The aviation and telecommunication revolutions have conspired to make distance increasingly irrelevant. An important consequence of this is that US citizens, accustomed to competing with their neighbors for jobs, now must compete with candidates from all around the world. These candidates are numerous, highly motivated, increasingly well educated, and willing to work for a fraction of the compensation traditionally expected by US workers.
If the United States is to offset the latter disadvantage and provide its citizens with the opportunity for high-quality jobs, it will require the nation to excel at innovation--that is, to be first to market new products and services based on new knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. This capacity to discover, create and market will continue to be heavily dependent on the nation's prowess in science and technology.
Indicators of trends in these fields are, at best, highly disconcerting. While many factors warrant urgent attention, the two most critical are these: (1) America must repair its failing K-12 educational system, particularly in mathematics and science, in part by providing more teachers qualified to teach those subjects, and (2) the federal government must markedly increase its investment in basic research, that is, in the creation of new knowledge.
Only by providing leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can America continue to maintain a high standard of living--including providing national security--for its citizens.