Hooray! It's time for budget negotiations. Again.
My plea to our lawmakers is: please read the Science Coalition's timely report that illustrates how federal investment in basic research "sparks" economic growth. It's time to reverse the March sequester, which will cut federal spending on R&D by $95 billion by 2021 according to CNN. About 10 percent of the sequester cut for this year will cut R&D in essential areas: defense, energy, agriculture, homeland security and health, affecting key entities such as the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation. Military research budgets will have to be cut almost 10 percent.
I know these statistics have a hard time competing against the electoral calculus. It takes bold leadership for Congress to take the long view. Historically, such leadership has happened when there has been a clear and present danger to the nation. Post-Cold War threats -- terrorists, Wall Street bankers, Angela Merkel, apparently -- do not hand us the galvanizing "Sputnik moment."
While I hate framing arguments in terms of U.S. competitiveness, it is time we take note of China's R&D ascendance, which will cause re-location of talent, capital and business away from the U.S. over time. China was expected to achieve R&D-spending parity with the United States in 2027. Recently, that forecast was brought forward to 2022. At this rate, the country's real innovativeness will catch up as well. And if China's rise is not enough of a threat, how about cancer? We haven't beaten that one either.
So, can we please talk about sequestering the sequester?
Note: This article first appeared on 11/1/2013 on Fareed Zakaria's CNN GPS.
Bhaskar Chakravorti is senior associate dean of International Business and Finance and founding executive director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. He is the author of The Slow Pace of Fast Change.
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