April 19, 2021

Van Hollen, Blunt Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen the United States’ Global Competitive Edge

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced new bipartisan legislation to ensure U.S. leadership in discovery and innovation and to strengthen the United States’ competitive edge against China and across the global economy. Their legislation, the National Strategy to Ensure American Leadership (SEAL) Act, calls on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to identify the top emerging science and technology challenges and provide recommendations to ensure the United States remains competitive and secure in the global economy.

Text of the legislation can be found here. A one-pager on the bill can be found here.

“To create more good-paying jobs and further sharpen our ability to compete in a rapidly changing global economy, the United States must stay at the forefront of innovation and technology. What’s more, we cannot afford to sit idly by as the Chinese government implements its plan to seek dominance in certain key technologies as part of its strategy to expand its influence and export its authoritarian model around the world. We must work urgently to not only identify and address areas where we’re falling behind but also establish a technology blueprint for the future. This bipartisan legislation will help do just that, and I look forward to working together with Senator Blunt to pass this common-sense proposal,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Having a forward-looking view of how we prioritize federal research investment is critical for our national and economic security,” said Senator Blunt. “Countries like China are pouring state resources into research fields, especially emerging technologies, that target key U.S. economic sectors. This bill will help ensure we are making strategic investment decisions that keep us ahead of the curve and allow us to maintain our competitive edge in innovation.”


In 1960, the United States contributed to 69% of global research and development investments, but by 2018, we accounted for just 27.6% of investments. Nations across the world are increasing their research footprints, and we run the risk of falling behind in a number of scientific endeavors like 5G mobile networks, artificial intelligence, and biotechnologies. As China continues to increase its research and development investments and corners markets on disruptive technologies, the United States must safeguard its role as a leader in cutting-edge science and innovation. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s 2005 report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” rang the warning bell about our nation’s eroding competitiveness and highlighted critical steps to enhance the research enterprise and STEM education. Now, we must think beyond the technologies of today to the ideas of tomorrow.

This bill would direct the Secretary of Commerce to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to identify the ten most critical emerging science and technology challenges facing the United States and make recommendations for legislative or administrative action to ensure U.S. leadership in those areas.

The following organizations support this legislation: American Astronomical Society, American Mathematical Society, Carnegie Institution for Science, CTIA, National Photonics Initiative, and TechNet.

“Our nation’s prosperity and security have been built on the foundation of our longstanding scientific excellence,” said Eric D. Isaacs, President of the Carnegie Institution for Science. “The National SEAL Act will be an important step toward strengthening this country’s global leadership in science and technology and building new generations of exceptional American scientists.”

“The American Mathematical Society is grateful to Senators Blunt and Van Hollen for their leadership ensuring that the U.S. continues as a global leader addressing current and future societal problems through science and technology. Identifying challenges will help garner research investment and generate enthusiasm for scientific discovery. Fundamental research of today will lead to critically important technologies of the future. Mathematics will continue to inform about the necessary foundational research that so much advanced technology relies on, and we are thus pleased to endorse the National SEAL Act,” said Karen Saxe, Associate Executive Director and Head of Government Affairs of the American Mathematical Society.

“The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) strongly supports the National SEAL Act. This legislation will ensure the federal government is taking the long view on U.S. science and technology priorities. This is essential if the U.S. is going to stay competitive in critical technology areas, many of which are enabled by optics and photonics such as quantum and artificial intelligence. We look forward to working with Senators Van Hollen and Blunt to enact this critical legislation,” said the National Photonics Initiative.

“Right now, China is competing with the U.S. to become the global leader on emerging technologies like 5G, quantum computing, AI, and autonomous vehicles. For our national and economic security, we cannot let them win. The United States must develop and implement a national coordinated strategy, coupled with substantial federal investment, to win the race against China and other nations so that our values are infused into these emerging technologies. The bipartisan National SEAL Act will help spur innovation and ensure the U.S. remains a global leader,” said Peter Chandler, TechNet’s Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations.