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SPIE Urges Congress, President to Avoid Fiscal Cliff and Support Science and Technology to Strengthen Economy
Date:12/10/2012

we recognize the constraints, it would be utterly foolish to damage the best hope for economic health: our science and technology capability.”

Robert Lieberman, chair of the SPIE committee on Engineering Science and Technology Policy, emphasized the importance of federal funding for STEM education and R&D on competitiveness in technologies enabled by optics and photonics.

He cited findings of the recent National Academies report “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation,” on “the crucial role education plays in ensuring a vibrant future,” and the trend of domestic workforce shrinkage in STEM fields.

“Today, the United States has many outstanding universities that educate students from around the world in the classroom and in research laboratories,” the report notes. However, the number of U.S. nationals in graduate programs at top optics schools is as low as 40 percent. “If the United States continues to shrink its STEM workforce and market share in photonics, innovations in research will bolster the economy and the defense technology of countries poised to take advantage of those advances.”

Sequestration would require up to $12 billion in R&D funding cuts annually across defense and nondefense programs over the next decade, the letter says. Among the impacts:

  •     DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency) would lose over $1 billion for cutting-edge innovation.
  •     The NIH (National Institutes of Health) would lose $11.3 billion for research on medical challenges including those related to cancer, obesity, aging, and emerging diseases.
  •     The Department of Energy would lose $4.6 billion through 2017 for next-generation energy research and nonproliferation R&D.
  •     The National Science Foundation would lose $2.1 billion over five years for research ac
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