Leading universities in US today expressed concern over major federal budget cuts to research and higher education and asked President Barack Obama to close the "innovation deficit." In an open letter to Obama, also addressed to members of the Congress, the presidents and chancellors of 165 universities said that "closing the innovation deficit - the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education" - must be a national imperative. They noted that investment in research and education leads to a better economy, creates jobs, and reduces the budget deficit, while ensuring the US maintains its role as global leader. "Throughout our history, this nation has kept the promise of a better tomorrow to each generation," the letter said. "This has been possible because of our economic prosperity based in large part on America's role as global innovation leader.
Failing to deal with the innovation deficit will pass to future generations the burdens of lost leadership in innovation, economic decline, and limited job opportunities," the university presidents wrote. The letter also called on Obama and members of Congress to reject the budget cuts. Economists claim that more than half of US economic growth since World War II is a consequence of technological innovation, much of which results from federally-funded scientific research conducted at US universities. The university leaders pointed out that over the past two decades, "China, Singapore, and South Korea have dramatically increased their investments in research and higher education, having seen the enormous benefits such investments have had for the US economy." The letter comes at a time when the Congress faces critical budget decisions in the coming months. Annual funding bills, the debt limit, and measures to eliminate or modify the deep across-the-board spending cuts forced by sequestration are all expected to come up for discussion during the fall. Focusing on innovation deficit, the university presidents wrote: "Because the innovation deficit undermines economic growth it harms our nation's overall fiscal health, worsening long-term budget deficits and debt." "Investments in research and education are not inconsistent with long-term deficit reduction; they are vital to it," it added.