Department of Commerce Release Competes Act Report

January 6, 2012. The Department of Commerce (DOC) released a document [160 pages in PDF] titled "The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States".

The Congress passed HR 5116 [LOC | WW], the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010", in the closing days of the lame duck session of the 111th Congress. The House roll call vote in May on this bill was a nearly straight party line vote. The Act is now Public Law No. 111-358. Section 604 of the Act required that the DOC write a "complete a comprehensive study of the economic competitiveness and innovative capacity of the United States".

The just released document is full of election year praise for the work of the Obama administration, and Obama quotations.

It touts the work of the Obama administration on spectrum. "The Obama Administration has made it a priority to improve the wireless broadband infrastructure in the United States. A ``National Wireless Initiative´´ was announced in February 2011 with the stated goals of doubling the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband services".

The document states that "a sensible policy for managing this spectrum is crucial if the United States is to improve its competitive position", and that "It is vital that the government continue to address these spectrum challenges by reallocating spectrum from existing to more efficient uses. One aspect of this reallocation is having Congress authorize the FCC to use auctions to reallocate spectrum from TV broadcasters to wireless broadband providers." (Footnote omitted.)

It also touts the work of the Obama administration on cyber security. "To help the country meet this challenge and to ensure the Internet can continue as an engine of growth and prosperity, the Administration is implementing the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace." In addition, "The Obama Administration has made cybersecurity at Federal departments and agencies a priority and it is moving forward on the government’s implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)."

It defends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented network neutrality regulatory regime. It states that one "element of a sound ICT policy is an open Internet, one that protects consumers and innovators. Innovators need to be able to compete on their merits and not face anticompetitive barriers. Internet privacy is also crucial, and cybersecurity concerns need to be addressed. President Obama has pledged to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet to encourage innovation, protect consumer choice, and defend free speech."  (Footnote omitted.)

The document touches on immigration policy in its section on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. It states that "The United States must develop immigration policies to ensure that this country is welcoming to the world’s best and brightest." However, it does not suggest what those policies should be.

It states that STEM education is vital to innovation, but that the U.S. is not producing enough STEM graduates. It praises the Obama administration for making college education more affordable.

The document advocates at length more federal spending on research. It also states that "the Administration has proposed simplifying, enhancing, and extending a corporate R&D tax credit". The several references to the credit omit the word "permanent".

Section 604 required the DOC report to include "An assessment of Domestic and international intellectual property policies and practices."

However, the document states little about patents, copyrights, or other intellectual property. It does state that "A well-functioning intellectual property rights (IPR) system is crucial for encouraging innovation and creating jobs", and that "to safeguard those intellectual property rights, the Administration issued a White Paper in March 2011 with 20 recommendations for legislative changes".

The document also states that "IP protection abroad is also crucial for U.S. firms. Infringement of IPR in markets abroad causes significant financial losses for rights holders and legitimate businesses around the world and undermines key U.S. comparative advantages in innovation and creativity to the detriment of American businesses and workers. The Administration’s Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, issued in June 2010 by the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, lays out a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. Government to strengthen enforcement of intellectual property rights, both at home and abroad." (Footnote omitted.)

And, it states that "The Obama Administration is committed to an intellectual property rights system that recognizes that IP rights are fully consistent with -- and indeed enable -- other core values such as the norms of legitimate competition, free speech, fair process, and the privacy of users."