently outlined measures to reform the nation’s surveillance framework, and to engage in surveillance reform on an international level. Many of these and other proposals require congressional action, and a bipartisan effort to enact surveillance reform consistent with principles ITI and SIIA recently unveiled would be an important step in restoring the public’s trust in the U.S. government, as well as in the tech sector.
- Energy Efficiency: New IT tools as well as the ascendance of the “internet of things” provides us with exciting opportunities to grow U.S. productivity without consequent increases in energy needs or carbon emissions. The president should call on Congress to approve bipartisan energy efficiency legislation that would advance information and communications technology that will not only improve federal data center efficiency, but also contribute to sustainability efforts in the U.S. and around the world.
- Acquisition Reform: The right approaches can make the federal government a smarter and more effective buyer and user of technology to advance good governance. President Obama, who has made acquisition reform a priority in 2014, can appeal to policymakers to focus on a holistic approach for government-wide reform, and avoid the piece-meal efforts that lead to an overcomplicated and inefficient system.
- Patent Litigation Reform: Every year, “patent trolls” use abusive lawsuits to extort billions from American businesses, large and small from coast to coast, siphoning much-needed money out of the U.S. economy, stunting job growth, and raising the costs of innovation. The president should urge Congress to pass a law curbing this abusive litigation thereby benefiting innovators, consumers, and the entire U.S. economy.
- Advancing Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is critical to protecting America’s citizens, critical assets, and infrastructures from ever-evolving cyber threats. The president should reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to continuing to partner with the private sector to create a collaborative, innovative cybersecurity policy structure that preserves innovation and enhances America’s cybersecurity posture.
- Tax Reform: Perhaps no policy initiative will do more to impact U.S. investment, competitiveness, and job creation than tax reform. The president should call on Congress to move forward on broad-based, pro-growth reform that includes a reduced, competitive corporate tax rate, a market-based international tax system, and investment incentives. Those tax reform fundamentals would establish a firm foundation for U.S. economic growth and vitality for decades to come.