One of the most important congressional agenda items for the science community is the enactment of a reauthorization bill for the America COMPETES Act. Today approximately 250 signatories and endorsing organizations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging “the Senate to pass the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act in time to work with the House to make it possible for the President to sign this important legislation into law before the end of this Congress.”
The diversity of organizations signing the letter demonstrates the importance of this legislation. Among them are the Air Force Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, AT&T, Battelle, Boeing Company, Business Roundtable, California Institute of Technology, Caterpillar, Council on Competitiveness, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Google, Harvard University, IBM Corporation, Intel Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, Macy’s Inc., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Microsoft Corporation, National Association of Manufacturers, Northrup Grumman, Semiconductor Industry Association, State Farm, Texas Instruments, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Also endorsing this letter are the American Institute of Physics and six of its Member Societies: American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Physical Society, AVS, and the Optical Society.
Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act is of particular importance because of the upcoming changes in Congress. While this legislation would not provide funding to double the budgets of the DOE Office of Science, the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation, it would set important milestones to guide Congress in making appropriations for these agencies in coming years. In doing so, it would continue the funding trajectory first established by President George W. Bush, and continued by President Barack Obama.
The House passed its version of an America COMPETES reauthorization bill this summer. A key Senate committee approved a counterpart bill, but it has not come to the Senate floor. Both bills will die at the end of this Congress. The Senate has a huge amount of work to accomplish during a very few weeks when it returns later this month. Time is of the essence.
The letter follows:
“Dear Leaders Reid and McConnell:
“The community of industry, academic, and professional organizations listed below join in urging the Senate to pass the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act in time to work with the House to make it possible for the President to sign this important legislation into law before the end of this Congress.
“The original America COMPETES Act, enacted with strong bipartisan support in 2007, was designed to respond to concerns raised by the seminal National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The Act has played a crucial role in charting our nation’s path forward by focusing attention on the critical steps our nation must take to foster innovation and keep the United States competitive in the global economy – investing in basic research and our workforce through effective STEM programs.
“However, the original COMPETES Act was meant to be the first, three-year installment of a longer-term commitment toward achieving these goals. Sustaining these investments in research, and developing a highly educated, scientifically literate workforce are both essential to our country’s continued success in making the scientific discoveries and developing the cutting-edge technologies that will propel our economy in the future. As you know, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved S. 3605, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, in July; and the Committees on Energy and Natural Resources and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions are ready to add their portions of the legislation when it is brought forward for consideration on the Senate floor. We believe that this bill will once again have the overwhelming bipartisan support it garnered in 2007, and we urge the Senate to recognize the continued importance of the America COMPETES initiative by passing the bill this year.
“We recognize the dire fiscal challenges facing the nation and the difficult choices on federal spending that policymakers must make. Continued strong funding of basic research and STEM education programs will help ensure the economic growth needed to restore long-term fiscal strength and national prosperity.
“We look forward to working with you to help advance and enact this vital legislation.”