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[Congressional Record: October 17, 2001 (Extensions)]
[Page E1913]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                          HON. JOHN B. LARSON

                             of connecticut

                    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.