The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 the week of May 10, 2010. The bill would increase the level of authorized spending significantly above current law. The measure also expands and adds several new programs and activities beyond what is in current law.
In August 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) in response to the concerns of the business and academic communities with regard to America's global competitiveness. The bill authorized appropriations targeting investments in science and technology grant programs, energy research, and engineering, science research, technology, and mathematics (STEM) education, from K-12 through post-secondary.
The authorized funding provided a three-year, $43.3 billion bill through FY2010, which placed the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science on a 7-year "doubling path."
Issues of Concern
Increased Spending: At a time of unsustainable government spending and large federal deficits, H.R. 5116 authorizes nearly $86 billion. This amount is $22 billion above the FY2010 base amount, and $8 billion above the original 10 year "doubling path." These totals do not reflect the nearly $5 billion in additional funding provided in the stimulus bill. The bill would also extend the authorization period from three years to five years, discouraging oversight and fiscal restraint.
Increased Government: The new spending would create at least six new programs, several that involve activities not associated with research and development, and others that are duplicative or unnecessary. The following are new and potentially duplicative programs: The MEP Innovation Services Initiative, Bioscience Research Program, Innovation Prize Pilot Program, Department of Commerce Loan Guarantee Program, Department of Commerce "Regional Innovation Clusters" Program, and the Energy "Hubs" R&D program.
Policy Concerns: The original 2007 legislation passed Congress with bipartisan support; the consensus being that the priority of the bill was to focus on the important needs of basic research and development. This bill shifts those priorities, both through the implementation of new programs and the modification of existing programs, to focus on technology commercialization, which many members may consider to be corporate welfare.
In addition to the basic research and development policy shift, the bill also expands its emphasis on global warming research and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, the Office of Science requests greater emphasis on advancing our understanding of the earth's climate through research of atmospheric, environmental sciences, and climate change.