America, the Innovative

January 22, 2016
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

-- President John F. Kennedy

September 12, 1962

Dear Friends,

On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union launched Yuri Gagarin into space. His 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft sent a message of strength and purpose to the world. President Kennedy served a searing rebuttal just one year later.

Kennedy’s vision for the U.S. to land on the moon inspired our country to be even more innovative, take bolder action, and be fearless in the face of challenge. We put a man on the moon in a decade, and it spurred a new technological age and a shift in the way we think. President Kennedy was ‘disruptive’ even before disruption became a cool buzzword in California and Silicon Valley.

As we look for ways to propel the next generation through the 21st century and beyond, President Kennedy’s mandate still resonates as a national mission statement. What he said was and remains a source of inspiration to me to shape innovative policies for our country.

On January 4th at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, I had the honor of hosting the 76th Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Jack Lew for a policy forum on innovation. Joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, members of the Bay Area congressional delegation, academicians, locally elected officials, entrepreneurs and other thought leaders, I announced that I will undertake the development of an Innovation Agenda 2.0. I invite you to watch this launch.

View Launch of Innovation Agenda 2.0

You may recall the work developed a decade ago when a roundtable of thought leaders gathered at Stanford University to develop an Innovation Agenda for our country. The roundtables continued with meetings in every region of our country, and yielded something big. Congress listened and acted by introducing The Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America #1.

Over the past decade we’ve made important progress on this commitment. We opened new markets for American products, we enhanced opportunities for students by extending STEM education, and we established a new office to nurture innovation in energy research called ARPA-E. Policies in the original Innovation Agenda have also expanded the deployment of broadband, helped increase solar electricity generation more than 20-fold, and tripled electricity from wind.

But our world continues to change and so must we to shape our collective future. Some statistics help to paint a picture of the state of our innovation economy, where we’re lacking, and where we can excel.

  • In the President’s most recent State of the Union he reported that 14 million American jobs have been added in the private sector since he took office, but we have to continue to look for ways to create opportunity for those jobless Americans who cannot find jobs, and train those to fill the job opportunities that are not being filled.

  • According to the White House, America has approximately 5 million open jobs today, more than at any point since 2001. More than half a million of those job openings are in IT fields like software development, network administration, and cybersecurity—many of which did not even exist just a decade ago.

  • The average salary in a job that requires IT skills – whether in manufacturing, advertising, retail or banking – is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job.

  • The United States ranks 5th in the 2015 Global Innovation Index (based on a series of indicators) behind Switzerland, the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands. We should be #1.

  • Investment in R&D spurs economic growth. A one percent increase in R&D spending grows the economy by 0.61 percent, according to an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) report.

  • One of every 8 American patent applications comes from Silicon Valley, according to the U.S. Patent Office, yet patent trolls continue to ravage private R&D investment.

  • According to the Federal Communications Commission, 34 million Americans, or approximately 10 percent of our country, still lack access to fixed broadband at speeds necessary to leverage today’s online services.

Taken together, these facts require us to act. The U.S. needs to double down. Sustaining our successes and adding to them requires a collaborative effort by all of us. It’s time we in Washington pursue this with another Innovation Agenda … this time 2.0, and it’s just what I plan to do. Stay tuned!

All my best,

Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress