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NIST Centennial Gala: Donald Evans

Welcome everyone. I'm pleased and honored to be here this evening to share in the celebration honoring one of America's treasured resources.

I visited NIST shortly after my confirmation and I said then, as I will now, I'm proud of this agency and the role it has played creating the environment in which our nation's businesses can thrive here and abroad. The work performed by the fine people at NIST is especially important in this age of technology and has, in fact, contributed to the tremendous growth experienced in the high-tech sector of our economy.

I'm a businessman, so I appreciate – I demand – a good investment.  And American taxpayers have always received a high rate of return on their investment from NIST. The work of this agency touches us in so many work, at home and at play.

NIST scientists were there when America needed a reliable navigation system that would allow airplanes to land safely in poor weather. Work of the agency paved the way for the introduction of the radio into virtually every American home.

Just last week, the people of Seattle benefited greatly from NIST's leadership in the development of earthquake resistant-building design and construction, which prevented the human and economic injury there from being much, much worse.

And really close to my heart as an oil and gas man, NIST innovations have allowed trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and billions of barrels of oil – to be accounted for accurately, saving millions of dollars for industry and consumers.

NIST did some of its best work during very demanding times for our people...including the research that lead to large scale production of synthetic rubber during World War II.

NIST, along with other agencies, was very active during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when the federal government spent the equivalent of about 2 percent of GDP on research and development. This involvement contributed heavily to the economic progress we are enjoying today -- to increases in productivity and higher employment levels.

This progress has brought greater opportunities for Americans and a higher standard of living.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the federal government currently spends the equivalent of about .7 percent (seven 10ths of one percent) of GDP for research. The federal commitment to R&D has been cut in half since the mid-60s, when spending on the space program and national defense took a bigger chunk of the budget.

I think we have to take a look at where we currently stand on federal spending for research and development We want to make sure that our commitment to R&D is reasonable and effective. In that regard, the federal government should be a leader and reach into the future with its commitments to research and development.

We should look 10, 20 and 30 years into the future. We must set our sights not on the next quarter, but on the next quarter century. My friends, future discoveries will be found in the labs, universities and other research venues that are funded by partnerships among the federal government, state governments and academia.

And NIST must be a part of these efforts and the creation of innovations that will carry our economy into the future.

We should also be aware that NIST's work with industry on standards has helped American companies compete in the global marketplace. As barriers to international trade and commerce come down, economic integration goes up. And NIST needs to be in the mix, helping develop uniform standards that promote increased trade opportunities. This role is absolutely critical to creating the environment in  which American businesses can prosper at home and abroad. I expect that cooperation and trust between NIST and the private sector will continue to be close as we globalize standards and bring about a level playing field in international trade that allows participants to prosper.

It's clear that NIST has worked successfully with its counterparts around the world, which is evident by the many distinguished international guests we have with us tonight.

All told, this is quite a list of accomplishments.  And it was made possible by the remarkable quality of the people working at the agency. That quality is told by the fact that NIST is one of only a few federal institutions able to claim a Nobel Prize winner, Dr. William D. Phillips, and a winner of the National Medal of Science, Dr. John W. Cahn.

Let me close by thanking the agency for its first 100 years of service to the nation and by saying that I look forward to working with its fine people there.

Thank you, and enjoy your evening.

Created October 14, 2009, Updated October 24, 2016