Republican presidential candidate John McCain singled out research and development for federal investment on Wednesday while calling for smaller government and decrying spending on lawmakers' pet projects.
High-tech talent in the U.S. will play a key role in fighting both climate change and Islamic extremism, the senator from Arizona told attendees at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit. The gathering of Silicon Valley startups and venture capitalists gave McCain a mostly warm welcome amid a sagging campaign for the Republican nomination.
"I don't believe in government-paid-for technology, but I do believe, where necessary, government pure [research] has been successful, and we should go ahead and continue that, indeed increase it," McCain said. He also called for making permanent a federal tax credit for R&D spending by industry, to applause from the standing-room-only audience at Stanford University.
McCain attacked the growth of government under the Bush administration and "earmark" amendments that members of Congress add to unrelated bills in order to bring money into their districts. But he said new technologies will be critical in reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil and addressing climate change, among other things.
Asked whether a "green" energy initiative would be a strong psychological weapon against terrorists based in the Middle East, McCain said it would and called on Silicon Valley to help.
"If the brains and talent and innovation in this room, and this valley, are turned to green technologies ... then I am sure we will develop the technology to achieve it," McCain said.
The Internet also plays a big role in the fight against Islamic extremism, which will be the key challenge of the 21st century, according to McCain. Extremists have used Internet technology to organize and carry out attacks, but their opponents can use it, too, he said.
"It's military, it's intelligence, it's diplomatic, but it's also a psychological hearts-and-minds challenge," McCain said. "Your business is the business that will give us the tools and the ability to get [out] our message about the fundamental belief ... that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights."
McCain has a strong tie to Silicon Valley in John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems. Chambers is McCain's national campaign co-chair and economic and technology advisor. Like Chambers, McCain said increasing the availability of broadband should be one of the country's highest priorities.