Today’s Washington Times features an OpEd from two champions of science from opposite sides of the aisle: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the new Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). The piece was motivated by the recent Task Force on the Future of American Innovation report, (covered previously) which calls for a strong federal investment in fundamental research in order to help preserve the Nation’s economic leadership and ensure our continued security. Gingrich participated in the roll-out event for the Benchmarks report and was quite eloquent on the national security implications of basic research, themes he and Gordon return to in this OpEd:
Throughout history, national security has been dependent on economic prosperity, and visa versa. An economically strong America is better able to defend itself. Likewise, the nation’s ability to defend itself is a prerequisite to maintaining the infrastructure and other elements of a strong national economy.
Unfortunately, the nation has forgotten one of the most important ways our economic prosperity and national security are linked investment in fundamental scientific research. Investments made in fundamental scientific research after World War II and during the Cold War have been essential to making our fighting men and women today the best equipped in the world. These previous investments and the new knowledge they generated also made enormous contributions to our economic vitality.
But our commitment to that defense-oriented fundamental research the kind of research that pays off not in a year or two but in the long run, sometimes decades in the future has eroded. If we do not renew this commitment, it will harm our global economic competitiveness as well as the effectiveness and safety of our troops.
The piece is very well-timed, given the current deliberations on the stalled FY 2007 Appropriations process and the President’s forthcoming State of the Union Address. Its bipartisan authorship highlights the bipartisan support for fundamental research in Congress. With a flood of new Members of Congress in Washington, and “old” Members with new positions of responsibility, this is a drum that will need continuous beating in the coming months…as we try to make up for the painful stumbles late after a year of fantastic progress.
Read the whole piece.