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Intel exec fears for U.S. competitiveness

"We have a lousy education system," says Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger. "We have a weak infrastructure that is decaying."

SAN FRANCISCO--Echoing concerns voiced by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, a top Intel executive warned on Thursday that the United States risks becoming a second-tier technology player because of a declining educational system.

"We have a lousy education system," Intel Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger said, speaking on a panel of technology leaders at the Intel Developer Forum here. "We have a weak infrastructure that is decaying."

Gelsinger noted that companies like Intel can adjust by hiring workers in other places but said the consequences for the United States could be devastating. He has noted in the past that the decline in the number of doctorates being awarded is particularly troubling.

"As a global company, this is OK," he said. "As a U.S. citizen, I am fearful. I just fear for our long-term competitiveness."

Microsoft Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie echoed those concerns. "The U.S. is increasingly in a deficit situation in its education," Mundie said.

Mundie's boss, Gates, last week put a finer point on it, declaring that "America's high schools are obsolete."

Asked where one might find the next batch of talented engineers, Mundie pointed to Russia as one place Microsoft does not yet have a research center. He noted that the country's heritage in math and science offers a kind of "formalism" that could become important in solving an emerging class of technical problems.

Gelsinger said he was interested in the Middle East. Intel already has a vast development effort in Israel, but he said other countries are also interesting, noting that the company is planning to bring a version of the Intel Developer Forum to Egypt.