Obama defends spending on R&D, STEM education

"Today the most common educational background for America’s top business leaders isn’t economics. It’s not finance. It’s not even business. It’s engineering."

Obama said engineering, math, critical thinking, and problem solving "are the kinds of subjects and skills that our kids need to achieve success in the 21st century," which is why the White House is pushing forward with plans to train 10,000 additional teachers in those subjects.

The administration is also planning to preserve the $800 increase to Pell Grants mandate by the Recovery Act in hopes of increasing the proportion of college graduates.

"I know the American people understand why this is so important. And I think that those of us who are working in Washington need to understand why these investments in the future are so important as well," Obama said.

Obama also emphasized the importance of creating a 21st century infrastructure via his national wireless plan, the goal of which is to ensure 98 percent of the country is connected to a next-generation mobile broadband network.

The White House unveiled the plan last week and said it would be funded by $28 million raised through spectrum auctions. $5 billion would be allocated to the Federal Communications Commission's Universal Service Fund in a one-time investment, while another $10 billion would be used to build a national public safety network. $3 billion would be invested in wireless innovation.

House Judiciary member Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said Friday his committee would likely be scrutinizing the national wireless plan closely to ensure the government's funds don't crowd out rural wireless providers looking to invest in the same areas.

He also suggested the proposal to fund the plan via spectrum auctions wouldn't change the GOP's view that the programs constitute massive new spending.