Hon. Jo Ann Davis
Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 112 and I appreciate the Subcommittee’s interest in this legislation. Your strong support for those who have worn the uniform of our country is appreciated, and I am grateful to be here with you this morning.
I am pleased to offer a brief statement on H.R. 112, the GI Advanced Education in Science and Technology Act of 2007, and I would ask for the full text of my written statement to be entered into the record.
I represent Virginia’s First Congressional District, which is home to almost 100,000 active duty service members and veterans, one of the highest concentrations of active and former military personnel and their families in the country. Thousands of my constituents have taken advantage of the GI Bill as a result of their service to our country, and I am extremely supportive of this worthwhile veteran’s educational assistance program. I also believe that modifications and amendments to the GI Bill are appropriate, especially given the nature of the Global War on Terror and the increased operational tempo of our Reserve Component.
Additionally, I believe that we are facing serious challenges in our nation’s ability to retain its technological edge in the 21st Century. Our country is not producing enough graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, fields, and the forces of globalization are enabling recent graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to leave the United States and pursue work elsewhere.
I am concerned about this shortage because our economy has dramatically benefited from the innovation of such highly talented individuals. We simply must do whatever we can to ensure a future workforce of trained American scientists and engineers, and H.R. 112 will provide a critical additional incentive for transitioning service members to pursue “hard” science doctoral degrees. I believe one of the keys to reducing this shortage is education, and our nation’s GI Bill recipients are especially deserving of increased assistance to help defray the rising costs of doctoral education in science and technology.
Since the enactment of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, when the first GI Bill began, more than 21.3 million veterans, service members and family members have received $72.8 billion in GI Bill benefits for education and training. This includes 7.8 million veterans from World War II, 2.4 million from the Korean War and 8.2 million post-Korean and Vietnam era veterans, plus active duty personnel. Over the last 60 plus years, this legislation and its subsequent amendments have had an enormous social and economic impact on our nation, and I believe H.R. 112 will continue this tradition.
Since coming to Congress in 2001, I have observed some disturbing trends in the number of American graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields. Simply put, there are a decreasing number of American graduates in these hard sciences, yet our future economic competitiveness and perhaps our national security could be in jeopardy if we do not act positively.
Because of my committee assignments on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs and previous service on the Intelligence Committee, I realize that our nation relies on scientists and engineers now more than ever to ensure that our military remains strong and our country remains free. The Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community must have the technological advantages that come from technological development, and I believe that our transitioning veterans can help to fill the coming shortages in these key fields of innovation.
If a former service member who is eligible for the GI Bill would like to pursue a full-time doctoral degree in the sciences of engineering, mathematics, or technology disciplines, I believe that this choice deserves recognition. By expanding provisions of the existing Chapter 38 program under the Montgomery GI Bill, H.R. 112 would provide an inflation adjusted, monthly stipend of $1200 for up to 60 months to each individual who is entitled to veterans' basic educational assistance and is pursuing full-time a doctoral degree in the sciences of engineering, mathematics, or other technology disciplines, in addition to any other authorized Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance.
The requirements for payment include: (1) acceptance into a full time course of study leading to a doctorate into an accredited college or university, (2) an annual certification of enrollment by the veteran to the VA and (3) maintaining good academic standing throughout the course of study.
This legislation is a positive step for both our transitioning veterans and our future scientific workforce. The GI Bill continues to provide educational opportunities for those who have served our country, and H.R. 112 would provide a special incentive to help fill a coming critical shortage in our workforce.
Madam Chairwoman, I appreciate the opportunity to present this statement before the Subcommittee. Thank you for holding this hearing.