January 30th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Science in the State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his third annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress (in case you’re wondering, his first speech to a joint session after being elected President was not officially called a State of the Union, since he was considered too green on the job to really have a grasp of the state of the union). The speech contained a few central themes, including the need to provide better access to quality education (with a strong emphasis on college affordability), to invest in the manufacturing and energy sectors, and to revamp the tax code.  The importance of innovation came up regularly in the speech, but most pointedly in the following quote:

“Innovation also demands basic research.  Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.  New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet.  Don’t gut these investments in our budget.  Don’t let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.”

Details on the initiatives introduced by the President during the speech can be found in more detail in the The Blueprint for an America Built to Last, which was released simultaneously by the White House. Additional information will also be revealed when the President delivers his FY 2013 budget to Congress on February 13th, one week after the date required by law. The White House announced this delay earlier in the week, it is the third time the budget has been delayed since Obama took office.

If you’re interested in how science and technology has been referenced in recent State of Union addresses, check out the American Institute of Physics’ blog post on the subject.

Also of Note

Defense. In a press event on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Panetta provided a preview of the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD), which would reportedly cut $259 billion in defense spending through 2017. The DoD released a 16-page document entitled Defense Budget Priorities and Choices, which states “The Department believes that accelerating trends in both technology development and a dynamic threat environment dictate that we must maintain our edge by protecting our investments in development of future capabilities. As such, science and technology programs are largely protected within this budget.”

Education. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: Strategic Planning Needed to Better Manage Overlapping Programs across Multiple Agencies. The report finds that of the more than 200 STEM education programs administered throughout the government, over 80% of them overlap with other programs in either target audiences or objectives. These GAO findings follow a report issued in December 2011 by the National Science and Technology Council entitled The Federal STEM Education Portfolio. This report, required by the America COMPETES Act, aims to inventory government-supported STEM programs, and to “develop a five-year strategic plan to advance the state of American STEM education.”

Technology. The U.S. government’s first ever Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, announced this week that he intends to step down from the position. According to an Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) blog posting released on Friday, “the President created the position of “Chief Technology Officer” to modernize our government while helping the country meet its goals from job creation, to reducing health care costs, to protecting the homeland.

In Print

In an op-ed in The Hill entitled Time to Rebuild the Middle Class, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) argues that Federal investments in research and infrastructure have created jobs.

Ed Paisley and Sean Pool of ScienceProgress give their take on the President’s State of the Union in a piece entitled President Obama Links Middle Class Prosperity and Innovation.

Alex Tabarrok writes in The Atlantic about The Innovation Nation vs. the Warfare-Welfare State. In this piece, he ponders the question, “Do we want government spending half its money on redistribution and military, or re-dedicating itself to science, infrastructure, and health research?”

In a New York Times op-ed entitled Made in the World, Thomas Friedman writes about how the U.S. should capitalize on its strengths—including talent, education, infrastructure, and research—to compete in a globalized world.

What’s on Deck




  • The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012-2022.
  • Battelle and the R&D Magazine will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on their  2012 Global Research and Development Forecast. Contact shinea (at) battelle.org for more information.
  • The San Diego group Connect will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on Innovation 101: Technology and Innovation in Life-Sciences Research, Accelerating the Commercialization of an Anti-Cancer Biotech Innovation. Contact jwombie (a) connect.org for more information.


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