The Biden administration is crafting a science and technology strategy to stop China from overtaking America as a global leader in those realms. Congress has begun plotting how to make sure the plan works.
The CHIPS and Science Act that passed last year directs the federal government to create a new national science and technology strategy and conduct a review of America’s position every four years.
The law directs an estimated $200 billion toward scientific research and development and commercialization, according to an analysis of the bill’s total spending from McKinsey & Co.
Congress, however, is fretting that it’s not spending enough to triumph over China.
Under new Republican leadership, the House Science Committee kick-started its own review of American research and development at a hearing Tuesday, with a goal of maximizing the government’s expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Rep. Frank Lucas, the Science Committee chairman, said letting China win the tech race would mean increased risks to national security, letting China shape critical technology and less privacy for Americans.
The Oklahoma Republican said America cannot afford to lose as he raised concerns about America’s spending compared with China.
“They’re outspending us, out-publishing us, out-educating us when it comes to STEM Ph.D. graduates,” Mr. Lucas said at the hearing. “What’s even more concerning is that they’re working to steal the results of our research and innovations — whether that’s through cyberattacks, forced intellectual property acquisition or malicious recruitment initiatives, like the Thousand Talents Program.”
Lawmakers want the discovery of scientific advances and the production of critical tech tools to come from America rather than China and other overseas competitors. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon Democrat, complained on Tuesday that America had grown too complacent.
She said America’s “commitment to nondefense R&D waned” while much of its manufacturing capacity simultaneously moved offshore.
“Our insufficient commitment to research and domestic manufacturing left an opening for other countries and they seized it,” Ms. Bonamici said at the hearing. “China and Europe increased their investments in critical technologies and emulated our innovation systems in building theirs.”
Securing the result of American research and development from Chinese intellectual property theft is a costly endeavor as well. The American Enterprise Institute’s Klon Kitchen told lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing that the U.S. needs to start enforcing laws guarding against IP theft to stop the drain of research and tech that taxpayer dollars help generate.
“We are being willingly robbed blind daily by the presence of Chinese technology companies in the U.S. marketplace,” Mr. Kitchen said. “And I want to be clear when I talk about this, I am not accusing every Chinese-origin technology company as being malevolent — they don’t need to be malevolent; they simply need to be compliant with Chinese law.”
The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is working to develop the government’s strategy, and the office is led by Arati Prabhakar. The previous leader of the office, Eric Lander, resigned in February 2022 amid allegations he mistreated his subordinates.