The National Defence Education Act (NDEA) was passed shortly after the Soviet launch of the satellite Sputnik I with the goal of remedying what the American government believed to be a gap in technology between the two nations by promoting science and engineering education at a high-school and post-secondary level. My question is, how successful was it? The most obvious answer would be "Well, they were the first to the moon!" But I am wondering more from a statistical standpoint. I have found a couple of sources detailing employment in science and engineering after the passing of the NDEA as well as a CIA report (The Technological Gap: The USSR vs the US and Western Europe) on a comparison between the technological trends of the two nations a number of years after, but I am wondering if there was every any official follow up report by the American government on the issue. Employment statistics and large engineering projects tell one story, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the NDEA was a success, especially during a time when America was pouring millions upon millions of dollars into massive RnD projects.

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    It obviously depends upon what is meant by "successful". Certainly this caused basic science (math, physics, chem, et al) to be taken more seriously, in an intellectual/scientific climate in the U.S. which was emphatically applied-engineering-oriented at the time. In those days, math, especially, was just a service department in most universities. In the U.S., the broad idea that "math research" (or physics? I'm much less expert...) made any sense was a radical novelty. So, at least in terms of bringing the U.S. scientific establishment into the 20th century, this was a great success... – paul garrett Sep 21 '20 at 21:49
  • ... and there is a significant analogy to the state-sponsored push in Germany in the later half of the 19th century to develop science... That did significantly contribute to the subsequent industrial power of Germany... To some degree, the earlier successes of the U.S. were about exploitation of natural resources, and mostly not at a high-tech level. A different road to success than European ones in that time. – paul garrett Sep 21 '20 at 21:50
  • @paulgarrett I suppose then what I am asking is if the U.S. government found it to be successful and if there is any official report on the matter. – zachery moïse Sep 22 '20 at 0:59
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    It seems to me that this question is asking for a red headed eskimo - something that is so unusual that mere existence would be remarkable. How often does Congress ever consider that an act of Congress was less than perfectly successful? – MCW Sep 22 '20 at 10:43
  • There are international ratings of educational attainment in different subjects (although not sure how comprehensive they were in the 1950s). If you could show an increase in US attainment relative to Russia, that might count as success. It's certainly the most likely metric you'll find (things like R&D spend might be relevant but can't be compared as easily). – Stuart F Sep 23 '20 at 11:07

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