What is America COMPETES?
On January 4, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (COMPETES). Section 604 of COMPETES mandates that the Secretary of Commerce complete a study that addresses the economic competitiveness and innovative capacity of the United States (see Supplemental Materials). Congress directed that this report address a diverse array of topics and policy options, including: tax policy; the general business climate in the U.S.; regional issues such as the role of state and local governments in higher education; barriers to setting up new firms; trade policy, including export promotion; the effectiveness of Federal research and development policy; intellectual property regimes in the U.S. and abroad; the health of the manufacturing sector; and science and technology education.
In conducting this study, COMPETES specified that the Secretary of Commerce establish a process for obtaining comments. One part of that process was to establish a 15 member Innovation Advisory Board (IAB) “for purposes of obtaining advice with respect to the conduct of the study.” The Department of Commerce announced the members of the IAB (listed in the Supplementary Materials section of this report) on May 4, 2011, and the inaugural meeting of the IAB was on June 6, 2011, in Alexandria, Virginia. A second meeting of the IAB was held September 23, 2011, in Boulder, Colorado. IAB members provided input into the process throughout the summer. Additionally, some IAB members generously hosted COMPETES-related events in Washington, D.C.; Youngstown, Ohio; Morgantown, West Virginia; Philadelphia, PA; and New York, NY. These events brought together community and business leaders, and experts in a wide variety of areas, to share their ideas on competitiveness. Department of Commerce and Administration staff attended all of these meetings.
Innovation is the key driver of competitiveness, wage and job growth, and long term economic growth. Therefore, one way to approach the question of how to improve the competitiveness of the United States is to look to the past and examine the factors that helped unleash the tremendous innovative potential of the private sector. Among these factors, three pillars have been key: Federal support for basic research, education, and infrastructure. Federally supported research laid the groundwork for the integrated circuit and the subsequent computer industry; the Internet; and advances in chemicals, agriculture, and medical science. Millions of workers can trace their industries and companies back to technological breakthroughs funded by the government. The U.S. educational system in the 20th century produced increasing numbers of high school and college graduates, more so than anywhere else in the world. These highly skilled workers, in turn, boosted innovation. The transformation of infrastructure in the 20th century was nothing short of amazing: the country became electrified, clean water became widely available, air transport became ubiquitous, and the interstate highway system was planned and constructed. All of these developments helped businesses compete by opening up markets and keeping costs low.
WATCH COMMERCE SECRETARY JOHN BRYSON INTRODUCE YOU TO THE REPORT: