A bipartisan bill that would enhance the nation's multiagency nanotechnology research and development effort was introduced on February 13 by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). A similar bill was introduced in January by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). The Bush Administration has identified nanotechnology research and development as one of its six cross-cutting federal R&D priorities for the FY 2004 fiscal year, and both bills would strengthen and improve coordination of federal R&D activities in this area.
The House and Senate bills are similar, but not identical. Both would establish a coordinated interagency nanotechnology R&D program, a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, a federal interagency committee to plan and manage the R&D activities, and non-federal presidential advisory committee. The House bill (H.R. 766) would authorize three years of nanotechnology R&D funding for five federal agencies, at the following levels: $645 million for FY 2004; $709.5 million for FY 2005; and $781 million for FY 2006. The Senate bill (S. 189) provides a one-year authorization for FY 2004 only, for nine agencies, at a level of $678 million.
The House bill has 10 other cosponsors so far, including many of the chairmen and ranking members of the House Science Subcommittees: Ralph Hall (D-TX), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Nick Smith (R-MI), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). It has been referred to the full Science Committee for action.
The nine current cosponsors of the Senate nanotechnology bill are: George Allen (R-VA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), John Warner (R-VA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). This bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. See /fyi/2002/106.html for details of a September 2002 hearing on a previous version of Wyden's bill.
In introducing his bill, Chairman Boehlert stated, "Nanotechnology may be the ‘smallest' field of science - the manipulating of individual atoms. But I've come to understand that in science and technology, few things could actually be ‘bigger' than nanotechnology - in terms of its potential to revolutionize scientific and engineering research, improve human health and bolster the economy. This bill will ensure that the federal government is investing significantly, and most importantly wisely, in this growing field." In remarks several years ago at Brookhaven National Laboratory (see /fyi/2002/033.html), Boehlert noted that "the notion of nanotechnology and its potential impact have caught on with the public and their representatives in Congress. This is no mean achievement; manipulating atoms is easier than manipulating public attitudes.... There is broad, bipartisan support in Washington these days for investing in scientific research, and broad agreement that nanotechnology is a priority field." However, as budget deficits return, and defense and security issues demand greater resources, it remains to be seen whether science and technology priorities such as nanotechnology will actually receive higher funding.