Efforts that have extended over many years to increase federal support for science and technology, and science and math education, culminated yesterday when the House and then the Senate passed landmark legislation. H.R. 2272, The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act (COMPETES) was passed in the House by a wide margin, and in the Senate by unanimous consent. President Bush is expected to sign this bill.
H.R. 2272 is a very comprehensive bill, running 51 pages in yesterday's "Congressional Record." The bill authorizes $43.3 billion in federal spending in FY 2008, 2009, and 2010 in science, engineering, mathematics and technology research, and in education programs.
The bill responds to widespread concern that the United States is losing its technological edge. Efforts to increase awareness of this problem were significantly boosted when the National Academies released its "Gathering Storm" report in 2005 to critical acclaim. President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative to double federal support for physical sciences research over ten years, previous legislation in the House and Senate, and efforts by S&T, academic, and industrial organizations helped enable the passage of this legislation.
Support for science and technology remains strongly bipartisan on Capitol Hill. During a Wednesday briefing on the bill by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), who have each played a very important role in getting this legislation passed, Alexander commented that "this is an example of how the process should work," calling it a "prime model of bipartisan cooperation." Gordon said that the House and Senate were in agreement as well, calling the conference between both chambers to decide on a final version of the bill "short and sweet." Chairman Gordon noted that this was not a Republican or Democratic bill nor a House or a Senate bill, later saying, "Securing a brighter future for our children is simply not a partisan issue . . . this is truly a team effort."
Future issues of FYI will review components of H.R. 2272, as well as yesterday's House and Senate debate. In brief, the bill authorizes (but note, does not appropriate funding) the following:
Doubling of the National Science Foundation budget.
Doubling of the Department of Energy's Office of Science budget.
Doubling of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology laboratory budget.
Significant expansion of NSF funding for the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, and its Math and Science Partnerships.
Creation of a Technology Innovation Program at the Department of Commerce that will replace the Advanced Technology Program.
Doubling of funding for the Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Increased funding for young researchers.
Establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy at the Department of Energy.
In hailing yesterday's passage of this bill, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) commented, "We need to take U.S. competitiveness seriously. We need to take action to support our standard of living, and ensure we continue to grow and prosper. If we do not, we can expect other nations to rival our global competitiveness - and one day surpass us." His colleague, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) explained, "The American Competes Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will ensure that our nation retains its competitive edge for generations to come. This bill invests in education, and in scientific research and development to ensure we create and retain the best jobs of the future."