The SIA is one of the more articulate organizations on the need for more federal spending on basic research in the physical sciences. The group warns that today's semiconductor process technology, which fuels the electronics industry, could run out of gas by 2020.
"Breakthrough discoveries are needed within the next few years if a replacement technology is to be available" in time, the group warns in a policy statement. "Yet, federal investment in these key areas has been relatively flat or declining over the past 30 years."
Two Democrats are racing to take leadership on this issue. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was first to declare a plan to double federal funding for basic research. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York originally talked about increasing federal research by 50 percent but in October updated her "innovation agenda"to match Obama's call for a doubling of research funds. Though neither candidate has provided much detail, Clinton has called for shifting funds from other areas into physical sciences; high-risk projects; new, high-profile awards for major milestones; and expanded fellowship programs.
Republicans and Democrats fairly uniformly back a move to make the R&D tax credit permanent. The temporary program has been extended 12 times since it was created in 1981.
Republicans have been generally mum on federal spending in basic research. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans do not typically articulate a technology agenda as such, though many have policies that speak to tech industry concerns.
TechNet, a lobbying group of senior technology executives formed in 1997, has taken a leading position on this issue, calling for the delivery of 100-Mbit/second connections to 100 million U.S. homes by 2010.
Democrats have addressed the broadband issue directly, with a focus on extending access to communities that currently are not served or are underserved. They are not specific, however, about target speeds or numbers of homes. Republicans have been generally mum on the topic to date.
Among the Democrats, Clinton has called for tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas. She also supports making federal money available to state and local broadband initiatives.
Both Clinton and Obama said the Federal Communications Commission must revisit its definition of broadband. The FCC currently recognizes just 200 kbits/second as broadband performance.
In addition, Obama wants to reform universal service regulations to include broadband as well as voice. He has also called for a sweeping review of the FCC's spectrum policy to ensure maximum efficiency in airwave usage by both government and commercial markets.
For his part, Democratic candidate John Edwards, former senator from North Carolina, has stated a fairly general goal that broadband service be available to all U.S. households by 2010.
Among the industry interest groups, TechNet's senior-executive membership has put forth perhaps the most detailed economic agenda. The group calls for reforming Sarbanes-Oxley to reduce the legislation's unintended repercussions and compliance burdens, especially on small companies. It also stumps for policies that promote stock options and free trade.
The Democrats have been largely mum on the issues of concern to TechNet's constituency, but they stress the importance of protecting the environment and workers' rights in any future international trade negotiations.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who dropped out of the race Jan. 24, had gone so far as to call for the United States to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization. He favored bilateral trade agreements based on securing workers' rights and the environment.
Republicans pretty much uniformly support a free-trade agenda, though they stress the importance of protecting U.S. companies' intellectual property holdings. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani takes perhaps the most aggressive free-trade stance of the group, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney throws in a caveat that the U.S. should require China to float its currency as part of future trade deals. Huckabee suggests he would take issue with at least parts of NAFTA.
Both Giuliani and Romney call for reining in the excesses of Sarbanes-Oxley, particularly for small businesses. Giuliani adds that he wants to lower taxes further to stimulate the economy.