Last week, the Senate completed its consideration of the FY 2006 Commerce,
Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The House passed its version of
this bill, H.R. 2862, in mid-June. During consideration of this bill,
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), offered an amendment to eliminate funding
for the Advanced Technology Program. A motion was made to table or kill
Coburn's amendment. That motion passed by a greater than two-to-one
vote: 68 "yes" votes to table and "29 "no"
Under Coburn's amendment, the $140.0 million the Senate Appropriations
Committee allocated to ATP would have been eliminated. Current funding
is $136.5 million. The Administration requested no funding for ATP,
and the House-passed bill complied. Coburn advocated increasing FY 2006
funding for hurricane and tornado warning broadcasting and for the Methamphetamine
Hot Spots program. Coburn was the only senator who spoke in support
of his amendment. Excerpts from his remarks follow, with some paragraphs
combined in the interest of space:
"There is no question that the ATP has done some good
in its history. It has $140 million in budget authority and has, this
year, $22.4 million in outlays. But there has come a time when we
need to make decisions. One of the things I have been consistent on
in terms of my time in the Senate is insisting that we start reprioritizing
the things that work and the things that do not work.
"The Advanced Technology Program was scrutinized at
a hearing of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee of the
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this year and
had good testimony. I will not demean some of the positive things
that have come from this program. There is no question certain positive
things have come from it. However, GAO and the Comptroller General
noted that 63 percent of the requests for grants through ATP never
sought funds anywhere else. ATP is supposed to be the source of last
resort on technology. . . . It has not been small businessmen [who
have been getting the funding]. It has not been new ideas, innovation
coming from small entrepreneurs. What it has been for is the major
corporations in this country that have billions and billions and billions
of dollars worth of sales every year, and billions in profits. . .
. The fact is, good ideas will usually get funded. There is venture
capital all across this country looking for good ideas, private capital
that will fund great ideas. In this time of fiscal constraint, it
is time we reprioritize what we do with this money."
"Many of the program's most vocal supporters believe
without Federal funding provided by ATP, countless research projects
would receive no money at all, and that ATP exists to remedy the failure
of the market to fund research and development. There is no evidence,
however, that would support those claims."
"This is an area where there will be some controversy.
I don't know if we will win the vote on this amendment. If we start
looking at the human faces of what we, as Government, can do versus
what business on its own can do and venture capital on its own can
do, what we will see is that our parochialism needs to stop in terms
of benefits to limited numbers, and we need to increase benefits to
the masses. What I am asking by this grant is to eliminate a program
that is marginal at best and put the money where it is going to make
a tremendous difference in people's lives, born and unborn. It is
my hope the Senate will concur with the amendment and that we can
have a bipartisan vote to do it. It is also my hope that this is the
first of many amendments, as we continue the appropriations process,
where we will start making the hard choices - not easy, not black
and white, but gray - that are necessary for us to meet the growing
needs of the Federal Government in this time of tremendous tragedy
along our gulf coast and in a time of tragedy for our budget."
Speaking in opposition to the Coburn amendment were Barbara Mikulski
(D-MD), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and the chairman of
Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, Richard Shelby
(R-AL). The full text of Shelby's remarks follow:
" . . . I oppose this amendment. This amendment would
terminate funding for the Advanced Technology Program, what we call
ATP. ATP is unique among Federal research programs. Most Federal research
is focused on advancing scientific knowledge. However, there is a
very long road from scientific discovery in a university lab to the
commercialization of that product.
"According to the National Science Foundation, less
than 1.5 percent of venture capital funding in the private sector
is available as seed funding for proof-of-concept. ATP seeks to fill
that gap in funding.
"The program was founded to ensure that not only do
we win the Nobel Prizes with our excellent venture research but that
we also commercialize our discoveries ahead of our foreign partners
and thereby create jobs for our own people. Some have said the idea
that we are in a global technology race is outdated. Nothing could
be further from the truth. Whether it is semiconductors in China and
Taiwan or nanotechnology in Europe, our global competitors are investing
heavily in programs to beat us to the marketplace. Surely we can afford
the $140 million investment included in this bill to stay competitive.
"The Advanced Technology Program projects have succeeded
in a wide range of fields. They are already delivering cheaper, better
bone marrow transplants, mammograms, and cartilage repair. They are
enabling companies to make biodegradable plastic from corn, improving
manufacturing, and powering longer lasting lightweight fuel cells.
"Moreover, this program has helped small businesses.
More than 75 percent of all ATP projects include a small business.
Sixty-six percent of ATP projects are led by or involve only a small
business. Of the single-applicant awards, 78 percent have gone to
small businesses and 11 percent have gone to medium-sized businesses
and nonprofits. By contrast, only 11 percent of solo awards have gone
to large businesses.
"In a more extensive and comprehensive review, the National
Academy of Sciences found ATP to be an effective Federal partnership
that they said could use more funding effectively and efficiently.'
"Measurement and evaluation have been part of the ATP
program since its inception. The most recent ATP annual report showed
the program has generated $17 billion in economic benefits from 41
of its 736 completed projects.
"In short, this program works. After all, the Council
on Competitiveness's National Innovation Initiative report noted that
innovation will be the single most important factor in determining
America's success through the 21st Century.''
"If we adopt the amendment offered by my friend from
Oklahoma, Senator Coburn, we would cut off a program which has as
its sole purpose investing in American innovation. This program has
the support of the Senate. On March 17 of this year, the Senate voted
53 to 46 in favor of a sense-of-the-Senate amendment to the budget
resolution stating: It is the sense of the Senate that the Senate
Committee on Appropriations should make every effort to provide funding
for the Advanced Technology Program in fiscal year 2006.'
"That is exactly what we are doing. This bill funds
technology initiatives which fuel our economy. The program works.
In this austere budget environment, there is no room for programs
that do not work. We do not have that luxury. I oppose the termination
of the Advanced Technology Program. I move to table the Coburn amendment
and ask for the yeas and nays."
The roll call vote can be reviewed by copying and pasting the following
into your web browser:
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics