In House testimony, Gates urges improvements in country's math and science
education, reform of immigration policies, and increased investment in
WASHINGTON, March 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Microsoft Corp. Chairman
Bill Gates will testify before the U.S. House Committee on Science and
Technology today at 10 a.m. EDT on the future of innovation and U.S.
competitiveness. At a hearing to commemorate the committee's 50th
anniversary, Gates will focus on issues of U.S. competitiveness, including
education and work-force development, the need for immigration reform to
allow highly skilled workers to remain in the U.S, and the need to continue
to invest in basic research.
"I know we all want the United States to continue to be the world's
center for innovation. But our position as the global leader in innovation
is at risk," Gates said. "If this nation is to continue to be the global
center of innovation, Congress, the current administration and the next
president must act decisively."
In his testimony today, Gates will address the following important areas:
-- Science and math education must be improved. Gates argues that U.S.
companies face a severe shortfall of scientists and engineers with the
skills necessary to develop future innovative technologies. "If we
don't reverse these trends, our competitive advantage will continue to
erode. Our ability to create new high-paying jobs will suffer," Gates
said. "Companies like Microsoft and organizations like the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation cannot address these issues alone. Only the
government has the resources to effect change on a broad scale." Gates
praises Congress for passing the America Creating Opportunities to
Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science
Act (COMPETES Act) of 2007, but says it now must follow through by
fully funding the legislation's educational initiatives. He also urges
Congress to increase the use of data to measure student improvement.
-- U.S. immigration policies need to allow American companies to hire the
best talent. Gates calls on Congress to reform immigration policies to
allow more highly skilled professionals to work for companies in the
U.S. "At a time when talent is the key to economic success, it makes no
sense to educate people in our universities, often subsidized by U.S.
taxpayers, and then insist that they return home," he said. "To address
the shortage of scientists and engineers, we must ... reform our
education system and our immigration policies. If we don't, American
companies simply will not have the talent they need to innovate and
compete." Gates urges Congress and the White House to address this
problem by extending the period that foreign students can work in the
U.S. after graduation, raising the cap on H-1B visas, creating a clear
path to permanent residency for high-skilled foreign-born employees and
increasing the number of green cards. "The shortage of scientists and
engineers is so acute that we must do both: reform our education system
and reform our immigration policies."
-- Funding for basic research should be increased. Gates believes basic
research funding is an essential part of keeping American companies
competitive and sparking new industries. "Even though we know that
basic research drives economic progress, real federal spending on basic
research has fallen since 2005," he said. "I urge Congress to increase
funding for basic research by 10 percent annually for the next seven
years." Gates said that federal funding for basic research supports the
education of the next generation of scientists and engineers, and
provides the raw material that U.S. companies transform into
commercially successful products.
Gates said he is optimistic that information technology will continue
to transform business productivity and the quality of our day-to-day lives,
adding that private companies alone cannot ensure that the U.S. will remain
the pre-eminent force in innovation. "Without leadership from Congress and
the president ... and the commitment of the private sector to do its part,
the center of progress will shift to other nations that are more committed
to the pursuit of innovation," Gates said.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in
software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize
their full potential.