Last month the House passed an authorization bill, sponsored by Rep.
Vern Ehlers (R-MI), that would coordinate and strengthen federal programs
that support manufacturing and small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
"[I]nternational competition has exacted a terrible toll on our
nation's manufacturers," Ehlers said when introducing the bill
earlier this year. He continued, "In my conversations with manufacturers,
I learned of their deep concern that the decline of manufacturing in
the U.S. is undermining our ability to innovate. Innovation is the key
to the development of new industries, without which our economy could
stagnate. Governments of our global competitors are eagerly supporting
investments in manufacturing R&D because they know that it is the
foundation for sustained economic development."
H.R. 250, the "Manufacturing Technology Competitiveness Act of
2005," calls for new grant programs and fellowships to improve
manufacturing, as well as an interagency committee to coordinate federal
programs in manufacturing R&D. It would authorize FY 2006 through
FY 2008 funding levels for most NIST programs, including the Manufacturing
Extension Partnership (MEP) program, but not the more-controversial
Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which the Administration has targeted
for elimination. Democrats on the House Science Committee, both in the
committee mark-up and again during the floor debate, praised many aspects
of the bill but criticized it for omitting authorization of ATP. The
Republicans who responded to that criticism generally supported the
ATP, but argued that because of opposition to the program by President
Bush and others in Congress, its inclusion would ruin the bill's chance
of becoming law. "To truly help the manufacturers," Ehlers
said, "we must have a bill that can be passed into law. Therefore,
I want to keep this legislation focused on these specific programs that
have strong bipartisan support."
The bill eventually passed the House by a wide bipartisan margin of
394 to 24 on September 21. It has now been referred to the Senate Commerce,
Science, and Transportation Committee. Even if it is taken up promptly
by the Senate, it is unlikely to influence appropriations for this year.
Although the FY 2006 appropriations process is not complete, both the
House and the Senate have already passed their FY 2006 spending bills
for NIST. The bill's recommended funding levels for selected programs
are provided below:
NIST SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES LABORATORY ACTIVITIES:
The bill would authorize $426.3 million for FY06. For comparison, the
FY05 appropriation was $378.8 million, the FY06 request is $426.3 million,
the FY06 House appropriations bill would provide $397.7 million, and
the FY06 Senate appropriations bill would provide $399.9 million.
The bill would authorize $447.6 million for FY07, and $457.0 million
NIST CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE:
The bill would authorize $58.9 million for FY06. For comparison, the
FY05 appropriation was $72.5 million, the FY06 request is $58.9 million,
the FY06 House appropriations bill would provide $45.0 million, and
the FY06 Senate appropriations bill would provide $198.6 million.
The bill would authorize $61.8 million for FY07 and $63.4 million for
MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM:
The bill would authorize $110.0 million for FY06. For comparison, the
FY05 appropriation was $107.5 million, the FY06 request is $46.8 million,
the FY06 House appropriations bill would provide $106.0 million, and
the FY06 Senate appropriations bill would provide $106.0 million.
The bill would authorize $115.0 million for FY07 and $120.0 million
COLLABORATIVE MANUFACTURING RESEARCH PILOT GRANTS PROGRAM:
The bill would authorize $10.0 million in FY06, $10.0 million in FY07,
and $10.0 million in FY08.
NIST MANUFACTURING FELLOWSHIPS:
The bill would authorize $1.5 million in FY06, $1.8 million in FY07,
and $2.0 million in FY08.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM:
While not providing authorization levels for NIST's ATP, the bill calls
for reports to Congress on the impacts of the possible elimination of
the ATP, and on Commerce Department plans to "mitigate the effects
of this loss on its programs and personnel."
The FY05 appropriation for ATP was $136.5 million. The Administration
requested no funding for FY06, the FY06 House appropriations bill also
provided no funding, while the FY06 Senate appropriations bill would
provide $140.0 million.
will provide selected quotes from the September 21 floor debate on the
omission of authorizing language for the Advanced Technology Program.