Office of the Press Secretary
(Skaneateles, New York)
For Immediate Release September 1, 1999
Remarks By Chief Of Staff John Podesta
On Research And Development Funding
National Press Club
September 1, 1999
As Prepared for Delivery
One afternoon in the spring of 1804, in a heavily
loaded keelboat and
two oversized canoes, nearly four dozen men crossed the Mississippi River
and started up the Missouri, struggling against its thick, muddy current.
At the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, and with the support of
Congress, they were, at that time, on the most important expedition of
American history - the United State's first official exploration into
unknown spaces, and a glimpse into their young nation's future.
Lewis and Clark were America's foremost explorers,
not only mapping out
the contours of a continent, but also, in profound ways, the frontiers of
our imagination. In that way, they are the forebears of those who have
given us the recent Mars expedition, those who are building the
international space station, those who are hunting for the mysteries of the
human genome, those who are looking for answers to the challenge of global
A passion for discovery and a sense of adventure
have always driven our
nation forward. These deeply rooted American qualities spur our
determination to explore new scientific frontiers and spark our can-do
spirit of technological innovation. Continued leadership depends on our
enduring commitment to science, to technology, to research, to learning.
In each of the last seven years, President Clinton
and Vice President
Gore have proposed increases in civilian research and development.
Investments in their FY2000 budget will allow us to explore the solar
system, keep America at the cutting-edge of the Information Revolution, and
reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, all while getting our fiscal house
in order and making key investments in education and training.
The Administration is deeply concerned that the Republican-led
Congress, particularly the House, is proposing to make deep cuts in our
funding for research and development in the new fiscal year. Republicans
in both the House and the Senate are proposing a risky tax and budget cuts
that will guarantee that federal funding of R&D is slashed in the future.
This is the wrong direction for our country. One wonders whether this
Congress would have zeroed out Jefferson's request for the Lewis and Clark
This morning, I'd like to explain why we believe
that continued federal
investments in research and development are so important, and why we're so
troubled by the Republican attack on our science and technology budgets.
We should all be working toward bipartisan progress - not playing politics
with an issue so fundamentally crucial to our nation's future.
Investments in science and technology - both public
and private - have
driven economic growth and improvements in the quality of life in America
for the last 200 years.
Many of the products and services we have come to depend on for
our way of life in America - from lasers to communications satellites to
human insulin - are all the products of US policies to encourage
investments in science and technology. In 1969, the same year scientific
research landed the first American on the moon, the Defense Department
began its work on the computer network that would lead to today's Internet.
These discoveries have all contributed to advances in the economy, national
security, the environment, transportation and medical care.
In the last fifty years alone, technological innovation
responsible for as much as half of the nation's growth in productivity.
The information technology sector alone has accounted for one-third of our
economic growth - jobs in the IT sector are paying 80 percent above the
private average wage.
More and more, firms are using information technology
to compete and
win in today's global markets. They are designing products that are
tailored to the needs of an individual customer, selling their products on
the Internet, and delivering "just-in-time" training to their employees
over corporate networks. Technology advances are enabling small businesses
to perform high-quality design and manufacturing work that previously
required the resources of big corporations. At the same time, big
businesses are able to achieve the speed, flexibility, and proximity to
customers that were once the sole domain of smaller firms. Fed Chairman
Alan Greenspan recently stated that rapid technological change has greatly
contributed to eight years of record peacetime expansion, and is one of the
forces producing what he called "America's sparkling economic performance."
But we all know that science and technology is not
just about economic
It's also about:
Allowing Americans to longer and healthier
lives. Whether it was Ben
Franklin's invention of bifocals, Jonas Salk's discovery of the Polio
vaccine, or David Ho's pathbreaking AIDS treatment, America has always been
a world leader in medical research and technology.
In the last century alone, average life expectancy in the United
has increased by nearly 30 years - from 47 to 76. But we're clearly just
at the beginning of advances in biomedical research. According to
scientists, advances in genomics - an understanding of the function of
human genes - will allow us to begin to detect, prevent and cure many
diseases for which there is no known cure. With this technology in hand,
scientists will be able to develop personalized medicines that are tailored
to our genetic makeup.
Growing the economy while protecting the environment.
environmental science and technology hold tremendous promise for the
creation of a sustainable future - a future where environmental health,
economic prosperity, and quality of life are mutually reinforcing.
Manufacturing processes that emit zero waste, ultra-clean fuel cells, and
cars that get 80 miles per gallon are well within our reach.
Maintaining a strong defense. From B-17 Flying
Fortress to stealth
bombers to unmanned aerial vehicles, America's military strategy has relied
heavily on technological superiority. Particularly in the post-Cold War
era, as we face new threats of cyber-terrorism as well as chemical and
biological warfare, investments in research and development underlie our
ability to succeed in high-priority missions - to minimize causalities, to
mobilize our military services, and to deter potential adversaries.
Investing in fundamental research. As
MIT President Chuck Vest has
said, "one of the strongest justifications for supporting research is what
we still don't know." President Vest is right. The potential growth in
the fields of science and technology is limitless. We still don't know why
cells age and die, how human beings learn and remember information, or
whether there is life on other planets. But there's one thing we do know
for certain: From medical research to national security advancements,
continued progress in science and technology fundamentally relies on
adequately funded research and development.
It seems logical that there would be strong bipartisan
federal investments in science and technology. After all, thanks to
farsighted, bipartisan investments, the United States today has an array of
major scientific facilities and accomplishments that are the envy of the
world. And economists of all ideological persuasions agree that the
government has an important role to play, because individual companies can
never capture all of the benefits of research.
But this year, the Republican-led Congress, to make
room for their
risky tax plan, is playing politics with science and technology funding.
They have proposed deep cuts in many important research programs. And in
so doing, they are threatening the potential progress of innovation in
1) So far, they have cut the President's request for
civilian R&D by
$1.8 billion, an 8 to 10 percent reduction.
2) They slashed funding for the Administration's information
research initiative by 70 percent - a program that would sponsor a wave of
innovations in the same way that the ARPANET led to today's Internet.
3) They blocked the Administration's proposed increase
for the National
Science Foundation - the only agency that has the responsibility of
supporting research and education in all science and engineering
4) They cut the NASA budget by $1 billion, threatening
over 30 space
missions. These cuts endanger future NASA missions like the Chandra
Project - which recently beamed vivid images of exploding stars and black
holes back to Earth.
5) They cut $580 million from the budget for environmental
research - dramatically undermining our efforts to increase our
understanding of climate change, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,
and to improve the quality of the air we breathe.
6) They eliminated the Commerce Department's Advanced
- the only program that is explicitly designed to promote civilian
technology in partnership with industry.
7) And by digging deep into the pork-barrel, they
earmarked nearly $1
billion in R&D projects, undermining the discipline of competition and peer
review, and slashing funding for higher priority projects. Although in
1994 Republicans pledged to cut wasteful spending, it's clear that they're
more interested in larding up the budget than pursuing cutting-edge
8) And as if this year's cuts weren't devastating
enough, the Republican
budget and tax plans could reduce discretionary domestic spending by
roughly half in the coming decades - inevitably leading to even further
cuts in research and development. This is a 19th century budget for a 21st
century economy. It appears that these Republicans grew up watching too
much Fred Flintstone and not enough Jetsons.
These cuts are inconsistent with the Republican rhetoric
on science and
technology. Republican Senators have passed bipartisan legislation to
double civilian R&D over an 11-year period. The Republican Chairman of the
House Science Committee has introduced legislation that would authorize
much of the Administration's information technology initiative. But these
lofty sentiments are nowhere to be seen in the House-passed appropriations
bills, or in the Republican fiscal and tax proposals, which would devastate
discretionary spending. We can't build a bridge to the 21st Century with
press releases and empty promises.
Sustaining America's leadership in science and technology
has been a
cornerstone of the Clinton Administration. A key to the strategy President
Clinton and Vice President Gore have embraced is investing in our people,
investing in technology, and dramatically increasing our efforts in
research and development. They know that S&T investments enable our nation
to compete aggressively in the global marketplace, to protect our
environment, to safeguard our national security, and to contribute to our
economic prosperity and quality of life.
They also know that investing in research will help
prepare the next
generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs so that Americans
will have 21st Century skills for 21st Century jobs. And that's why the
President's balanced budget contains the largest increase in funding for
higher education since the GI Bill - and why he sponsored the Hope
Scholarship and the Lifelong Learning Tax Credits which help Americans pay
But let's be clear about one thing: this shouldn't
be a partisan issue.
Instead, as it has in the past, it should unite and inspire us - not divide
us. Just last week in the Washington Post, President Bush's Science
Advisor Allan Bromley called this year's federal budget for science a
disaster, noting "Congress has lost sight of the critical role science
plays in America."
Technological leadership is vital to the national
interests of the
United States. Most of the Federal research and education investment
portfolio enjoyed bipartisan support during the first term of the Clinton
Administration. I would hope that we can continue to extend this
partnership with the Congress across our entire science and technology
agenda - and promote private sector investment in research and development
by supporting the R&D tax credit.
Such a partnership to stimulate scientific discovery
technologies will take America into the new century well-equipped for the
challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. A passionate interest in
exploring new frontiers, a relentless quest for new knowledge, a
fundamental belief in progress and in rising standards of living - are all
at the core of the American character.
Although it is virtually impossible to predict specifically
basic research results will eventually improve our quality of life, or to
imagine the new industries and markets that will emerge, there is no
question that such improvements and industries will arise. Just as we now
reap the harvest from past discoveries, the work of researchers and
scientists will transform our lives as we move into the 21st Century.
In the final year of the eighteenth century,
wrote: "I am for encouraging the progress of science in all its branches
[and] for awing the human mind - not to go backwards instead of forwards to
look for improvement."
Thank you very much.