While the structure and details of President Biden’s upcoming infrastructure proposal are still mostly unknown, the President and his team have dropped some possible hints in recent days on items that may touch the infrastructure plan, including a boost in spending on scientific research and attention toward infrastructure cybersecurity.
At the first press conference of his presidency on March 25, President Biden committed to investing near two percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in scientific research.
“Back in the ‘60s, we used to invest a little over 2 percent of our entire GDP in pure research and investment in science. Today, it’s 0.7 percent. I’m going to change that. We’re going to change that,” Biden said at the press conference.
To get an idea of what that number looks like, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) puts the United States GDP at $21.48 trillion as of 2020’s fourth quarter. Two percent of that would be a $429.6 billion investment in the sciences.
Among those scientific priorities, President Biden listed a number of technologies he deemed essential for further national investment including quantum computing, AI, and biotechnologies. A recent report said the United States needs to invest more than $200 billion to win the AI race.
“One of the reasons why I’ve set up the [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) … is we’re going to invest in medical research – cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, … industries of the future – artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotech. And we’re going to make real investments. China is out investing us by a longshot because their plan is to own that future,” President Biden said.
What remains unclear from the President’s remarks are what steps the government may attempt to engineer the big boost in science spending – whether by direct Federal funding or providing the private sector with incentives to do so.
Along with its specific components, the total price tag on the infrastructure bill also remains to be seen. Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to commit to the $3 trillion rumored price tag that has floated around the media and said Biden is still looking at the size and scope of the package.
But Psaki did appear to cast a wide net about what could be considered infrastructure. She indicated that the package could contain cyber infrastructure investments, making it something to watch for as the package is announced.
“There’s a lot of ways to look at infrastructure,” Psaki said at March 24 news conference. “Obviously, roads, rails, and bridges are part of what everybody historically thinks about. But there’s also components like our cyber infrastructure. There’s lots of ways to look at infrastructure. But … what is in a package that he proposes in the coming months, I don’t have anything more to detail for you.”