Bush Announces American Competitiveness Agenda

January 31, 2006. President Bush gave a speech titled "State of the Union Address" at a joint session of the Congress. He announced and described in broad strokes an innovation, research and education initiative titled "American Competitiveness Initiative".

He also advocated extension of the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. He also defended the National Security Agency's (NSA) extrajudicial surveillance of communications where one party is in the U.S. and one party is outside. He described this as a "terrorist surveillance program".

American Competitiveness Initiative. Bush said that "to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."

He discussed three components of this initiative.

"First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources."

"Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life -- and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come."

The Congress has long been enacting legislation that temporarily extends the R&D tax credit, but which does not make it permanent. There are bills in every Congress to permanently extend this tax credit.

"Third", said Bush, "we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations."

"Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world."

Free Trade and Immigration. Bush said that "The American economy is preeminent, but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors, like China and India, and this creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people's fears. So we're seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralizing more power in Washington and increasing taxes."

He also said that "We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy -- even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction -- toward a stagnant and second-rate economy."

Health Care and IT. Bush said that "We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors."

President Bush has discussed this subject in more detail in prior speeches.

For example, on January 27, 2005, he gave a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, in which he addressed information technology in health care. The White House Press Office also released a memorandum titled "Improving Care and Saving Lives Through Health IT". See, story titled "Bush Promotes Electronic Medical Records" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,065, January 28, 2005.

On April 27, 2004, he gave a speech in Baltimore, Maryland in which he advocated the use of electronic records in the health care industry. He also issued an executive order regarding "the development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure". See, stories titled "President Bush Advocates Conversion to Electronic Medical Records" and "Bush Addresses Privacy of Electronic Medical Records" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 886, April 28, 2004.

Electronic Surveillance. President also asked the Congress "to reauthorize the Patriot Act." And, he defended electronic surveillance by the NSA.

He said that "It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America."

He continued that "Previous Presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have, and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed. The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."

President Bush also discussed the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism at length. His central theme was defense of freedom. He used the word freedom 17 times, and the word liberty 4 times. However, he did not focus, in this speech, on economic freedoms.

He concluded with this. "Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom's advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward -- optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of the victories to come. May God bless America."

Industry Reaction. Robert Holleyman, head of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), stated in a release that "If America is to continue leading the world in high-tech innovation, there's no doubt that we need a renewed focus on staying competitive ... That means opening new markets, promoting cutting-edge research, and making sure our children are educated to be the innovators of tomorrow. I was glad to see the President's focus on competitiveness and I hope Congress will embrace this challenge in the year ahead."

Bruce Josten, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stated in a release that "America needs to invest in its future by providing greater opportunities for math and science education ... The bottom line is that in todayís competitive economy, we need to ensure that all students have a strong academic foundation in order to meet the needs of our workforce. If we want to continue to compete globally, our education and workforce skills must meet those being demanded by employers today and in the future."

Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, stated in a release that "The U.S. has long been the global leader in innovation, helping make our technology sector the envy of the world.  But nations around the globe are quickly catching up. We strongly agree with President Bush that our nation must recommit to making critical investments in research and development as well as in math and science education to continue our leadership position. Technology has helped drive our nationís economic growth over the past two decades. We must make the necessary investments to maintain our economic strength." Shapiro also praised Bush's comments regarding health care and IT and immigration.

Robert Laurence, head of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), stated in a release that "We believe healthcare is a wide open field for major improvement ... and we are convinced that information technology can contribute enormously to lower cost, higher quality healthcare delivery."

William Archey, head of the American Electronics Association (AeA), stated in a release that "Competitiveness is one of the greatest concerns of high-tech executives ... The issue of U.S. competitiveness demands bipartisan attention and action. We are encouraged that the Bush Administration intends to address the need for stronger commitments to math and science education and R&D investments in the physical sciences. The President's initiatives build a foundation for growth and technology development for the long-term."