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Intel CEO pushes education, research spending

In a trip to Washington, Craig Barrett warns that the government must dole out more dollars to keep the United States competitive.

WASHINGTON--America must increase government spending on basic research and dramatically improve its education system if it hopes to remain competitive in information technology, Intel CEO Craig Barrett warned here Tuesday.

Barrett, an outspoken advocate of education reform, predicted that if U.S. politicians do nothing, companies in China and India will gain the upper hand in the marketplace. He said a good start would be doubling the budget for the National Science Foundation, which gives research grants to universities and has asked for $5.7 billion in 2005.

"A lot of the political debate is discouraging from my perspective," Barrett said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "It's not saying, 'How do we remain competitive?' It's, 'How do we protect what we have?'"

Barrett, who is here for a series of meetings with federal technology managers and members of Congress, also warned that antiterrorist measures and visa policies are leading to unintended consequences by reducing the number of foreign students studying in the United States.

"Either you decide you want to compete...or you become protectionist," Barrett said. "We somehow think that we have a God-given right to be the world's No. 1 economy forever."

Among technology CEOs, Barrett is not alone in sounding an alarm about American competitiveness. Earlier this year, Intel joined Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, IBM and other companies in a report warning of growing U.S. protectionism and citing China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines as growing exporters of computer hardware.

Barrett offered few specifics about how to fix America's primary and secondary school system, saying in response to a question about school vouchers that he endorses "anything that makes the system competitive" and adding that he would never want his grandchildren to attend the public schools near their home in Los Angeles.

He also took a swipe at an expected proposal from the Financial Accounting Standards Board to require the mandatory expensing of stock options, which critics have said will create a disincentive for companies to offer them. China's Communist leadership has enthusiastically embraced stock options in its latest five-year plan, Barrett said. "At the same time, the United States is trying to dictate them out of the way."