March 05, 2010
Obama: New Sputnik Moment Demands Investment in Science & Education
Echoing his Secretary of Energy and chief science and technology advisers (as well as a pair of familiar op eds from 2008), President Obama told audiences in North Carolina today that the United States faces a new "Sputnik moment" - a challenge to American technology and economic leadership akin to the global race to dominate nascent aerospace, computing, and information technology fields during the Cold War Era.
The United States responded to the 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite with a series of major investments in science and education, including the National Defense Education Act and the creation of the Apollo Space Program. Maintaining economic competitiveness in the 21st century similarly demands a renewed national commitment to invest in the building blocks of a dynamic innovation economy, the President said.
According to the NYTimes:
Mr. Obama, who made his remarks during a visit to a community college [in Winston-Salem, North Carolina], was not yet born when the Soviets' launch of the Sputnik orbiter in 1957 shocked Americans and prompted a national commitment to education, space and science spending. "Fifty years later, our nation's Sputnik moment is back," Mr. Obama said.
His goal, he said, is to increase education and science spending to 3 percent of the size of the economy, a significant increase from current levels. Mr. Obama also acknowledged the need to reduce the long-term debt, just days after his fiscal commission proposed a $4 trillion, 10-year package of spending cuts and tax increases, and he said the two parties would debate the nation's spending priorities next year and years beyond.
But, he added, "we cannot cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth" - like educating the workers of the future to compete globally.