Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Playing Politics with Global Competitiveness

Remember, that pesky report, finally released last year, the Commerce Department, Technology Administration (TA) report concerning offshoring of highly-skilled jobs? The U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology commissioned the report in 2004: "An Overview of Workforce Globalization in the U.S. IT Services and Software, U.S. Semiconductor and the U.S. Pharmaceuticals Industries." Executive Summary

The Technology Administration (TA) report was released on July 24, 2006. Apparently there are two versions of the report, a 336 page (draft) and a 360 page version. The differences may be important because a twelve-page, "six-month assessment," does not reconcile with the larger report and nobody seems to know who wrote the first five pages of the twelve page summary.

This is not the first data that the Administration has withheld from Congress, USCIS neglected to file required reports on H-1B visas (Lou Dobbs Video 1/27/07) and NASA seems to be having documentation problems.

(October 22, 2007) Gordon, Miller, Udall Direct NASA to Halt any Destruction of Records Relating to the NAOMS Project
The Committee followed up with a letter requesting certain documents and other information. Therefore, we were surprised to read in the media today that, after that phone conference, NASA officials had directed the lead contractor at Ames Research Center for the NAOMS survey to archive all its materials on this project, return the archived material to NASA and then purge it from their computers and files (“NASA Sits on Air Safety Survey,” Associated Press, Oct. 22, 2007).

Here are some relevant passages concerning the TA report:

I have been trying to get the original draft report for almost a year through every means available to me, but I have not been able to get the Chairman of hisCommittee or the Subcommittee of jurisdiction to join me. It was with some reluctance that I filed a Resolution of Inquiry about this report to force the Committee to face up to its responsibility to learn as much as we can about what is happening to American jobs.

This Committee has jurisdiction over the Technology Administration. We know they spent $335,000 producing their report. The American public, and this Committee, deserve to see the full results of their work.

…If you just want to trust someone who whispers in our ear that you [Congress] don’t really need to know what government experts have to say - from the same folks who brought you the Dubai ports deal, have refused Republican Senators information related to Hurricane Katrina and have refused to stay at Senate hearings to answer questions - then oppose this resolution.

H. Res. 717, Directing the Secretary of Commerce to deliver a draft report on offshoring jobs Opening Statement By Hon. Bart Gordon, 3/29/2006 [1]

The report was also released to Manufacturing & Technology News. The following are quotes from the MTN press release: Commerce Department Report On Offshore Outsourcing Finally Sees The Light Of Day, July 24, 2006:

The $335,000, 336-page report obtained last week never saw the light of day. Manufacturing & Technology News submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Commerce on March 17, 2005, seeking release of the study, but that request was denied. Eventually, what was produced and provided by the Commerce Department in September 2005 was a 12-page document bearing a July 2004 publication date that bore little resemblance to the work done by analysts at the Technology Administration, all of whom have recently been told they will be laid off due to severe budget cuts for the agency and the issuance of a reduction in force (RIF).

That document is quite different from the original 12-page summary, and it is apparent why Bush's political appointees so vehemently refused its release. The administration "was scared of anything having to do with outsourcing," says one source who is familiar with the report's travails. The Bush team "could not afford even a discussion" of the outsourcing issue.

That [12 page] summary put a positive spin on offshore outsourcing and includes analysis written by political appointees that was not in the original work.

"The report speaks for itself," said Ben Wu, who was in charge of the report's demise while at the Commerce Department's Technology Administration. Wu now works in the state of Maryland's economic development organization. Phil Bond, who was in charge of the Technology Administration at the time, said he had nothing to do with re-writing the report. He has since been named president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an organization that took the lead in Washington in defending the practice of offshore outsourcing of IT jobs.

The 360-page version of the report describes the types of IT services and software jobs that are being outsourced. It states the obvious: that Indian outsourcing companies "are expanding staff annually by the thousands."

Commerce Department Report On Offshore Outsourcing Finally Sees The Light Of Day

I won’t bore you with the details of the Executive Summary other than: 1 in 4 American jobs are likely candidates for offshoring, U.S. enrollment in high-tech is down and high-tech jobs are going overseas at alarming rates.

An overview and timeline of the investigation into the withholding this report can be found here: Globalization and the American Workforce, July 24, 2006.

Bringing the story up to date, I’ll paste in a few more paragraphs from the TA’s, "Committee Concludes Series on Offshoring With Look at the Affect of Globalization on the U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce," Nov 7, 2007

This hearing – the fourth and final in the series – explored the implications of the globalization of research & development (R&D) and innovation for the American science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce

Witnesses sought to explain how U.S. workers need to constantly "re-tool" their skills to adapt to the changing marketplace. Witnesses also discussed the new opportunities and challenges created by globalization, including the reshaping the demand for STEM workers and skills; as well as how offshoring is affecting the STEM workforce pipeline and how incumbent workers are responding to globalization.

Witnesses included: Dr. Michael S. Teitelbaum, vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Dr. Harold Salzman, senior research associate at the Urban Institute; Dr. Charles McMillion, president and chief economist of MBG Information Services; Mr. Paul J. Kostek, vice president for career activities of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers – USA; and Mr. Henry Becker, president of Qimonda North America.
Committee Concludes Series on Offshoring With Look at the Affect of Globalization on the U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce, Nov 7, 2007

After all of the wrangling to get this report and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s finding that there is no shortage of highly-skilled workers, I found this in the press yesterday.

H-1B visas are critically important to firms such as Breault Research to remain innovative and globally competitive. Nationally, more that 60 percent of H-1B visas are held by workers in computers, science, engineering, and medical positions. More than 40 percent of H-1B visa workers possess graduate or doctorate degrees.

This year, the United States capped new H-1B visas at approximately 65,000, not nearly enough to meet industry demands. The cap was hit on the first day applications were accepted, meaning that much-needed, well-educated high-tech
workers were not available to U.S. companies.

Giffords, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, will outline several H-1B visa reform ideas and solicit comments and suggestions from the executives. The Tucson lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation in December that accurately reflects industry needs.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to Discuss High-Tech Visa Reform Legislation at Optical
Engineering Firm Breault Research
, Nov 27, 2007

Technology and Innovation Administration Subcommittee Members
As of March, 2007, member names in bold are also members of Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

David Wu (Oregon),Chairman
Jim Matheson (Utah)
Harry E. Mitchell (Arizona), Vice Chairman
Charles A. Wilson (Ohio)
Ben Chandler (Kentucky)
Mike Ross (Arkansas)
Michael M. Honda (California)
Bart Gordon (Tennessee), ex officio

Phil Gingrey (Georgia), Ranking Member
Vernon J. Ehlers (Michigan)
Judy Biggert (Illinois)
Adrian Smith (Nebraska)
Paul Broun (Georgia)
Ralph M. Hall (Texas), ex officio

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