According to Robert J. Samuelson's May 26 column, we're in another "Sputnik scare." But there's an essential difference between the way the United States met competitive threats in the past and the response in Washington today.

Sputnik, the explosive growth of Japanese manufacturing prowess and other threats led to major increases in federal investment in research and education. This paid off handsomely. In the early 1990s, for example, half of all patents for electronic components and 80 percent of all patents for drugs and medicine cited federally funded research.

Today, instead of rising to the new round of challenges, Congress is considering an administration budget that proposes to cut federal research budgets in critical areas. Instead of playing to our strengths -- such as openness to change -- the United States is seriously debating whether to teach evolution in schools and ban stem cell research.

It's difficult to see that the nation's leaders, who should be reacting to new challenges by strengthening -- not cutting -- federal research, understand the extent to which our prosperity, security and ability to meet national aspirations for health care and the environment depend on innovation.



Federation of American Scientists