WASHINGTON (CNN) - The president pledged Monday to restore America's "commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation," a responsibility he said has been undermined by a combination of neglect and "predetermined ideological agendas."
Among other things, President Barack Obama set a goal of devoting more than 3 percent of the country's gross domestic product to scientific research and development. He also promised new federal funding to help address gaps in math and science education.
Over the past half century, "our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income," Obama warned in an address to the National Academy of Sciences.
"As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries."
The president promised "the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history" because such work is "more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been."
Obama pointed out that the recently passed $787 billion economic stimulus bill included the "largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history."
He also noted that his proposed fiscal year 2010 budget - as well as the budget bills that have passed the House and Senate - doubles the budget of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Striking a more political tone, Obama offered what many observers may consider to be criticism of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, arguing that "scientific integrity has (recently) been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas."
Obama signed an executive order in March that repealed a Bush-era policy limiting federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research. He also signed a memorandum designed to ensure greater political independence for federal science policies and programs.
The president also used his appearance before the Academy to announce funding for a new institute called the "Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy," charged with conducting "high-risk, high-reward research" similar to the kind of work that resulted in the creation of the Internet, improved stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System.
It would be modeled, he said, after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik launch.
"When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a little more than a half century ago, Americans ... had a choice to make: we could accept defeat - or we could accept the challenge," Obama said. "And as always, we chose to accept the challenge."
The president argued that it is now time for the country to tackle new challenges presented in the form of global warming, cancer and other problems.
To help do so, he announced the appointment of members to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
"This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experiences and views," he said. "I will charge (it) with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation."
Obama said the council will be jointly chaired by John Holdren, his top science advisor; Eric Lander, one of the heads of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, a former head of the National Institutes of Health.
Finally, the president warned that the country is also facing a shortfall of qualified math and science teachers.
He noted that, in high school, "more than 20 percent of students in math and more than 60 percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields."
He highlighted a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers nationwide by 2015.
To help address the shortfall, Obama announced that states making "strong commitments and progress" in math and science education will soon be eligible to compete for additional funds from the Department of Education.
"I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms," he said.
"And I am challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our schools."