Statement by Speaker Gingrich, October 23, 1997
Let me thank all of you for coming, and let me-I want to very briefly walk you through a way of thinking about where we're going and why. Jim and I talked with Vernon Ehlers about undertaking this. I use a planning model, it's pretty straightforward, it's a hierarchy of four words-vision, strategy, projects and tactics, and it's designed to say, "First of all, what's your vision of where we're going?"
We derived this, in part, from studying Alfred Sloan and George Marshall and the manner in which the allies ran World War II, and if you find that to real-and it helped shape Vannevar Bush's [ph] approach to things.
lf you first force yourself to ask the big questions, it changes how you, later on, answer the small questions, and one of the great problems we have is that we've built over the last 50 years this huge antigen of science and technology and engineering, which is now so inundated with its own technical knowledge, that it's almost impossible for it to become coherent.
This is more than C.P. Snow's argument about "the two cultures," which essentially boils down to the notion if you knew anything about science and math you were inarticulate, and if you were articulate you almost certainly knew nothing. So those who could talk didn't know anything to talk about and those who knew things couldn't explain them, which explained the paramount of our whole approach to science over the last 50 years.
But this is a different problem. It's the problem that systems, as they grow larger, grow so complex and hard to explain, that they rapidly degenerate down to describing projects and tactics to those of profound wisdom.
That is of almost no use to us here. What we need is something very different. We need to go back to the vision level, and ask a series of very large questions, almost like those asked in'45 and '46, and '47, about how--what is our purpose over the next generation or more, how do we organize to that purpose, and how do we resource to that purpose, and then how do we measure whether or not we're making progress.
And I think it's very hard to get people to rise to that level of generality, partly because they assume it must be fluff, if it's not hard in the sense of whatever it is you're working on recently. And partially because it's hard. Take the totality of all the different areas where we're currently undergoing dramatic changes in knowledge, and try to figure out how you get those in a room. By the time that each of them explains to the others what it is they know, the room is exhausted by the act of having heard each other, and you still haven't necessarily created a consensus along that division level.
The second point is strategy. I'm going to come back to this in a minute. But once you-we ought to have a vision statement that's no more than a page long. We then ought to have a series of strategies, each of them a page at the most, too, to implement that vision.
Projects on this level, which is a Peter Drucker and resembling a kind of entrepreneurial model-the project is a definable delegatable [ph] achievement. Again, it's the essence of we fought World War II, where the responsibility was indivisible and command was single.
You said to people, "Go get X done," and then they either got it done or they didn't. You didn't just say go do things. The difference is bureaucracies love process. The simplest example is cooking. The bureaucratic instruction is, "Please cook", someone here can be boiling water, somebody else can make bread, the third person can make a pizza. And then call and say, "Howls the cooking coming?" 'Terrific."
A project, a definable delegated achievement is when you fix dinner for 12 people for $8 a piece, Mexican food by 7:00 o'clock this evening, again, it's the essence of how we grow a big system, because--before we drown ourselves in shared responsibility and bureaucracy. And finally, what do you do every day, tactically?
I would suggest to you a couple quick things. First, we're on the edge of an enormous worldwide dual revolution in knowledge and in economics.
Now the way I describe the future for America is a triangle. One side's the Information Age; one side's the world market; the base is American civilization and culture. And that the job for our political leadership is to figure out how to make those three sides of the triangle reinforce each other and work together.
ln that framework, what I'm trying to ask you to do is to go to the top level-Edward 0. Wilson's working on a new book which he calls "Consilience" [ph], his argument being that in many ways the knowledge--this is sort of the Santa Fe Institute [inaudible]--but the knowledge base is actually beginning to come together across a very broad range of disciplines and create some kind of resonance that allows us to talk to ourselves.
I would describe it very differently, and in maybe a simpler way. I believe we need to be conceptually thinking about electronic encyclopedias.
That is, if you go out to NIH and say,"tell me what you're learning on the human genome project-tell me how many years it will be until the average practicing doctor knows it." The gaps are enormous. If you say, all right, if we were to go around at the National Academy of Sciences, and say,"tell me the areas in which there are paradigm level developments occurring, and let's list all of them." How many of those should an informed, sophisticated person know about? What's the vehicle for knowing about it?
How do you have a reasonable discussion at that level about the rate of change? And so part of what I'm suggesting to you is we need to ask ourselves what are the information systems requirements, how do you organize knowledge so--so relatively smart but very busy people have some reasonable ability to acquire lt?
One of the reasons I was for getting rid of the Office of Technology Assessment, frankly, is that it was bureaucratized. I didn't want third level bureaucrats doing their version of what they thought they got from second level bureaucrats who had talked to the Nobel Prize winner and thought they understood.
I'd like to actually come back-that's one of the questions I'd ask Vernon--and I think he has a very big interest in looking at--how do we build, whether through the National Academy or somewhere, a routine ability to, when there's a science issue, you want the four best scientists in the country talking to the Member of Congress not talking to the congressional staffs.
There's a difference in quality of the information and mind between the best people on a topic and the third best people on a topic, is enormous. And what you really get is, you get a master's degree holder who sort of vaguely thinks they may understand what the person may or may not have said, which may or may not be what the person meant to say.
And there's just an enormous difference in the quality of information flow, and we don't, today, have a good pattern, where a Member of Congress has a routine sense of saying, "I'd like to know about X. Where can I fairly efficiently have an hour- long discussion on that topic?"
And just moving to that level of dialogue will change the quality of congressional leadership, and change the way we approach things. It also means that those of us who have to talk in common English to 600,000 people will begin to start saying to people who can talk in very complex English,"What does it mean? Tell it to me again."
Now I have basically about four big suggestions here. I just testified this moming--it's perfect that we're having this luncheon today. This moming I testified at the Budget Committee, and I said as we look at what's planned for a generation of change I said there are three things vue need to do. We need to run a balanced budget with a surplus, so we're paying down some of the debt, in my judgment, $20 or $30 billion a year would be more than enough, and that would then, frankly, lower interest rates dramatically and we'd have all sorts of profound second order effects.
And as you start to pay that down, you can both pay off the Trust Fund, the Transportation Trust Fund, and you then begin to create the ability to give the baby boomers and their kids a different approach to Social Security within a very stable system.
Second, I said we ought to have some tax cuts because we have to return some revenue to the American people, basically the model Field and Gladstone [ph] used to make in '48 and '70.
Third, we ought to modernize. We ought to modernize science, we ought to modernize defense, and we ought to modernize transportation. And that'll be a conscious goal on our part. We have to lead the planet. There is no other country that can do it. To lead the planet, we have to lead in science and we have to lead in defense. And we have to lead in both by large enough margins.
And so rather than come to you and say, "Here's our budget," what are we going to do with your share of the money for science-what I'm trying to do is reverse this whole argument.
You give me a mission large enough to mobilize the nation. You give me a set of strategic investments large enough to be worth doing, and then make it my problem to go out and figure out how to find the money.
And this should be basically-if you went back and looked at the vision of science in 1945 among the average citizen, in the average town in America, and the boldness of what Vannevar Bush proposed, and you look at how much of it we did, and how routinely and consistently we did it-we increased education through things like the GI Bill. We increased the investment in science. We increased our capacity to do very basic science. We built big science in a peacetime America, with huge quantities of money, that would have been unthinkable prior to 1940.
And I'm just here to suggest to you what we need to do is have the moral courage to take a deep step back, don't come and tell me how you need $3 million more dollars for the next marginal project, that really fits everything you're doing--take a deep step back and say, If we had a blank slate tomorrow morning and we could pull together a group of people to talk about the real flow of information in virtually real time, the human relationships that allow us to learn fast enough because the world is changing-the scale of the questions you ought to be answering, the nature of the projects you ought to be leading, recognizing it's a world science system, it's a world market, and that we have to be capable of leading on a world basis.
So you can't just talk about American science, particularly when we consider how many of our Nobel Prize winners didn't start in America, and we count them all as Americans. It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger's an American.
We're an enormously successful country, saying to everybody, Show up here, bring your best idea, get rich and be happy. If you're not happy, at least you'll be able to afford the therapy.
So I would like to really challenge you--how did we relate to you?, and on a much more sophisticated level than that--and then we can talk about reform. Where are we going and how do we go with a citizen-oriented, nationwide, real-time data capability, that allows us to really move, and then what are the projects large enough, that if we were to have an alumni meeting 20 years from now, we could say, "that was worth doing. That made a big difference."
That's my vision of why we're here, why I hope you'll work on it, and I look forward very much to hearing from Vernon and Jim as you develop it. Thank you very much.