The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 2, 2006

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan, John Marburger, Director of Office of Science & Technology Policy and Claude Allen, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
Aboard Air Force One
En route Maplewood, Minnesota

11:01 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. Good morning, everybody. I've got two distinguished guests with me who will talk to you all in a minute. But, first, I want to bring one item to your attention, and then I'm going to go through the President's day.

The Senate is getting ready to move forward and act on asbestos reform. Asbestos reform has been a high priority for this administration and we're encouraged that the Senate may be taking this up as early as next week. Asbestos litigation has clogged our courts, preventing people with legitimate claims from being compensated. It's led to the bankruptcy of a number of businesses and it's cost our economy an estimated -- more than $300 billion. And the President strongly supports a legislative solution that is based on three principles. We've talked about this before, but let me just refresh you.

First of all, a solution that targets the funds to those who are genuinely injured. Secondly, those who are genuinely sick -- secondly, it speeds up the process for compensating those who are injured. And, thirdly, that it provides certainty in the system. So I just wanted to bring that to yr attention, first of all.

Now, let me mention today. The President obviously had his usual briefings this morning. He and Mrs. Bush participated in the National Prayer Breakfast. And when we get there we'll be doing a tour of part of the 3M plant in Minnesota. One of the things the President will talk about today is how innovation really drives our economy. And 3M is one of the world's leading innovators and they have made products that Americans rely on every day. And their researchers and scientists are developing new products that will really change the way we live. So that's one of the reasons we're going to Minnesota and visiting the 3M plant.

And today the President's remarks focus on the American Competitiveness Initiative he outlined the other day. You have copies of the book. This is about -- today's remarks are about how we make sure that America remains an innovative and competitive economy. That's what the President will be talking about in his remarks. And I'm going to let Claude Allen and Dr. Marburger talk more about this. And then they'll take whatever questions you have and I'll be glad to talk about other subjects.

MR. ALLEN: Good morning. Scott has mentioned the President is going to be speaking about the American Competitiveness today. Just to give you a little background, America's economy is strong today in large part because of the investments that have been made over the past. And three very unique factors about the American system.

One, the talent base that we have here focusing primarily on our scientists, our business community and our education system, our teachers. Secondly, the model for innovation that America has adopted over the past generation, which really focuses and concentrates our activities around collaboration through universities, capital investment or venture capitalists, and industry, where we're able to move from the laboratory to the marketplace in record time. And that has really fueled America's economy, because of the innovation that has come from that.

And then, lastly, because of the federal investments that have been made in research and development, federal investments in K through 12 and higher education. And also the policies, in terms of tax policy and immigration policies. And so the American Competitive Initiative really focuses on those aspects of taking what we've been smart about doing in the past and building upon that to create an environment once again that continues innovation in our system.

Dr. Marburger is going to talk about the R&D side of it. I'll come back and talk with you about the education, the workforce and the immigration pieces of it. So let me give Dr. Marburger a moment to talk with you.

DR. MARBURGER: So let me say a word about the history leading up to this, as well.

For several yeas we've been getting reports from organizations like the Council on Competitiveness and other task forces focusing on our competitive position with respect to other countries, and culminating in a National Academy of Sciences report, which we know by the short title of "The Gathering Storm."

And many of these reports have proposed very similar kinds of solutions. They've very similar to the kinds of things that Claude has talked about covering research, investments in federally-sponsored research, improving the environment for private investment and research and in education. So this initiative, the American Competitiveness Initiative, comes with fairly broad support from the high tech community, from higher education. And, as you know, several bills have already been introduced in Congress, in both the House and the Senate, which have many of the same characteristics because we're all listening to the same people -- the educators and the science community.

So with respect to the federal investment in education, the President is proposing to increase the budgets for those agencies that have a very high leverage, an impact on competitiveness and innovation. And as all these reports have pointed out, the area that needs the most increase here is the physical sciences, which for the basis for computing and nanotechnology and the instrumentation that everybody uses.

So the three prime agencies are the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science -- which runs national laboratories that we're familiar with at Oak Ridge and Argon and Brookhaven and Berkley and so forth -- and the NIST laboratory, which has been getting Nobel prizes recently -- you may know that three NIST employees have received Nobel prizes in the last 10 years for work that we think will lead to new technologies in the future, for new kinds of computers and so forth. And the President mentions this in his speech.

So the commitment is to give them a big boost this year. The budgets of those three agencies will experience about a, I think, 9.3 percent increase this year, which is a major boost. And then over the next 10 years, their budgets will be doubled. The collective budgets for those three agencies will be doubled in 10 years. The total cost of that part of the initiative is $50 billion. And the amount of money, new money that's scheduled to go into those agencies this year is $910 million for those three. So that's a major commitment.

The next thing that is in this initiative is a commitment to work even harder to get the research and development investment tax credit made permanent. The President has been asking for this for some time, and now all these other organizations have called for it, as well. We'd also like to improve that tax credit so that more companies can have access to it. In the current year, if the tax credit is extended, it would cost -- scheduled to cost $4.6 billion, so it's not a minor initiative.

And then, finally, the education package that Claude is going to talk about next would take another $380 million this year of new money that would be invested in these areas. So, together, that package adds up to $5.9 billion for fiscal year '07. The President will request those funds next Monday, when his budget is released for FY '07; he'll ask Congress to support it. So we look forward to working with Congress, which already has a lot of these initiatives on the table and hope it works.

So, Claude, you want to take over and talk about the education?

MR. ALLEN: Sure. You have been given the brochure, and it has some metrics in it that I want to draw your attention to, and why it's important. Under the education initiative, our design is to have 100,000 new teachers in the classroom working to help educate, in the K thru 12 grades, students in math and science. It's going to be broken down into helping to train 70,000 teachers through summer camps, enrichment programs, to actually teach math and science courses to students who will be taking advanced placement and international baccalaureate tests. The goal is to have 700,000 AP-IB tests taken by low income students, so that we're increasing the number of students to determine their aptitude for math and science, and then to encourage them to go on.

Secondly, we have an adjunct teacher corps that we're working in this proposal to have the private sector to have some 30,000 teachers, or 30,000 professionals come into the schools to teach math and science-related programs, to encourage and to get students excited by giving them a vision of what the future looks like for them in the field of science, math, engineering, technology. So that's combining of 100,000 teachers over the course of the next 10 years to do that.

The other piece that we're focused on is that we need to understand how students learn math and science. And so we have called for a national panel to do just like we do with No Child Left Behind, to look at how students learn, to study and analyze the curriculum, and then to make recommendations so that the nation's schools will be able to use that curricula to get students interested in math and science and help them, as well.

Similarly, we will have what's called a Math Now program at the primary school levels to get students taking a higher level math and science to prepare them for middle school math-science programs, as well. The middle school Math Now program will focus on helping to close the gaps that students who don't get their basics in elementary school, to get it in middle school so that they also can go forward. This is a very similar add-on, as we did with No Child Left Behind, with the Striving Readers program, which was an add-on to help augment the reading skills. This is going to be a math augmentation of the No Child Left Behind, as well.

And then the last piece of this program that we're focused on in education is to have a survey to look at all the federal programs, all the federal dollars that are going into education right now for math and science, to make sure that they also are tied to the No Child Left Behind standards so that we make sure that agencies such as NASA, that expends more than the Department of Education in math-science, that they, too, are tying their programs to that which the students can achieve, as well.

The second area is workforce that we'll focus on as a part of the initiative. And in the workforce area, the goal is to have 800,000 workers with what we call career advancement accounts, where they will have flexibility to get training, education that will prepare them for 21st century jobs. And this will be a partnership working with our community colleges, where we have right now through the Workforce Investment Act; we will be transitioning that program to the career advancement accounts for 21st century jobs.

The last piece of the puzzle is in immigration. The President's proposal calls for being able to recruit the world's best and brightest to come to America to work alongside America's best and brightest in terms of science, engineering and high skilled laborers to come in under this proposal. And so we will be working to work with Congress the H1B program, which is the high skilled labor visas, which right now is about 65,000 visas a year. They are consumed very quickly at the first of the year, and we need to look at increasing that to do that. We're looking also at other visa initiatives, working with Congress to address that, as well, for skilled laborers, high skilled laborers to come into the country.

So, in all, that's the America's Competitiveness Initiative. Jack and I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.

DR. MARBURGER: It's a complicated initiative. There are a lot of pieces to it, so that's why we published this book. The metrics that Claude just talked about for education are on page two. And the numbers that I talked about are graphed on page nine.

MR. ALLEN: And the education numbers are on page 17 for you, as well.

DR. MARBURGER: So take a look at this book as you're trying to figure this out, because it has most of the details. But we'll be glad to answer questions.

Q I have a question for both of you. On the CAA accounts, you basically give the money to the person -- are there any strings, or how does that work?

MR. ALLEN: Well, what we do is the money is put into the account for the individual, but the states provide the criteria. It has to be someone who is transitioning. It can be a student, for example, who is transitioning into the workforce. It can be for re-training dollars for someone whose industry may have closed and they want to update their skills. But the state has criteria that they have to use to target the specific populations. And it also has a veterans preference that has to be recognized, as well. But the states have the flexibility to design the programs; we are simply providing the resources for the accounts.

Q On the immigration initiative, how many -- you said 65,000 visas, H1B visas are issued?

MR. ALLEN: That's the current number.

Q Okay. And what do you want to increase it to?

MR. ALLEN: Well, we'll let the President talk about that today; you'll hear him talk about that. But, again, we have not looked at a specific number as yet. I know the President may have one that he's spoken about that we've looked at. But, historically, we have had -- between 2001 and 2003 there was about 119,000 -- let me make sure of that number -- 195,000, I'm sorry -- 195,000 H1B visas between '01 and '03.

We anticipate that the 65,000 clearly is too low. You would want to bump that up.

Q Wasn't that that huge number difference during that time -- wasn't that during the bubble of Silicon Valley, a lot of third world --

MR. ALLEN: That's correct. That's correct -- that many --

DR. MARBURGER: -- and you need significantly more than we have.

MR. ALLEN: Some of reports have called for increases of 10,000; others between 20,000 and 40,000. So there is a number of options on the table to be considered. But we'll work with Congress on that.

Q Under the making the research and development tax cut permanent, or tax credit permanent, I think one of you said, we're going to try again this year; it's something we've proposed many times. Why -- and this has been in the budget before -- what can you do differently, in terms of your strategy to convince Congress to actually go along with it this year?

DR. MARBURGER: Well, first of all, this -- the push this year is in the context of this overall initiative. And we're trying to get people to understand that we've got to move all these pieces together. We really need to provide the incentives to private sector to increase their investments in this kind of research, and I think the approach from all these reports and the National Academies, everybody is recommending it. So it's time to get this done.

Q Deb wants to know what the snag is, why it hasn't worked in the past? I mean, these reports --

DR. MARBURGER: It's a tax initiative, and I'm not the political expert here, but I think there's reluctance to just put it into concrete, as Congress is reluctant to put lots of tax policies, you know, make them permanent. But I think there's enough push behind this now and enough consensus that it's the right thing to do that we are optimistic that working with Congress we can do something.

We'd also like to improve the law. It's a rather complicated bill -- law right now that makes it difficult for small companies, particularly, to take advantage of it. So we'd like to simplify the bill and make its provisions applicable to the kind of economy we have today.

Q You said $4.6 billion. Do you know for FY'07? What is it from last time?

DR. MARBURGER: I don't know the number from the previous years, when it was in force. So I'll have to get that to you. But it would be -- we're estimating $4.6 billion for FY'07. That would be comparable to what it has been in the past.

Q It is comparable?

DR. MARBURGER: I would think so. We'll have to get you that number later.

Q Some of these things you're investing in now critics say you haven't invested in for the last four or five years, and the reason why we need a big bump in some of them is because they haven't been paid attention to under this administration. Is that fair criticism?

DR. MARBURGER: That's not a fair criticism. In fact, the President has been very focused on innovation and being competitive. In fact, in '04, he proposed what is the first series of innovation initiatives that focused on energy fuel cell development, it focused on health information technology, and it focused on broadband. So this is just a follow-on to the President's '04 innovation initiative. We also know that in the area of education and workforce, this President has been very focused on investments in education. But it started first with making sure that kids could read, math was key, and the science piece is now an add on to that.

So this President has been very committed to the investments in education, as well as in workforce development, as well. The Workforce Investment Act has been very successful in helping businesses and employees transition in a changing economy. So this administration has been very committed to that.

Q Physical science is part of what you're talking about? You feel that that's true, as well? There's been --

DR. MARBURGER: I would say that the physical science priority is something that everyone has identified as very important for the future economic competitiveness and innovation. It's an enhancement to existing capabilities. We're not proposing dramatically new programs. We already have priorities in nano-technology, for example, and high-end computing -- the networking and information technology is a major initiative.

What we're trying to do is make sure we have the infrastructure, in terms of facilities, things like x-rays, synchrotron, light sources and neutron sources and enough money in the National Science Foundation to fund the great proposals that are coming through. NSF has seen an increase in the number of proposals in this area that it can't fund. So we need to get more money into those agencies to fund those proposals.

All the reports have indicated, starting back in 2002, even the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, PCAST, identified physical science as an area that ought to have more investment. So we're doing that under this administration.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just add -- let me just reiterate one thing that Dr. Marburger talked about at the beginning -- there is broad, bipartisan support for this within the scientific community and the technological community. And the President believes there's a bipartisan willingness in Congress to move forward on this initiative. It's something I touched on yesterday, something the President touched on in his remarks at the State of the Union. This is one of the important areas where we can really come together and get something done to keep our economy competitive and keep America leading the way when it comes to innovation and competition.

Q Scott, the President's moon/Mars mission, plan -- I mean, what's going to come of that? There's a lot of concern about the gap when the shuttle is retired and the new vehicle hasn't come into play yet.

DR. MARBURGER: There's lots of other science that's important, and there are lots of other initiatives in other agencies that are important for our country. This initiative focuses on things that we think have especially high leverage for future innovation. And that's what this is focused on. Space exploration is another issue, it's another important area for the country, but it's not part of this initiative.

Q Does this indicate any shifting of priorities away from that as a top priority?

DR. MARBURGER: No, there's no shift of priorities for the other areas.

Q With the President calling for restraint in non-security discretionary spending, isn't the money that you boost in some of these education programs going to have to come out of other education programs?

MR. ALLEN: No, this is a request for new money. Again, this is a priority area as an investment for the future. The President's State of the Union address spoke about the ability for America to make decisions today that would have an impact for years to come. This is one of those areas that if we do not invest in K-12 education, particularly math and science education behind reading education, we will not be able to maintain our standard of living. And so the President realizes that. Congress realizes that. The American people realize that. And so we are providing a proposal that will help to follow through on that. And so it is a -- it's a good investment of $380 million for '07, and an important one. So that new money is important for moving forward in this initiative.

Q So is the overall Department of Education budget going to be shielded from these cuts that he is talking about in domestic spending? It was never contemplated in this initiative that there was going to be an offset within the Department of Education budget. This is new money that we're talking about.

DR. MARBURGER: I think the words here is priorities. The President is committed to reducing the domestic budget. He said he was going to do that. But you have to identify what's most important to maintain and even enhance. And that's one of the things he's talking about. This is not the only priority initiative. The American Competitive Initiative is one of several. The President mentioned energy, he mentioned health technology and a number of other things in his speech.

MR. ALLEN: The best way to accomplish the goal the President laid out in the State of the Union address is that he spoke about two very important issues. One is we need to get control of the mandatory spending, in terms of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. By 2030, they will eat up about 60 percent of the budget. So we must get control of that.

And secondly, and particularly as it relates to this initiative, it's important that Congress gets a handle on reforming earmarks. Earmarks in the area of science and technology have a very detrimental impact, because it prevents these agencies from using -- strategically targeting resources to those high-leverage areas. And so we believe that these are two areas that the Congress -- and we're working with Congress to try to address both the earmarks and the mandatory spending side of the budget.

Q Could you tell us anything more about how the President came to focus on this as a priority for his State of the Union? In other words, was there a particular person who put it in his -- who got him thinking about it, or a moment, or an event, or something like that?

DR. MARBURGER: I can speak to the research. The President has been receiving reports about this for almost four years. There was a series of reports from PCAST beginning in 2002 that talked about the needs and priorities in science funding. And then in December 2004, there was a Council on Competitiveness report, and all during 2005 there were reports from professional societies, from industry organizations, culminating in the National Academies report in December of 2005.

And so we've been hearing about this. And the President's budgets over the past three years have been reflected in increases for selected programs. This is the first time that we've broken out of specific programs like nano-technology or something, and tried to develop a strategy that raises the capabilities of these three key agencies.

MR. ALLEN: And again, in 2004, the President, in his State of the Union address, called for another innovation initiative that, again, focused on energy, fuel energy and focused on health information technology and broadband access to technology. In the spring and summer of '05 of this past year, as we were preparing for the budget process, the Domestic Policy Council, working with the Office of Science Technology Policy and other councils within the White House prepared options for the President to consider in areas including innovation. And so that was the genesis in the '05-'06 cycle.

Q First and last names, again, I'm sorry. Both of you?

MR. ALLEN: I'm Claude Allen.

Q And your title?

MR. ALLEN: Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy -- Domestic Policy advisor.

DR. MARBURGER: And I'm John Marburger, and I'm the President's Science Advisor and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

MR. McCLELLAN: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary. (Laughter.)

Let me mention that after the remarks -- I think there -- this is primarily 3M employees that he'll be speaking to. I think there are around 500 or so that will be there. I think there are some additional state and local officials and some community leaders, but it's primarily 3M employees he'll be speaking to.

Following that, he's going to meet with one family of a fallen soldier who recently made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, just recently. And then we'll depart for Albuquerque where we'll be for the night.

Q What's he doing in Albuquerque? He gets in early. Is he going to sit in the hotel room all night?

MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?

Q We get in early. Is he going to sit in the hotel room?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he's got a dinner with some -- with Senator Domenici and some other people.

Q Is he going -- just for our personal purposes, is he leaving the hotel? Is it a pool dinner?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you -- I don't have details yet.

Q Okay I just have one question. In the roll out on the State of the Union, you know, and all the trips that he's taking, how much does politics -- the midterm politics play in the deciding where we're going, where he's going?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is traveling around the country, and talking to the American people in greater detail about the initiatives he proposed in the State of the Union. As the President said and as I emphasized just a minute ago, the President's focus is on the priorities of the American people. And these are priorities that they care most about. And this has really one aim -- this American Competitiveness Initiative has one aim, to make sure America continues to lead the way when it comes to innovation and competition as we move further into the 21st century.

Q Midterm politics is not playing a role in where he's deciding --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know why you're even -- I don't know what specifically brought that question up.

Q A lot of races out there.

MR. McCLELLAN: Just remember, we talked about what this is about -- and the President will continue to talk about how we need to come together and work in a bipartisan way to act on these initiatives. Our economy is strong, but there additional steps we need to take. And I said that he would -- remember, earlier this week I said that over the next few weeks he would be traveling around the country, talking in greater detail about these initiatives and directly engaging the American people. That's the purpose of these trips, and that's what he's focused on.

Q Is he going to talk about the asbestos subject in his speech today?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think he'll have* -- because today's speech is really on the areas that Dr. Marburger and Claude Allen outlined to you all. But I just wanted to bring it up, because the Senate is looking at moving forward on it. It's a high priority for us, and it's something that's been -- that the Congress has been working on over the last few years, and we hope they can move forward on it and get it done.

Q Can I ask a stupid question, I'm sorry. The R&D tax credit, when does it expire? Does it expire every year, or how does that work?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me get you the specifics on that. It is -- it does have an expiration date. It was temporarily extended, and that's one thing that I think the President probably will emphasize, too, is providing certainty to businesses, so that they can plan and invest in research and development. And that's critical to keeping our economy innovative and competitive.

I'll check that specific.

Q -- part of his original tax-cut proposal, or something that's been on the books for a long time?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is something -- this initiative really builds on the foundation we've already laid over the last few years, and what we've been working on. But, yes, this was a top priority for the President early on. And I'll get you that.

* * * * *

MR. McCLELLAN: The R&D tax credit expired in 2005, it just expired. It is something that has been extended in the past. The President has been calling for it to be made permanent, going back to the very beginning of the administration.

END 11:36 A.M. EST

* He will mention it.

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