Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) met with several local leaders in education, business, tech, and cybersecurity Wednesday as part of a tour around the nation promoting the Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America #1.
The Innovation Agenda, which was started by House Democrats in 2007, is an investment effort intended to bolster United States programs and efforts in entrepreneurship, energy, education, and research and development, among other areas, to keep the country competitive in the changing global community.
The agenda is informed by input and expertise gathered at meetings from various stakeholders. At a press conference following Wednesday’s private meeting, both Castro and Pelosi said that San Antonio is on the cutting edge as far as cities evolving with new industries and innovative strategies go.
In recent years, San Antonio has become “the most significant cybersecurity city in the country” besides Washington D.C., Pelosi said, applauding the efforts of Castro, who has been at the forefront of strengthening local cybersecurity efforts along with UTSA and Lackland Air Force Base.
Lackland was chosen out of more than a dozen other bases around the country to house the Air Force Cyber Command (24th Air Force), which is the first numbered Air Force unit specifically for cybersecurity operations.
“We had a great conversation today on concrete suggestions on how the federal government can be better about partnering with San Antonio to make sure that those industries expand,” Castro said, “(and) not only (in) our traditional industries, but in bio sciences, healthcare, (and) high technology to make sure that our economy continues to grow and we create jobs and make sure that there’s prosperity in our community.”
One of the main takeaways of the meeting was “recognizing that innovation begins in the classroom,” Pelosi said, and you can always point to robust educational opportunities as markers of especially pioneering communities.
Each of the efforts in the Innovation Agenda are submitted and, if they’re chosen to get enacted, get funded on a pay-as-you-go basis to ensure that new spending or tax cuts do not add to the national deficit.
The first Innovation Agenda developed in 2007 included 22 proposals, 21 of which were passed into law, Pelosi said. These efforts included extending and improving clean energy tax incentives for various types of renewable energy sources, increased funding for education, and many other projects.
The one proposal that didn’t make it into law was comprehensive immigration reform, Pelosi said.
“We all know that that’s important to the competitiveness of America, to keep America No. 1 … (recognizing) the value of immigrants to our country,” she said. “We’re still working very hard to get that done.”
This year’s updated program – Innovation Agenda 2.0 – involves insight from two years worth of forums led by House Democrats across the country to help gain the advice and expertise of U.S. leaders from a range of sectors on how to expand it.
“Now … we’re going around again in light of things like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and the rest to freshen up the innovation agenda with new legislation to take us into the future,” Pelosi said.
Congress has already begun gathering bipartisan support to help implement the Innovation Agenda to assert the U.S.’s “global economic leadership, create new business ventures and jobs, and give future generations their own opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” according to an official Innovation Agenda document.
Key goals in the updated agenda include boosting education and skill training in STEM fields, increasing affordable access to broadband technology, creating a sustained federal research and development commitment to promote innovation in the private sector, implementing more sustainable energy alternatives, strengthening national security and cybersecurity, and equipping small businesses with tools to foster innovation and create jobs.
Both Pelosi and Castro stressed the importance of public-private collaboration for the project’s success, especially in terms of broadening the city’s cybersecurity programs.
“If we’re going to make sure that there is cybersecurity for individuals, for businesses, the government has to work with the private sector for improvements,” Pelosi said.
Marina Gavito, COO of local tech advocacy organization Tech Bloc who accompanied Castro and Pelosi at the press conference, said the day’s conversation was passionate and inspiring.
“Today was an exciting day with our business and academic leaders coming together,” she said. One of the biggest takeaways, she added, was how important it is for the government and education industry to come together to ensure progress. “It was good to recognize our strengths and also see what we have to do to move forward.”
Castro and Pelosi also commented on the quickly approaching presidential election in November and said that Trump’s campaign has created harsh divides among various groups in the country.
“I do think (Trump’s rhetoric) contributes to an attitude in the campaign that is unhealthy for our country,” Pelosi said. “…What he is doing is beneath the dignity of the office of president, beneath the respect we should have for the American people who will make this decision.”
Castro said the divisiveness shown in Trump’s rhetoric is not what the U.S. needs to create a progressive present and future.
“We need somebody in American now, a president who is going to bring people together, not somebody who is going to be tweeting insults at anybody at three in the morning or using derogatory language whether it’s about the disabled, veterans, minorities or women,” he said.
“That’s not the kind of leader we need in the United States right now.”