I’m Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. We stand at an important crossroad with regard to America’s competitive future; with a history of enormous economic success as a nation, we now face a dizzying array of opportunities and challenges. It is a great privilege to participate in this call to action: harnessing American ingenuity and industriousness to retain our global economic leadership. We must take action now. We must recommit to investing in America, not just for our own future, but for the future of our children.
America is an exceptional nation, and the U.S. economy was preeminent in the 20th century, becoming the largest, most productive, and most competitive in the world. Amazing new technologies were invented and commercialized, the workforce was the most educated in the world, and soaring incomes supported a large and thriving middle class.
However, with the dawn of the 21st century, America’s economic preeminence and ability to compete on the world economic stage were challenged, as middle class incomes stagnated and job growth slowed. Other countries began to catch up and even surpass us in education, while our manufacturing sector lost ground to foreign competitors. Today, we see clearly the need to alter our present course and to take action to retain our global competitiveness and economic strength.
This report provides a roadmap. It demonstrates government’s essential role in enabling innovation by supporting the key building blocks of 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. The transformation of American 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.
Given the importance of research, education and infrastructure to our competitiveness, we address them in greater detail on other pages on this website. We also talk about the critical manufacturing sector, which has faced tremendous international competition and whose global competitiveness requires that this nation regain and expand its preeminence in research, education, and infrastructure.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading this report and that it will encourage you to think about ways in which you and institutions where you work and serve can help America compete more effectively in the modern global economy. Thank you.
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