(March 12, 2007) – I tell policy makers every chance I get that we have two choices. We can learn how to compete for both physical and human capital, or we can learn Chinese. Bill Gates explained why in his appearance before the House Science Committee today
The U.S. position as a global leader in innovation is at risk and Congress, the Bush administration and the next president “must act decisively” to maintain the momentum, Bill Gates told the House Science Committee today at a hearing marking the committee’s 50th anniversary.
Gates said Congress should fully fund the America Competes Act., signed into law last year, which would double funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Energy Department’s Office of Science by 2010.
“Our country is at a crossroads,” Gates said. “For decades, innovation has been our engine of prosperity and without leadership from Congress and the president and the commitment of the private sector to do its part, the center of progress can shift to other nations that are more committed to the pursuit of innovation.”
Regarding immigration, wrongheaded visa restrictions are impacting top foreign scientists and engineers’ decisions to “stay here and come in the first place,” Gates said. Because of those policies, Microsoft had to open an office in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian government, “like virtually every government other than the United States,” recognizes how critical it is to compete for international talent.
When asked if boosting the number of H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers might discourage U.S. students from pursuing those jobs, Gates said. “Our youngsters are competing with these students even if we turn them away from this country.” The question is whether the work will be done here or abroad.
Hope those guys were listening.