Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said that he feels "deep anxiety" over the ability of the US to compete globally and added that the country is risking its technology leadership because of failures in its education system and immigration policies and inadequate research spending.

"America simply cannot continue along this course," said Gates in written testimony delivered to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is holding a hearing on "Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st Century”. Gates said the US is facing serious problems in delivering a workforce that can rise to the global challenge.

"When I reflect on the state of American competitiveness today, my immediate feeling is not only one of pride, but also of deep anxiety," Gates said in his prepared remarks. "Too often, we as a society are sacrificing the long-term good of our country in the interests of short-term gain."

Gates said in too many areas, the US is "content to live off the investments that previous generations made for us - in education, in health care, in basic scientific research - but [is] unwilling to invest equal energy and resources into building on this legacy to ensure that America's future is as bright and prosperous as its present."

Many of the issues that Gates outlined are topics he has raised before in various speeches and op-ed pieces. But this hearing was unusual. Gates was listed as the only witness before a committee chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy. Kennedy is working with Senator John McCain on a major immigration reform bill, an important focus of Gates.

Gates told the committee the US should ensure that its students and workers have the skills to compete.

"A top priority must be to reverse our dismal high school graduation rates - with a target of doubling the number of young people who graduate from high school ready for college, career and life - and to place a major emphasis on encouraging careers in math and science," Gates said.