There is growing and authoritative concern that the erosion of America’s manufacturing and high technology base threatens to undermine U.S. leadership in next-generation technologies and the high value-added employment gains that would follow expanded U.S. high technology production and exports. Moreover, some analysts argue that maintaining a competitive onshore manufacturing sector and the associated skilled labor and technical institutions are linked and essential for long-term national competitiveness. They note that once manufacturing activity moves overseas, so do the required skills, networks and supply chains; and once offshore they, and the learning they engender, are difficult to recover. These analysts therefore argue that it is important for U.S. policymakers to be concerned with the capabilities and composition of the economy, just as policymakers are elsewhere. At the same time, the emergence of new technologies and other favorable developments, such as shifts in energy costs, open fresh windows of opportunity for manufacturing in the United States that can to be exploited by new policies.
Given that a strong domestic manufacturing base is integral to sustaining innovation and maintaining global competitiveness in advanced technologies and critical to national security, the United States needs to augment its efforts to support U.S.-based manufacturing. The next chapters describe how the MEP contributes to this mission, and how it could be improved and expanded, based on this assessment and as well as learning from best practice lessons from leading applied research and manufacturing programs from around the world.