[Congressional Record: October 17, 2001 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE TECH TALENT ACT, H.R. 3130
HON. JOHN B. LARSON
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that America
has long recognized that its long-term strength and security, and its
ability to recover and sustain high levels of economic growth, depends
on maintaining its edge in scientific achievement and technological
innovation. Biomedical advances have permitted us to live longer,
healthier, and more productively. Advances in agricultural technology
have permitted us to be able to feed more and healthier people at a
cheaper cost, more efficiently. The information revolution can be seen
today in the advanced instruments schools are using to instruct our
children and in the vast information resources that are opened up as a
result of the linkages created by a networked global society. Our
children today can grow up to know, see, and read more, be more
diverse, and have more options in their lives for learning and growing.
Other emerging technologies--such as nanotechnology--have untold
potential to make our lives more exciting, secure, prosperous, and
Many countries also recognize this and they, therefore, focus their
industrial, economic, and security policies on the nurturing and
diffusion of technological advancement through all levels of society in
a deliberate fashion. Countries that follow this path of nurturing
innovation focus a lot of their efforts into recruiting and training
the very best engineers and scientists, ensuring that a pipeline which
pumps talented and imaginative minds and skills is connected to the
needs of the country's socio-economic and security enterprise.
Yet here in this country, this pipeline is broken, threatening the
competitive edge we enjoy in the business of technological innovation.
Fewer and fewer Americans are getting degrees in scientific and
technical fields--even as the demand grows. For example, the number of
bachelors degrees awarded in math, computer science, and electrical
engineering has fallen 35 percent and 39 percent respectively from
their peaks in 1987, at a time when total BA degrees have increased.
The number of graduate degrees in those fields has either fallen
noticeable or stayed flat. And only about half of all engineering
doctoral degrees granted in the U.S. are earned by Americans.
The nation has dealt with this crisis in the recent past by expanding
the H1B Visa program to let more foreign residents with science and
engineering degrees enter the country. But the H1B program was never
intended to be more than an interim solution. The long-term solution
has to be ensuring that more Americans get into these fields.
Therefore, today, along with House Science Committee Chairman
Sherwood Boehlert, and Representatives Melissa Hart, Mark Udall, and
Mike Honda, I have introduced the Tech Talent Act, H.R. 3130, aimed at
increasing the number of scientists, engineers, and technologists in
the United States. Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Christopher Bond
(R-MO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Frist (R-TN), and Pete Domenici
(R-NM) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
This legislation addresses the tech worker shortage by establishing a
competitive grant program at the National Science Foundation that
rewards universities and community colleges that pledge to increase the
number of U.S. citizens or permanent residents obtaining degrees in
science, math, engineering and technology (SMET) fields. The pilot
program, which will award three-year grants, is authorized at $25
million in the next fiscal year, with funding expected to increase if
the initial results are encouraging.
It always pays to be mindful of the fact--especially in the wake of
the September 11 events--that there is a strong and tight linkage
between our national security and the level of science and technology
proficiency in America. Our strength and leadership in the world is
based on the might of our defense, strength of our economy, and the
quality of our education system. Without any one of these three
components the global preeminence of the nation suffers.
In the House Science Committee room there is an inscription: Where
there is no vision, the people perish. To remain a strong nation, we
must ensure that the single most important element that keeps us
dynamic, innovative, prosperous, and secure--and therefore mighty--is
there for us: our students, teachers, researchers, engineers,
scientists, and technologists. In short, we need more people with
vision. This bill will keep them coming.
I am honored to be a sponsor of this important legislation in the
United States House of Representatives.
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