Remarks of Ed Wasserman, Ph.D., President, American Chemical Society on federal investment in research

October 27, 1999

Washington, DC - American Chemical Society President Ed Wasserman, spoke on Capitol Hill, today, in support of the "Federal Research Investment Act" during a press briefing in which Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced the bill to the House of Representatives. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent this past summer and must now be considered by the House. Wasserman's remarks follow.

Good Morning. I am Ed Wasserman, the science advisor at DuPont Central R&D and the President of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

I am here today on behalf of more than 100 science, engineering, and mathematics organizations that have been working for two years to double the federal investment in research. This united, multidisciplinary coalition, representing more than 2 million scientists and engineers, was organized around a simple belief: America's technological edge and standard of living will erode if we do not deepen our commitment to investment in research.

First, I want to commend Congresswoman Heather Wilson for her leadership in the House on this critical challenge. By introducing companion legislation to Senate bill 296-sponsored by Senators Frist and Rockefeller-she has started the engine in the House on an effort that will help sustain economic progress in the U.S. I also would like to commend Representative Rush Holt for cosponsoring the bill and for his leadership on science issues in general. With the loss of Congressman George Brown, a true champion of science, the load of advancing farsighted science policy got a little heavier for Senator Frist, Representative Holt, and other lawmakers with a background or strong interest in science. In truth, it got heavier for us all.

The bill introduced today, the "Federal Research Investment Act," calls for steady annual increases above inflation through 2010 for civilian R&D. It also sets guidelines for prioritizing R&D and calls for balanced federal funding among the various disciplines. A balanced research portfolio is very important given the interdependent nature of science and engineering disciplines. This bill is bipartisan because the issue of federal investment in research is not a partisan issue: it's about fostering new jobs, a cleaner environment, a healthier citizenry, and a growing economy. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle continue to express their support for increased federal investment in research. The unanimous passage of S. 296 in the Senate in July bears this out. We urge the House to build on this bipartisan momentum and to begin work now on passing the bill early next year.

Because the speed of technology and its societal impact will continue to grow, America's economic and social progress will depend increasingly upon a strong research base. We believe the time to increase investment in R&D is when the economy is strong, as it is now. Many economic experts, including Alan Greenspan, continue to point to technological advances as a cornerstone of U.S. economic progress. And there is general agreement that federal support is critical to fostering the long-term research that ultimately makes this economic performance possible. R&D must grow with the economic situation it helped promote or our future growth will be compromised.

As an industry research scientist, I can tell you that the private sector depends on a strong federal investment in basic research. As industry directs a growing portion of its research portfolio to shorter-term, business unit needs, the already critical responsibility of NSF, DOE, NIH, and other agencies in supporting long-term fundamental research will grow. Federal support for fundamental research is a critical component of industry's ability to move from one point to another in its research and development.

Just last week, former House Speaker Gingrich wrote in the Washington Post: "The highest priority in Washington should be to double the federal budget for scientific research. No other federal expenditure would create more jobs and wealth or do more to strengthen our world leadership, protect the environment, and promote better health and education for all Americans."

We hope that the House and Senate will work together to give research funding the high priority it deserves.

American Chemical Society

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