CEOs urge House to pass competitiveness legislation

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The titans of tech are urging the House to speed up implementation of the president’s competitiveness agenda.

Today, the chief executive officers of Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Unisys, NCR, Intel, IBM, Dell, Applied Materials and EMC sent letters to House leaders asking them to take action on legislation associated with crucial components of the American Competitiveness Initiative before Congress adjourns for the year.

“As leaders of some of the most aggressive and competitive global innovators in the world, we have seen firsthand the challenges and opportunities from the flat world,” state the letters sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “America possesses all of the strengths we will need to thrive in the 21st century, if we leverage our strengths. By contrast, if we act out of fear or inertia, if we fail to press our advantages and close our minds or our markets, we will fall behind.”

The CEOs called for passing specific provisions of the agenda, including:

  • Extending and strengthening the research and development tax credit.

  • Fully funding the National Science Foundation at the president’s $6 billion request.

  • Fully funding the Energy Department’s Office of Science at $4.1 billion.

  • Increasing nonearmarked funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s core accounts by $107 million. (Total funding is $540 million.)

  • Enacting legislation that targets education, research and barriers to innovation.

  • Ensuring access to the best and brightest workers worldwide by adopting a market-based cap for H-1B visas, creating exemptions for employment-based visas in innovation fields and easing visa requirements for foreign students pursuing advanced degrees in the United States.
“We are grateful for the broad bipartisan, bicameral commitment to address the issue of U.S. competitiveness voiced by so many leaders to date, but we believe the time for words has passed,” the letter states. “It is time to act.”

The CEOs wrote that high school and college graduates in the United States face a much more competitive environment than their parents or grandparents did because the world has followed America’s example. Today’s graduates are confronted with billions more customers, collaborators and partners, they added.

The letter also contains findings by pollster John Zogby, president and chief executive officer of Zogby International, who asked likely voters for their opinions on the significance of the investments outlined in the president’s agenda. The results revealed:

  • 71.8 percent believe it is very important for the United States to remain the most innovative and dynamic economy in the world.

  • 81.1 percent believe improving America’s economic competitiveness through investments in education and innovation should be a top priority of domestic policy in the coming decade, with 37.2 percent saying it should be the top priority.

  • 78.6 percent support increasing federal funding for science and technology programs.

  • 8 percent say they are more likely to support candidates in the 2006 and 2008 elections who support a pro-competitiveness agenda that includes more funding for education and innovation.

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