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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                        (Skaneateles, New York)
For Immediate Release                                  September 1, 1999

As Prepared for Delivery

                  Remarks By Chief Of Staff John Podesta
                    On Research And Development Funding
                         National Press Club

                          September 1, 1999

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 States' 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 climate change.

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 Expedition.

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 has been 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 growth. It's also about:

In the last century alone, average life expectancy in the United States 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.

It seems logical that there would be strong bipartisan support for 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 America.

  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 technology 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 disciplines.
  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 and energy 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 Technology Program -- 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 research.
  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 for college.

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 and new 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 how today's 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, President Jefferson 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.