The American economy is strong and expanding. Unemployment is at record lows, inflation is under control, wages are surging for workers, and retirement and investment accounts are growing with a rising stock market. But new technologies have the potential to create even more opportunities for our country. American leaders need to establish the best plans and policies to strengthen our economy in the future.
I am working with the Trump Administration to prepare America for what we call “Industries of the Future” – jobs involving artificial intelligence, quantum information science, advanced manufacturing, and the next generation of wireless communications technology (5G).
In the future American economy, these promising new technologies will automate mundane tasks, freeing human employees to pursue new creative challenges. And they will allow designers to create products with microscopic precision and in mass quantities at lower costs. These advances could revolutionize entire industries, create jobs, improve quality of life, and promote national security.
Preparing for the Jobs of the Future
America has benefitted immensely from investments in science, technology, and research. Some of the same technologies and infrastructure that were developed for national defense have later grown beyond their intended uses and formed the foundation of our modern economy.
For example, investments in aviation and the interstate highway system now connect more Americans to centers of economic activity than ever before. Early computers and military communications network experiments have been transformed into the smart phones many Americans carry in their pockets. Most young people today have never even heard of a road atlas, an essential collection of state and city maps I relied on before the advent of mapping apps.
To realize the full potential of emerging industries, America needs to take the lead on creating these technologies before our rivals use them to build economic and military advantages of their own.
Earlier this month I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that our government remains focused on this task. The Industries of the Future Act of 2020 would double the baseline investment in these programs by 2022 and increase support of these next generation technologies to at least $10 billion by 2025.
More Workers Needed to Deploy 5G
In addition to funding, there is also a need for new workers to deploy the 5G networks to take advantage of these technologies. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I recently held a hearing to consider these workforce challenges. Jimmy Miller, Chairman of the National Association of Tower Erectors and President and CEO of Gulfport-based MillerCo, which maintains cell towers and other wireless infrastructure, told the committee there are approximately 29,000 tower climbers prepared to install 5G equipment. However, he and other experts project a need of 20,000 additional workers to meet rising demand and even more to lay fiber to support wireless connections and install radios and other essential equipment.
Addressing these challenges will be critical for the U.S. to deploy 5G networks quickly.I will continue to work with Trump Administration officials and my colleagues on the Commerce Committee to win the race to 5G and to ensure the United States is prepared to capture the maximum benefit from other Industries of the Future. If we get the policy right, these technological innovations will help maintain America’s status as the world’s strongest economic and military power.