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IEEE Advocates Limits On Offshore Outsourcing

The engineers' organization says the feds should collect data about offshoring, restrict government use of offshoring unless it poses no competitive or security threat, and expand training programs for displaced workers.
SAN JOSE, Calif.--The IEEE-USA is weighing in on the rising national debate on offshoring jobs with a position paper it expects to release Monday. The paper falls short of advocating a ban, but it details actions to monitor and limit the trend of sending tech jobs overseas.

The position paper calls on the government to begin collecting data about offshore outsourcing, restrict government use of offshoring unless it clearly poses no threat to U.S. competitiveness and security, and expand training programs for displaced workers. The paper also calls for government to close loopholes in H-1B and L-1 foreign worker visas and develop a national strategy to bolster U.S. R&D and education.

The IEEE-USA will use the position paper to lobby Congress, where more than a dozen bills on offshore outsourcing are pending. However, the group does not expect to take a position in this year's presidential race, where the issue is being hotly debated.

"I think Congress will hold hearings on offshoring, but given it's an election year, I give it about a 50/50 chance of happening this year," says John W. Steadman, president of IEEE-USA and dean of the College of Engineering at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

"Offshoring is a complex issue. It's clear there are some areas where if you prohibit any level of offshoring, companies could fold," adds Steadman, who became president of the group of more than 225,000 engineers in January.

"The offshoring of high-wage jobs from the United States to lower-cost overseas locations is currently contributing to unprecedented levels of unemployment among American electrical, electronics, and computer engineers," the paper states. "It is abundantly clear that many of the jobs being sent offshore were formerly held by U.S. engineers, computer scientists, and other information-technology professionals," it says.

According to the statement, U.S. tech firms shed 560,000 jobs between 2001 and 2003 and expect to lose another 234,000 in 2004.

Separately, the American Electronics Association expects to issue a position statement on offshore outsourcing later this month. The group, which represents more than 3,000 companies, is expected to take a broad pro-business stance on the issue.

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