Discussions about the third reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act are underway on Capitol Hill. The original COMPETES Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2007 “to invest in innovation through research and development, and to improve the competitiveness of the United States.” The bill was reauthorized in 2010 and signed into law by President Obama. Originally intended to double the annual appropriations of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, and the laboratories of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the COMPETES Act has also sent a strong message of support for basic research and science, technology, engineering, and math education.
Because of current fiscal conditions, many questions remain about funding levels in the reauthorized COMPETES bill language. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee intend to address the reauthorization of NSF, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, NIST, and the DOE Office of Science in upcoming hearings. There are also discussions underway about whether to include the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in the reauthorization of COMPETES.
The American Institute of Physics and three of its Member Societies-the American Astronomical Society, American Physical Society, and the Optical Society-endorsed a letter addressing the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. The letter was sent to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the Senate Energy Committee; and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
The text of the letter is as follows:
“As over 200 university presidents have stated in an open letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress‘[t]he combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to sequestration, and the enormous resources other nations are pouring into these areas is creating a new kind of deficit for the United States: an innovation deficit.’ We write now, as leading higher education, research, science and business organizations to urge you to send a clear signal that the U.S. Congress is serious about closing the innovation deficit by introducing and passing a strong America COMPETES Act reauthorization bill that authorizes increased funding for key U.S. science agencies.
“In both 2007 and 2010, the U.S. Congress passed COMPETES legislation with bipartisan support. With the passage of these bills, Congress established funding targets aimed at doubling funding for these key federal research agencies within seven years with the goal of ensuring continued U.S. leadership in science and technology which provides the foundation for our global and economic competitiveness. These bills sent an important message to the world that our nation and Congress were resolute about addressing concerns raised about the future health of the United States economy by the 2007 National Academies Report - Rising Above the Gathering Storm-. This report came in response to a request from a bipartisan group of Senators and House Members who asked what actions policy makers needed to take ‘…to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century’.
“Despite the difficulty of achieving the doubling goal for research funding in the current fiscal environment, we strongly believe a core component of a renewed America COMPETES Act – and one that will be essential for our support – must be to set funding targets that call for real and sustained growth in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).
“We stand ready to work with you to make the case to the public and other Members of Congress that the federal government must close the innovation deficit by making robust investments in science and education if we are to remain the world’s innovation leader and continue to reap the economic and national security benefits of such investments.
Anything short of real and sustained growth in federal science investments will take our country backward as other nations surge forward in their efforts to mimic America’s success.”