Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

FCC Technical Study

February 25, 2010

Mr. President, I am proud to cosponsor a bill Senator Snowe introduced today to conduct a study on the technical policy decision-making process and the availability of technical personnel at the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.  

Professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have always been our nation’s problem solvers.  They help us solve great challenges in energy, health, security, and transportation.  Their innovation creates jobs, jobs that will continue to lead us on the path to economic recovery.  

Still, the number of STEM professionals in some of our government’s most critical agencies has been declining.  In 1948, the FCC had 720 engineers on staff.  Today, while communications technologies have become increasingly complex, it has fewer than three hundred engineers.  Over the years, there has been a shift in the FCC from hiring engineers to hiring professional staff, resulting in a shortage of network engineers.  What is more, a high proportion of these experienced engineers are eligible to retire within the next few years.  That means that, as communications technology continues to change the way we engage our world, the FCC may face a critical shortage.

This legislation proposes a study by the National Academy of Sciences to address these issues.  Specifically, the study will examine the FCC’s technical policy decision-making, including if the FCC has the adequate resources, processes, and personnel in place to evaluate properly and to account for the technical aspects of the Commission’s rulemaking process.  It will also examine the current technical personnel staffing levels and FCC recruiting and hiring processes of technical staff and engineers.  Finally, the study will provide recommendations to improve each of these areas.

It is critical that we include engineers in our nation’s technical policy and decision making, at the FCC and across the government.  I am pleased that this study will explore the implications and offer recommendations for the decline of engineers in this important agency and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting Senator Snowe’s efforts.

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