United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said at the Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit that he will try to persuade President Trump to make funding for government sponsored research a part of the president’s “America First” agenda. The senator said President Trump has already signed into law two consecutive appropriations bills that provide record funding for science, technology, energy and biomedical research.
“Americans invited the Internet. And the personal computer. We invented nuclear power. And the polio vaccine. It’s hard to think of a major technological advancement since WWII that hasn’t drawn some support from government research. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are very aware of this – we are in the third year of record funding for major science, technology, and energy research in the United States,” Alexander said. “Tennesseans know that research at Oak Ridge means thousands of high-tech jobs for our state and higher family incomes. The Senate Appropriations Committee I serve on just last week approved an appropriations bill that included more than $3 billion for the Oak Ridge area and the fourth consecutive year of record funding for the Office of Science, the most important Department of Energy program that supports work at our 17 national laboratories, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”
Alexander continued, “The bill also included $677 million to reassert U.S. leadership in exascale supercomputing. Right now, scientists are working to develop the world’s first exascale supercomputer by 2021 – and a lot of that research is being done at Oak Ridge. Imagine a computer about 1 trillion times faster than your home computer – used to help find cures and treatments for diseases; protect against cyberattacks; more accurately predict the weather; and help federal agencies eliminate waste and fraud. Or take biomedical research — Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, predicted what medical research might produce in the next decade with new funding: a way to identify Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear, an artificial pancreas, a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, and a universal flu vaccine. President Trump has already signed into law two consecutive bills that provide record funding for science, technology, energy and biomedical research, but I have a suggestion for him to consider – he should make science and research part of his “America First” agenda, which will bring more good paying jobs to the Tennessee Valley.”
Alexander today spoke at the Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit to celebrate three anniversaries of American innovation in the Tennessee Valley, where he said, “In this region this year, we are celebrating three anniversaries that are a part of the story of America’s science and technology success: the 85th anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Authority; the 75th anniversary of the City of Oak Ridge; and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. None would have been possible without government sponsored research.” The senator emphasized how government sponsored research “has helped make America the greatest country in the world,” and highlighted the contributions TVA and Oak Ridge have made to Tennessee and our nation.
“Eighty five years ago – when Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – the region lagged behind the rest of the country in almost every indicator: schools, health, and jobs. Housing was substandard and illiteracy was twice the national average. The rural areas in the Tennessee Valley were not electrified – only 3 in 100 farmers had electricity. Even fewer had running water. Over the last 85 years, TVA has brought more than electricity – it has tamed the rivers, created lakes, cleaned up the air, and improved the quality of life in the TVA region. Today, in Tennessee, the annual per capita income is $26,019 – about 90% of the national average – not 45% which is where we started before TVA was created.
“TVA’s mission is to provide “safe, clean, reliable and affordable power for the region’s homes and businesses” but TVA does so much more than that. TVA is at the forefront of innovation – and always has been. TVA opened the first nuclear power reactor in the 21st century. It is placing pollution control equipment on all its coal plants, and it is completing new natural gas plants. TVA has done this while reducing its debt and reducing electric rates, which is good news for jobs and economic development in the Tennessee Valley.”
Alexander concluded by talking about Oak Ridge’s accomplishments over the last 75 years, where he said, “Oak Ridge leads the world in science and energy research, supercomputing, and national security.”
Following his appearance in Oak Ridge, Senator Alexander spoke with us on WYSH’s ‘Ask Your Neighbor” by telephone. We will play the entire conversation again for you Thursday morning on WYSH if you missed any of it.