Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Peter McPherson on the impacts of sequestration on research at universities

Partial transcript of remarks by Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, on the negative impacts of sequestration. The press briefing was held on Feb. 11, 2013.

…We all see the urgent need and problem that we have before us. Sequestration is a reckless and a blunt tool that would force deep spending reduction across critical investments in R&D [research and development] and education.

I’m here to say that sequestration would greatly reduce and harm our nation by slashing its innovative capacities.

Research has been a primary driver of the U.S. economy for generations. Basic research has been the wellspring for innovation and applied research, producing much of our modern society, including Internet, GPS [global positioning satellite], large-scale integrated circuits and so much more.

The federal government funds 60% of the basic research, much of it – two-thirds of it – going to universities. Without that basic research – my industry colleagues here I know would depend so heavily upon it.

Sequestration cuts about $10 billion in R&D in 2013. Going through 2021, the full sequestration would cut R&D by about $90 billion and reduce GDP growth, depending upon your study, $330 billion says the study that we just completed by Information Technology and Innovation Foundation…

In short, it’s pennywise and pound foolish to make these cuts to R&D that yield far more than what they cost.

Even if we don’t invest enough in research, some other countries will. China, for example, is rapidly increasing their research as a percentage of GDP. With this, for us, it’d go the other way. China’s GDP, of course, is smaller than the United States’ but the economy is growing much faster. By some calculations, their total export-imports are roughly equal to what our’s are today.

Unless we act, we can expect that China’s increase in research funding and the funding of others will mean that the relative competitiveness of the U.S. will weaken probably in ways that go to our historical core strengths.

Sequestration is unnecessary and it’s avoidable. We absolutely must deal with the budget deficit but this massive, indiscriminate type approach are [sic] counter-productive. Such cuts will dampen growth and thereby reduce tax revenue. Such cuts definitely aren’t dealing with the deficit over the long term…

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