“The proposed FY 2013 budget reflects NIST’s critical role in the Administration’s efforts to strengthen manufacturing through critical investments in key research and development areas.” – Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce
National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Patrick Gallagher testified last week before the House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation on the fiscal year 2013 budget request for NIST.
NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce whose mission is to promote US innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology to enhance economic security and improve the quality of life.
Since Members from both parties were supportive of NIST’s role in research and development, much of the discussion during the hearing was focused on whether the budget request for NIST was too high with respect to the current US economic climate.
The Administration’s NIST budget request for FY2013 was up $106.2 million or 14.1 percent from $750.8 million to $857.0 million. The Obama Administration’s emphasis on NIST, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science continues the attention given to them since President George W. Bush called for their funding to be doubled in his 2006 State of the Union address.
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ) emphasized that he believes “we need to do a better job of prioritizing our investments, and a 14.1 percent budget increase is simply unrealistic in our current fiscal environment.”
Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) supported NIST’s efforts to advance manufacturing, stating that “since 2000, the US has lost over 650,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs. Our trade deficit in advanced technology products is growing and China is now the world’s biggest exporter of high technology goods. The truth is that our position as a global leader in innovation and technology is being threatened as developing countries build up their capacities to become not only the technology assembly line, but also the creator of new and innovative technologies.”
Gallagher’s testimony focused on NIST’s efforts in advanced manufacturing. He highlighted President Obama’s actions to accelerate the pace of US innovation, better enable technology transfer, and defined the role NIST plays in helping advanced manufacturers test and accelerate the development of new technologies.
During questioning time, Edwards was concerned about the possibility of gaps in the budget caused by the canceling of the Technology Innovation Program that would affect the development of advanced manufacturing. Gallagher offered his reassurance that the role of NIST is to work with industry to advance measurement capacity to move technology to the market.
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) inquired as to whether NIST was creating the best possible environment to attract businesses to the US. To this point, Gallagher replied that NIST is an integral part in establishing and creating an economic structure where US manufacturing efforts can thrive. In the context of research and development, Gallagher stated that establishing the right economic structure is determining the best process to bring products to the market while also maneuvering issues that arise as new innovative products create new markets, such as the cell phone or tablet laptop markets. Gallagher stressed that regulatory processes need to keep up with new developments. NIST contributes to this effort through measurement standards such as establishing quality control within industries to alleviate barriers on the technical side of scientific advancement.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) gave Gallagher the opportunity to comment on whether the level of funding that NIST received in the President’s budget request was excessive. Gallagher refuted the accusation that NIST was not prioritizing the use of funds appropriately and added that “there are some areas where there is push from the technology sector – what is happening in the lab opens up opportunities that the market may not see or understand.”