Statement by ITIF President Rob Atkinson on Impasse on America COMPETES Act

May 19, 2010

“At a moment in history when the United States is slipping as an innovation leader, it is regrettable the House has stumbled so badly and failed to reauthorize the few programs focused on national innovation.

America’s long-term competitiveness in vital sectors has been sidetracked by parliamentary maneuvering begun by an ill-conceived dash to bar federal workers from looking at pornography. That is not the way to manage science and innovation policy.

The only consolation is that the bill before lawmakers was itself a weakened version of a bill that should itself have been more robust. Changing the reauthorization from five years to three years would not have saved money. The programs in COMPETES have broad bipartisan support and will be reauthorized by future Congresses. Pretending otherwise is shortsighted and hinders the development of long-term innovation strategy that this country so needs. Just as uncertainty and inconsistency erodes the value of the R&D tax credit and impedes long-term planning, so it is now with vitally important innovation policy.

The original legislation emerged from committee on a solid bipartisan vote of 29-8, demonstrating that most lawmakers understand the importance of making investments in activities that will create jobs and fuel prosperity in the near future. That bill sustained many of essential activities to bolster science and innovation but it should have and should have gone even farther still.

ITIF has argued for even more robust investments in science and math education and energy innovation and called for a more comprehensive approach to linking science and technology investments to job creation. We were pleased that some of these ideas, such as innovation clusters, were included in the bill.

ITIF understands the importance of reining in the growth in the national debt. But lawmakers (and the administration's new deficit task force) need to differentiate between spending and investment. The former produces few, if any, long term returns to the society and should be the focus of policymakers’ attention. The latter, like the investments made in COMPETES, produce returns for the society in the long term and, in an era of intense global competition, need to be increased. Of course, now we have neither spending nor investment.

 

Congress needs to do better when it comes to keeping America competitive. We urge lawmakers to explore all options to salvage this legislation this year.”

 

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Through its research, policies proposals, and commentary, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is working to advance and support public policies that boost innovation, e-transformation and productivity. For additional information, visit ITIF at www.itif.org or contact Steve Norton at (202) 626-5758 or snorton@itif.org.