A bipartisan bill that would enhance the nation's multiagency nanotechnology
research and development effort was introduced on February 13 by House
Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Honda
(D-CA). A similar bill was introduced in January by Senator Ron Wyden
(D-OR). The Bush Administration has identified nanotechnology research
and development as one of its six cross-cutting federal R&D priorities
for the FY 2004 fiscal year, and both bills would strengthen and improve
coordination of federal R&D activities in this area.
The House and Senate bills are similar, but not identical. Both would
establish a coordinated interagency nanotechnology R&D program,
a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, a federal interagency
committee to plan and manage the R&D activities, and non-federal
presidential advisory committee. The House bill (H.R. 766) would authorize
three years of nanotechnology R&D funding for five federal agencies,
at the following levels: $645 million for FY 2004; $709.5 million for
FY 2005; and $781 million for FY 2006. The Senate bill (S. 189) provides
a one-year authorization for FY 2004 only, for nine agencies, at a level
of $678 million.
The House bill has 10 other cosponsors so far, including many of the
chairmen and ranking members of the House Science Subcommittees: Ralph
Hall (D-TX), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Bart Gordon
(D-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Nick Smith (R-MI), Judy Biggert
(R-IL), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
It has been referred to the full Science Committee for action.
The nine current cosponsors of the Senate nanotechnology bill are:
George Allen (R-VA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA),
Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), John Warner (R-VA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Ernest
Hollings (D-SC), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). This
bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. See /fyi/2002/106.html
for details of a September 2002 hearing on a previous version of Wyden's
In introducing his bill, Chairman Boehlert stated, "Nanotechnology
may be the smallest' field of science - the manipulating of individual
atoms. But I've come to understand that in science and technology, few
things could actually be bigger' than nanotechnology - in terms
of its potential to revolutionize scientific and engineering research,
improve human health and bolster the economy. This bill will ensure
that the federal government is investing significantly, and most importantly
wisely, in this growing field." In remarks several years ago at
Brookhaven National Laboratory (see /fyi/2002/033.html),
Boehlert noted that "the notion of nanotechnology and its potential
impact have caught on with the public and their representatives in Congress.
This is no mean achievement; manipulating atoms is easier than manipulating
public attitudes.... There is broad, bipartisan support in Washington
these days for investing in scientific research, and broad agreement
that nanotechnology is a priority field." However, as budget deficits
return, and defense and security issues demand greater resources, it
remains to be seen whether science and technology priorities such as
nanotechnology will actually receive higher funding.