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Gates Pushes Education, H-1Bs to Halt U.S. Brain Drain

Microsoft chairman advises Congress to invest in schools, raise cap on H-1B visas and incentivize R&D to counter 'acute' shortage of brainpower.

this week told Congress

Gates, who also serves as co-chair of the charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday, stressing a "gathering threat to U.S. preeminence in science and technology innovation." While saying that he believed the advances of the past 50 years would "pale in comparison" to technological advances in the next 50, Gates said that in the U.S., "the shortage of scientists and engineers is so acute" that the country risks being left behind in the global race to create new technology in the coming years.

Gates' four-point plan for reversing that trend includes investing more in science and math education, accepting more highly skilled workers from abroad into the country, increasing the government's funding of basic scientific research, and incentivizing R&D in the private sector.

"I believe this country stands at a crossroads. For decades, innovation has been the engine of prosperity in this country. Now, economic progress depends more than ever on innovation. And the potential for technology innovation to improve lives has never been greater. If we do not implement policies like those I have outlined today, the center of progress will shift to other nations that are more committed to the pursuit of technical excellence. If we make the right choices, the United States can remain the global innovation leader that it is today," Gates said in his concluding remarks to the committee.

In a speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Gates on Thursday reiterated the challenges facing the U.S. while saying he was confident legislators would invest in the areas he had outlined before Congress.

"Historically, the United States has done a fantastic job of making the right investments. I think other countries, having seen that, are starting to duplicate those elements," Gates said, according to media accounts of the speech.

Gates and Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. announced on June 15, 2006 that he would be transitioning out of his day-to-day role in the company. This July marks the end of that transitioning process, though Gates will remain chairman and continue to advise the software giant on key development projects. Gates gave what was billed as his last keynote at the Consumer Electronic Show earlier this year, an event he had headlined since 1994.

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