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70 National Security Leaders Call on Congress to Address Immigration Bottlenecks for STEM Talent

-Editorial

A group of national security leaders sent a letter urging Congress to address the growing gap in advanced STEM talent with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Addressed to the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party, the letter details how current bottlenecks in the U.S. immigration system are hindering our nation’s ability to attract and retain skilled international workers, raising significant national security concerns.

The bipartisan coalition of signatories, which include former cabinet members, military leaders, congressional members, and presidential advisors, call on the committee to “conduct a substantive hearing examining the U.S. talent bottlenecks with knowledgeable witnesses and to issue a prescriptive report to committees with a jurisdictional mandate to take action.” 

U.S. leadership in technology rests in large part on the ability to leverage domestic and international talent.

“As national security leaders who have served in each of the past several administrations, we are united in calling on Congress to address the emerging gap in advanced STEM talent with China. From computing to aerospace, critical sectors of our defense-industrial base rely on attracting global STEM talent. For example, nearly two in three graduate students in the United States specializing in artificial intelligence and semiconductor-related programs were born abroad,” the letter stated. 

As this committee explores a wide range of issues, it has a critical opportunity to highlight the self-inflicted drag that immigration bottlenecks impose on U.S. competitiveness. Previous legislative efforts have considered exempting those with advanced STEM degrees from green card caps to better compete with China. That policy adjustment would respond appropriately to this national security concern, especially if paired with policies that protect government-supported research and development, such as the full implementation of NSPM-33. 

The letter noted that Indian STEM graduates can expect to wait for decades before being issued a green card. A recent study suggests about 80% of STEM master’s graduates leave the United States, largely as a result of policy restrictions. Inaction on resolving this bottleneck is already exacting a cost. In 2021, National Defense Industrial Association members identified the U.S. human capital gap as the single most vulnerable part of their supply chain. Recent studies show half of advanced STEM workers in the defense-industrial base were born abroad. These reports illustrate how efforts to onshore critical supply chains may not succeed unless we also onshore the talent necessary to compete.

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