I’m impressed. George W. Bush made it though eight years without developing an S&T strategic plan worthy of the name. In less than ten months from taking office, the Obama Administration has already developed a plan. I think it still lacks some essential elements, but it is a good start. Richard M. Jones at the AIP has made an excellent summary, so I won’t try to upstage him.
I think the key goal of 3% of GDP for R&D investment is very constructive, but its implementation needs a lot of attention, including legislation. Otherwise, it is likely to flop, as did the same goal set by the EU. The private sector now supplies well over 2/3 of this R&D investment. Now that they are outsourcing R&D to cheaper places, private industry is not likely to step up their investments in the US unless they have financial incentives to do so. Appeals to the US patriotism of global corporations are not likely to have much effect, indeed all corporations have eternal life, but no soul.
I have another issue with the plan. In focusing entirely on the economic development benefits of R&D, I think it forfeits the most powerful argument to convince the Congress and public to implement the plan–national security. It does give the DARPA invention of the Internet as a golden nugget in a sidebar, but that’s the only mention of defense that I saw. And this is not just neglect in this plan; defense R&D is declining sharply as immediate needs to fight wars force cuts in long range investments at DOD. The Obama Administration also seems to be shifting priorities from defense R&D to non-defense. I’m dubious about this because of the unprecedented threats we face from emerging superpowers, nuclear proliferation, and non-state actors.
The full plan is at:
A Strategy for American Innovation
R. D. Shelton