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Bush Promotes U.S. Competitiveness

President Bush, warning against America losing its technological edge in the world, called on Congress Friday to bolster math and science education and spend more money to nurture innovation at business and government laboratories.

"There's a certain amount of uncertainty among some in America that we've got a lot of competition," Bush said, backing free trade and denouncing economic isolationism. "People are beginning to see an emerging China and India and that makes people uncertain."

But a bill backed by New Mexico's two senators is more expansive than the $5.9 billion competitiveness proposal that Bush outlined in his State of the Union address.

Appearing at Intel's huge computer chip-making plant just outside Albuquerque in Rio Rancho, Bush said the United States needs to stimulate technological innovation by reviving a business tax credit for innovation, spend more money on basic research in the physical sciences and strengthen math and science education.

New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici, the Republican chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Jeff Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on the panel, joined with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., to introduce the Protecting America's Competitive Edge Act, or PACE Act, which calls for spending $10 billion the first year.

The bipartisan effort was crafted to implement 20 recommendations outlined in "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," a National Academies of Science report issued last October.

For math and science research, Bush's plan would double over 10 years the physical science research budgets at three agencies: the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

The Senate bill would double over seven years the physical science research budgets at the DOE Office of Science, NSF, NASA and the Defense Department.

On the research tax credit for business, both proposals call for making it permanent. Although Bush's plan calls for a 20 percent credit, the Bingaman-Domenici proposal would double the credit to 40 percent.

To bolster math and science education, Bush wants to train 70,000 teachers over five years to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science and encourage 30,000 math and science professionals to become adjunct high school teachers.

The Domenici-Bingaman proposal also calls for getting more students to study math, science and high technology, but suggests scholarships for college students majoring in math, science or engineering, and offers incentives for those doing graduate work.

The senators' plan wants to ease visa requirements for foreign students studying these subjects and provide incentives if they agree to stay and work in the United States. On Thursday, Bush urged Congress to increase the number of visas given to foreign engineers, scientists and other high-tech professionals.