Shortage of Scientists

August 13, 1954

Report Outline
Scarcity of Scientists and Engineers
Factors Underlying Personnel Shortage
Action to Expand Supply of Specialists

Scarcity of Scientists and Engineers

Crucial Need To Edpand U.S. Brain Power Resource

Shortages of scientists, engineers, and other highly trained specialists may threaten the nation's security as gravely as would shortages of bomber pilots, submarine crews, or other armed services personnel. Donald A. Quarles, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development, warned recently that the Soviet Union was cutting down the lead that has been held by the United States in weapons technology. At Quantico, Va, June 19, Quarles said: “On balance our technical position vis-a-vis the Soviets is less favorable than it was a year ago. Our margin of advantage has been narrowed.” President Eisenhower a month earlier had set up a Cabinet committee on the training of scientists and engineers.

Such action and words constituted a strong reminder that in modern warfare brainpower resources may well be as important as military resources. They were a reminder also that the time has come for the United States to pay more heed to developing its brainpower resources. An Office of Defense Mobilization study pointed out early this year that “In the event of an emergency, our resources of highly trained manpower will probably be the ultimate limiting factor in our capacity for mobilization.” Even in peace time, as the National Manpower Council observed last year, “this nation's economic and social well-being and its continued progress” depend to a large extent upon a small group of scientists and professionals, “The tense world situation,” the council added, “gives our resources of scientific and professional manpower a special importance.”

Vitally important as are those brainpower resources, the supply is woefully inadequate. A shortage of highly trained personnel made itself felt during World War II, and in 1947 President Truman's Scientific Research Board, composed of Cabinet members and other government officials, directed attention to a “shortage of highly trained scientists” that was “dangerous not only to our national welfare but to national security.” Two years ago, in August 1952, the Department of Labor listed no fewer than 61 occupations requiring scientific or specialized training in which critical personnel shortages existed; the occupations ranged from agronomist through chemist, engineer, geologist, and physicist to veterinarian.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
General Defense and National Security
Science and Mathematics Education