America's future as a superpower after the war depends more on its schoolchildren than its high-tech missiles, House Speaker Tom Foley - the nation's top-ranking elected Democrat - said Thursday.

But America is not paying enough attention to education and other domestic needs. And it needs to convince allies to carry more of the Western world's defense costs so America can take care of problems at home, he told the National Press Club."Unless we move much, much more dramatically in improving the educational performance of America's primary and secondary schools, we will be doomed to a second-class economic role in the coming century."

But Foley said improving U.S. education - which is lagging far behind other nations - will not come until national leaders convince the public to act and change lifestyles to require harder work of children and are able to funnel more money toward children and other domestic needs.

"The United States cannot continue to bear the preponderance of costs (of defending the democratic world) . . . and meet domestic needs." Foley said the United States pays 6 percent of its gross national product for defense, while Japan spends 1 percent and Germany spends 2 percent.

Foley said it is important for the United States to retain military might and end the Persian Gulf war "with decisive military action," but allies must help more.

Besides education, Foley said the nation's highway system also requires $315 billion of additional spending in the next 10 years to bring it "what it was in 1980."

Foley said some estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the drop in the United States' industrial productivity and competitiveness in world markets "is related to the decline of the infrastructure."