Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work

“It is our generation’s task, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth —
a rising, thriving middle class,”

— President Barack Obama

Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work


America’s economic growth and international competitiveness depend on our capacity to innovate. President Obama believes that we will create the jobs and industries of the future and restore middle class security by doing what America does best – investing in the creativity and imagination of our people. We must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world to ensure that our nation achieves rapid, sustained and broad-based economic growth. 

Foundations of Innovation

The innovations that will drive America’s economic growth and competitiveness require critical investments in basic foundations: our workforce, our scientific research, and our infrastructure.

21st Century Wireless Infrastructure: President Obama’s National Wireless Initiative will make high-speed wireless services available to at least 98 percent of Americans. Ensuring wireless providers can offer new broadband services will allow more Americans to use the Internet to learn, work, and play—regardless of where they live. The President’s plan will unlock 500 Mhz of additional spectrum (airwaves used for cell phones, TV, and other wireless services) over the next 10 years. The President’s plan will also support advances in security, reliability, and other critical features by investing in research and development in wireless technology. By auctioning spectrum to commercial companies, we can use the proceeds to fund a new mobile broadband network for public safety first responders, as well as to reduce the national deficit by approximately $10 billion.

Broadband: Broadband infrastructure is key to a 21st century information economy. Through $7 billion in targeted investments from the Recovery Act, the Administration has expanded broadband access nationwide, improved high-speed connectivity to rural areas and public computer centers, and increased Internet capacity in schools, libraries, public safety agencies, and other community buildings.

Global Internet policy: Today, 21 percent of job growth in the U.S. is attributable to the Internet economy and 2.6 new jobs are created for every one job Internet businesses replace. However, the explosive innovation and strong economic growth in the Internet is at risk due to rising barriers to the free flow of information online. In order to assure continued job growth in this sector, the Administration has taken initiatives to encourage our allies and trading partners toward a global Internet policy framework that preserves the open nature of the Internet environment through 21st century trade commitments. This initiative has yielded the President’s International Strategy on Cyberspace and the commitment of the 34 countries at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to a comprehensive set of Internet Policymaking Principles. We are applying these Internet innovation principles in our work on privacy, cyber security and copyright, to preserve the Internet as a source of growth and greater possibility for America and the World.

Building a smarter electric grid: A 21st century electric system is essential to America's ability to lead the world and create jobs in the clean-energy economy of the future. As part of the Recovery Act, we invested more than $4.5 billion for electricity delivery and energy reliability modernization. To ensure that all Americans benefit from these smart grid investments, the Administration released a policy framework and a series of new initiatives in June 2011 that will empower consumers, improve the reliability of the electric grid, and spur innovation.

Education: The Administration is developing new initiatives to improve K-12 education with an emphasis on graduating every student from high school ready for college and a career. The Administration’s FY 2012 Budget will launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED) to support research on breakthrough technologies to enhance learning. The Budget also supports continuation of the historic Race to the Top, with an expanded focus on school districts prepared to implement and sustain comprehensive reforms. Working with a coalition of private sector leaders called Change the Equation, the Administration is encouraging public-private partnerships that inspire more students – including girls and other currently underrepresented groups – to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Administration is committed to graduating 10,000 more engineers every year. The Administration is also working to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade with a down payment in the FY 2012 Budget to recruit STEM teachers and improve teacher training.

Research and Development: Research and development (R&D) is critical to American prosperity and competitiveness. The commercial innovations that drive economic progress often depend on breakthroughs in fundamental science. President Obama has implemented the largest increase in federally funded research in history and is making continuous investments to double funding for three key basic research agencies: the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories. These sustained science investments will lay the foundation for new discoveries and new technologies that will improve our lives and create the jobs and industries of the future.

Building a 21st Century Patent System 

On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act, which will help American entrepreneurs and businesses get their inventions to the marketplace sooner so that they can turn their inventions into new products and new jobs. The America Invents Act was passed with President Obama’s strong leadership after nearly a decade of effort to reform the nation’s outdated patent laws. It will help companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation, and let them focus instead on innovation and job creation.

The newly signed law has a number of important features:

Backlog reduction: The law will give the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) the resources to significantly reduce patent application waiting times, building on the great strides the USPTO has already made, including reducing its backlog by 75,000 during this Administration even as the number of filings per year has increased. The USPTO will now implement an innovative program to speed up the processing of the patents that are likely to create good jobs right away. Under the prioritized examination process, the USPTO will offer start-ups and growing companies an opportunity to have important patents reviewed in one-third the time with a new fast-track option that has a guaranteed 12-month turnaround.  

Strengthening patent quality: Patent reform will improve the quality of U.S. patents, making it easier to invest in innovative ideas with confidence. Improved processes will benefit inventors, whether at a large company or tinkering in a garage, who seek to prove the novelty of their ideas.  As Director Kappos recently explained, “[w]hile speed is essential to a well-functioning USPTO, patent quality is the sine qua non of our success, and we are all deeply committed to ensuring patent quality.” 

Reducing needless patent lawsuits: The America Invents Act offers entrepreneurs new ways to avoid litigation regarding patent validity, without the expense of  going to court, and also gives the USPTO new tools and resources to improve patent quality.

Going global with American innovation: The new law also harmonizes the American patent process with the rest of the world to make it more efficient and predictable, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to simultaneously market products in the United States and for exporting abroad.

Investing in National Priorities

There are certain sectors of exceptional national importance where the market is unlikely to produce the desired outcomes on its own. In these industries, President Obama believes that government can and should be part of the solution, helping to spur technological advances that are the foundation of higher-paying jobs and national competitiveness. By staying on the forefront of technological change in these critical areas, we can ensure that the businesses and jobs of the future are created here in America:

Unleash a clean energy revolution: The transition to a clean energy future has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs. The President is committed to fostering American leadership in this area while confronting environmental challenges and enhancing our energy security. To accelerate the development of clean energy technologies, the President has proposed a Clean Energy Standard that will help us reach a goal of delivering 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean sources by 2035. Investing in research and development in clean energy technologies is key to American competitiveness in this area, and the Administration’s FY 2012 Budget continues to invest in Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and creates three new Energy Innovations Hubs. The Budget also proposes a reauthorization of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit and provides funding for research, development, and deployment to help the U.S. reach the goal of 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015.

Accelerate biotechnology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing: The President is committed to investments in innovation that promise to drive better health, future economic growth and quality jobs in America. The National Institutes of Health has proposed a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which will speed the development of new diagnostics, treatments, and cures by building new bridges between the lab and clinic. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is investing in areas such as nano-electronics, which will foster a revolution in computing comparable to the transition from the vacuum tube to the transistor. And in June, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort that brings industry, universities, and the Federal Government together to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

Develop breakthrough space capabilities and applications: Space capabilities play critical roles in global communications, navigation, and commerce, while warning of natural disasters and improving national security. Guided by the National Space Policy, NASA, the Department of Defense, and other agencies are working to advance U.S. capabilities and expand American industry’s role in developing next-generation applications.

Drive breakthroughs in health care technology: Innovations in health care delivery -- harnessing the power of data and technology -- promise to help prevent medical errors, improve care quality, and reduce costs. Building from the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, the Administration is continuously engaged in projects to promote health IT adoption, reform payment incentives to reward value instead of volume, and liberate an unprecedented amount of health information. In combination, these trends will facilitate fundamental improvements in national health and harness American ingenuity in solving our health care challenges.

Create a quantum leap in educational technologies: The United States should foster innovation in technologies that have the potential to dramatically improve student performance, such as software that is as effective as a personal tutor, and increase access to lifelong learning and training for American workers. The President’s FY 2012 Budget for the Department of Education includes a proposal to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education, a new organization that will support research on breakthrough technologies to enhance learning.

See also: Innovation