The Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlined some of the successes – and shortfalls – of a Federal government cross-agency program created to help reverse declining trends in U.S. advanced technology manufacturing in a recent blog posting.
GAO explained that U.S. advanced technology manufacturing has been sluggish in recent decades, evidenced by imports of advanced technology exceeding exports – and giving rise to Federal government action to help address that trend.
“To help increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, the Departments of Commerce (DoC), Defense (DoD), and Energy (DoE) have provided $1.7 billion to establish manufacturing innovation institutes that have become part of the Manufacturing USA network,” GAO said.
The network is intended to help reduce the gaps between the early stages of planning and providing equipment, while also providing help in later stages when companies are bringing products to market.
The network operates as a collaborative organization to include businesses, nonprofits, universities, and government agencies to work on creating new lessons and trainings that will help advance in the fields of robotics, biopharmaceuticals, and advanced fibers.
On the upside, “in fiscal year 2020 alone, more than 70,000 workers, students, and educators – ranging from high school students to veterans – participated in institute education programs, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” GAO said.
But GAO said that Commerce needs to work with DoE and the Pentagon Defense to set goals on the progression of the program.
“We recommended that Commerce work with Defense and Energy to develop network-wide performance goals with measurable targets and time frames, and ensure they are linked to the long-term goals and objectives,” the watchdog agency said.