President Bush proposed bold new spending for basic research and energy studies in his State of the Union address last night, adding White House leadership to a drumbeat of recent calls from various sectors to boost America's international competitiveness (ScienceNOW, 26 January).
"Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people--and we are going to keep that edge," Bush told the crowd in the Capitol. Towards that end, Bush announced a plan to double the combined budgets of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. (Details were forthcoming.) The total increase over a decade, the White House says, will amount to $50 billion. In addition, Bush called for $380 million in new funding to improve science and math education for elementary school children, with expanded programs for teacher training. "I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs," Bush said.
On the energy front, Bush took an unexpected, strident turn toward clean fuels. Declaring that "America is addicted to oil," Bush said, "the best way to break this addiction is through technology." To do this, he proposed a 22% increase in funding for clean energy science, including an accelerated plan to spend $281 million for clean coal, $65 million in new funds for solar energy, $5 million in new wind power spending, and roughly $120 million in new funding on automobile research.
Science lobbyists are thrilled with the announcements. "[I'm] delighted," says Dan Reed, the Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and long a leader among scientists pushing for funding for computer science. "This is something a lot of us have been working for a long time." Now the challenge, he said, is getting an enthusiastic Congress to make the money available in spending bills due in the fall.