Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Former President and CEO
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Director, Missouri Botanical Garden
Engelmann Professor of Botany
Washington University in St. Louis
September 25, 1995
President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
At a time when difficult choices are being made in the allocation of scarce budgetary resources, the nature and extent of the Nation's investment in science and technology are being re-examined. Your Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is acutely aware of the budget realities and wishes to assist you in evaluating the options among which you and the Congress must choose.
PCAST has an equally important responsibility to alert you when policy options may pose threats to the long-term economic security, national security or quality of life of Americans. The current budget climate has produced such threats.
To provide an explicit common framework for PCAST when providing this advice and in our individual dealings with Congress, colleagues and the public, we have drafted a set of "principles" which we respectfully submit for your consideration and comment. This statement reflects our belief that science and technology are significant contributors to the quality of life for all Americans. To preserve this critical investment for the future, the Federal government should continue stable funding for both basic and applied research and development and provide strong Federal support for research and education at universities, research institutions, and national laboratories. These principles are consistent with the Administration's policy statements "Science in the National Interest" (August 1994) and "Technology for America's Economic Growth" (February 1993), but also reflect the current debate driven both by fiscal stringencies and by differing views about Federal responsibility.
Your July 11 meeting with PCAST provided critical guidance, particularly through your powerful restatement of the Administration's commitment to investment through education and training and through science and technology. The FY 1997 Administration budget request will represent a crucial statement about the Administration's investment strategy under the deficit elimination plan. We hope that our set of principles may help shape that request, and we stand ready to provide advice on any specific issues.
John A. Young
President's Committee of Advisors
on Science and Technology
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
Over the last 50 years, our economic productivity, environmental quality, personal health, and national security have become firmly grounded on our scientific and technological strength. More than half of our growth in economic productivity and per capita income has resulted from technological advances. Advanced technology products constitute the single most important positive component of America's trade balance. Science and technology are essential to enhancing and protecting the environment, through the development of technologies for pollution prevention, waste minimization, and cleanup. Fundamental research in biology and the emerging biotechnology industry are providing unprecedented understanding and treatment of human disease, as well as a safe, healthy and bountiful food supply. Our national security is based on technological superiority, including technologies resulting from fundamental research in electronics.
As we enter the information age, science and technology will play an even greater role in both economic and social structures. The highly competitive global marketplace will increasingly demand broadly based scientific and technological strength for sustainable economic development and improving the quality of life. The future challenges of post-Cold War security, emerging diseases, and environmental stewardship in the face of growing world population and increasing energy demand will require new science and new technology.
Funds invested in research generate both the new knowledge and understanding and the outstanding scientists and engineers on which our future depends. The marketplace alone cannot fund basic and applied research in science and technology at a sufficient level because the benefits are generally too far in the future and too widely distributed for individual companies to justify the investment. This is particularly so in these times of increasing global competition, which is shortening horizons for the returns derived from industrial research and development expenditures. Thus, Federal investment in science and in precompetitive technology research is critical to our future.
America's world renowned research universities have been a driving force behind our nation's primacy in science and technology, but they are currently under institutional stress. Federal research funding policies should reflect the historic partnership with universities which has served the nation so well.
In contrast to the world leadership in advanced education, our K-12 education, especially in science and mathematics, needs significant improvement. The knowledge-based society of the 21st century will place a high premium on scientific and technical literacy, and those individuals lacking such literacy will be unprepared to meet world standards. Although Federal spending is a very small fraction of the total national expenditure on K-12 education, the Federal government should play a role in establishing educational standards, in encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds to choose careers in science and technology (including the teaching of science and technology), in providing disadvantaged students with the opportunity for full participation in society, and in developing and offering cutting edge instructional tools.
In addition to the need for strong K-12 education, the school-to-work transition and lifelong learning and retraining require increased attention. Excellence in all of these will ensure that American industry is able to sustain the workforce quality needed in a technology-based society, and only then will American citizens be able to maintain the quality of life potentially achievable in that society.
Federal investment develops the science and technology infrastructure needed to meet future national needs. Frontier research and educational excellence require world-class research institutions, facilities, and instrumentation.
The American research university system is unquestionably the best in the world. It has successfully combined cutting-edge research and education, yielding an unmatched scientific and engineering workforce as well as the scientific breakthroughs in numerous critical technologies. This system has been built up by sustained and predictable research funding over an extended period of time. We cannot allow short-term pressures or fluctuations in funding to diminish this precious national resource. Universities must also continue to strive to improve the cost-effectiveness of the Federal research investment.
Federal agencies conduct a great deal of research and development at in-house and contractor-operated laboratories. These laboratories generally focus on missions associated directly with the parent agency. However, some of these laboratories are a unique resource for tackling projects of national importance. Examples of such projects include frontier research that requires large multidisciplinary teams, operation of large facilities for diverse user communities, and development and maintenance of large data bases needed for forefront research. Government laboratories will be subject to ongoing streamlining and mission redefinition, but must be viewed as an essential component of our national science and technology infrastructure, complementing the capabilities of universities and industrial laboratories.
The need for Federal support of basic research is widely recognized. It is the research that ultimately underlies and stimulates technological innovation. In the United States, most basic research funding is provided by government agencies, with world leadership across scientific frontiers as the overarching goal. The benefits of basic research are generally too long term, too widely distributed, and too high risk for individual companies to justify the costs. Recently, even the premier corporations that have historically funded basic research are now cutting back.
Applied research and development are largely supported in the private sector. However, Federal support plays a crucial role. In some cases, the Federal government is itself the major customer for the resulting technologies. More broadly, Federal support provides an essential bridge between research results and product development, the latter being the focus of industrial expenditure. Without Federal support for generic applied research and development, often in cost-sharing arrangements with the private sector, our industries will be at a significant competitive disadvantage and our nation's economic strength will be diminished. In the past, investments in research shared by the public and private sectors have resulted in significant commercial opportunities.
Building outstanding research and development capacity requires a long lead time, so funding must be sustained and reliable to be cost-effective. Significant research projects generally have multi-year time scales, as do the training and career development of new engineers and scientists. Improved long-range planning of the science and technology investment is needed in order to help maintain funding stability.
International collaborations will become increasingly important for the advancement of large science projects. Stable, long-term commitments are especially central to such collaborations. Commitments to international projects should be made only with strong bipartisan support and with multi-year Congressional authorization.