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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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March 11, 2008 1:50 PM

Mr. Gates goes to Washington as Microsoft gets more H-1Bs than any U.S. tech

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday morning in what is likely his last appearance on Capitol Hill as a full-timer at the company he co-founded.


DENNIS COOK / AP

Bill Gates, right, talks to Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Patty Murray in this March 2007 photo.

As he did just more than a year ago, Gates is expected to press Congress on the need to raise the cap on H-1B visas and improve the quality of U.S. high school graduates -- particularly in math and science. (Update, 9:40 a.m., Wednesday: Here's Gates written testimony, a 20-page PDF. Excerpts after the jump.)

BusinessWeek, having reviewed the latest H-1B numbers, reports that "Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80 percent of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program." Only two "traditional U.S. tech companies" are among the top 10 participants. Can you guess who?

"Microsoft received 959 visa petition approvals, or one fifth as many as Infosys [Technologies, the top participant], while Intel got 369," BusinessWeek reports. Two other companies in the top 10, the story notes, are technically based in the U.S. but have most of their operations in India.

For more, see this AP preview of Gates' appearance, which includes some evaluation of immigration reforms' chances in an election year.

Update, 10:10 a.m. Wednesday: Here are some excerpts from Gates' written testimony Wednesday. The full transcript is linked above.

As always, Gates is optimistic about the potential of technology. But, he wrote, "I am less optimistic, however, that the United States will continue to remain a global leader in technology innovation."

He cited two reasons for concern that America's advantage is slipping away:

"First, we face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies. Second, the public and private sectors are no longer investing in basic research and development (R&D) at the levels needed to drive long-term innovation."

The U.S. must commit to "a strategy for innovation excellence" if it wants to to retain its leadership position, he wrote. The strategy would involve policy changes aimed at: Strengthening educational opportunities; revamping immigration rules for highly skilled workers; increasing federal funding for basic scientific research; and, providing incentives for private-sector R&D.

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