H.R. 1806, America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

H.R. 1806

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

Date
May 20, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, under a structured rule.  H.R. 1806 was introduced on April 15, 2015, by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and in addition, to the Committees on Education and the Workforce and Oversight and Government Reform.  The Science, Space, and Technology Committee ordered the bill reported, as amended, by a vote of 19 to 16 on April 22, 2015.[1]

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[1] See House Report 114-107 at 113—Roll Call No. 27.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1806 authorizes funding for specified research and education programs and grants totaling approximately $33 billion over the fiscal year 2016 to 2020 period. It reauthorizes civilian research programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. This bill prioritizes basic research with targeted investments while staying within the cap set in law by the Budget Control Act for Fiscal Year 2016.

Specifically the bill:

Title I—National Science Foundation

Title I authorizes $15.2 billion over the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period for the National Science Foundation to carry out various activities to support basic scientific research and education. The NSF is the primary source of Federal funding for non-medical basic research, which issues more than 11,700 competitive grant awards annually that are chosen through a merit-review process. NSF supports the work of over 356,500 scientists, engineers, educators and students at universities, laboratories and field sites.

Within the NSF authorization, the bill provides funding for certain NSF programs at the following levels over the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period:[2]

  • $12.4 billion for Research and Related Activities (R&RA)
  • $1.7 billion for Education and Human Resources
  • $1.1 billion for other NSF activities which includes the agency operations and award management, major research equipment and facilities construction, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of the National Science Board.

Title II—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Title II establishes an Advisory Panel of stakeholders to provide expert input on the Federal STEM education portfolio. The Advisory Panel is responsible for assessing ways to vertically and horizontally integrate Federal STEM programs and activities into the educational pipeline.[3] According to the Committee, strengthening the Federal STEM portfolio requires greater coordination among the agencies with STEM education programs and may require program consolidations and terminations. [4]

Title III—Office of Science and Technology Policy

Title III reauthorizes the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at $9 million for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period. Title III also includes three bills which were reported unanimously by the Committee on March 4, 2015: H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act, H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2015, and H.R. 1162 the Science Prize Competitions Act.[5]

Additionally, this Title requires the presidentially appointed U.S. Chief Technology Officer (USCTO) to be one of the OSTP Associate Directors within OSTP. During the 113th Congress, OSTP declined the Committee’s invitations to the USCTO to testify at a hearing before the Committee on issues related to HealthCare.gov. OSTP cited the lack of Senate-confirmation as one of the reasons for declining the invitations.  Since all OSTP ADs are Senate-confirmed, making the USCTO an Associate Director within the OSTP will ensure that the USCTO will be available to testify before Congress in the future.[6]

Title IV—National Institute of Standards and Technology

The Title authorizes approximately $1.9 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period. The Committee intends for the NIST labs to conduct fundamental scientific research supporting the Institute’s standards and measurement work. NIST facilitates the transition and helps facilitate the adoption of new discoveries, technologies, and other innovations into the commercial marketplace.[7]

Section 408 of the Title makes certain reforms to the application process and funding determinations of Hollings Manufacturing Extension Centers. These centers help manufacturers with adoption of advanced production technologies, transfer and dissemination of research findings, and other improvements in order to enhance competitiveness, productivity and technological performance.[8]

Title V—Department of Energy, Office of Science

This Title authorizes $10.6 billion for the Office of Science within the Department of Energy for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period. The title also directs the Secretary of the Department of Energy to advance the national interest in energy and the corresponding fundamental scientific understanding. It also instructs the Secretary to support this mission through programs on basic energy sciences, advanced scientific computing research, high energy physics, biological and environmental research, fusion energy sciences, and nuclear physics.[9]

Title VI—Department of Energy Applied Research and Development

This title authorizes $5.1 billion for the DOE major research and development (R&D) programs for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 period. Specifically the title authorizes R&D at the following levels for these programs within DOE for the same period[10]:

  • $2.4 billion for activities related to energy-efficiency and renewable energy
  • $1.2 billion for fossil energy programs
  • $1 billion for nuclear energy programs
  • $280 million for activities of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
  • $226 million for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability

Title VII—Department of Energy Technology Transfer

This title makes certain reforms to the relationship between the Department of Energy and its national laboratories, which the Committee believes has been inefficient and lacked effective oversight. It also requires the Department to assess its capabilities to authorize, host, and oversee privately funded nuclear fusion and non-light water reactor prototypes and related demonstration facilities at Department-owned sites.[11]

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[2] Id. at 65.
[3] Id. at 69.
[4] Id. at 69.
[5] Id. at 70.
[6] Id.
[7] Id. at 72.
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 94.
[10] Id. 73-77.
[11] Id. at 78.

Background

Scientific and technological advancement played a central role in ensuring U.S. prosperity and power in the 20th century. In 2007, Congress passed and the President signed into law, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (P.L. 110–69), which was ostensibly based on President George W. Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). The centerpiece of the ACI was the prioritization of basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. The America COMPETES Act authorized various federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs.[12]

Most of the funding authorizations in the COMPETES Act have expired. Legislation to reauthorize all or portions of the act was introduced, but not enacted, in the 113th Congress.

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[12] See CRS Report at 1.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the legislation would cost approximately $32 billion over the 2016 to 2020 period, assuming the appropriation of the necessary funds.

Amendments

1) Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)—The manager’s amendment makes technical corrections to the bill.

2) Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)—The amendment strikes Section 106 of the underlying bill.

3) Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)—The amendment creates state and regional workshops to train K-12 teachers in science and technology project-based learning to provide instruction in initiating robotics and other STEM competition team development programs. Leverages the collaboration among higher education, businesses, and local private as well as public education agencies to support STEM efforts at schools located in areas with 1 percent or more above the national unemployment rate.

4) Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)—The amendment instructs NSF’s I-Corps to support and invest in female entrepreneurs.

5) Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY)—The amendment requires the National Science Foundation to establish a STEM grant program for Hispanic-serving institutions as authorized in the America COMPETES Act of 2007.

6) Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA)—The amendment provides for the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader to appoint members to congressionally created advisory boards.

7) Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA)—The amendment increases the authorized funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership by $5 million, while decreasing the authorized funding level for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by $5 million.

8) Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)—The amendment eliminates additional DOE reporting requirements and restrictions on sound scientific processes to independently verify scientific results.

9) Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)—The amendment authorizes the Energy Innovation Hubs Program within the Department of Energy.

10) Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)—The amendment allows the Department of Energy to continue partnering with the Department of Defense to produce biofuels for the military.

11) Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)—The amendment removes “reductions of energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases” from goals of ARPA-E.

12) Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)—The amendment is an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute, which according to the sponsor, provides for sustained growth and sensible policies across the scientific agencies, in keeping with the goals of the original Competes legislation.

Additional Views

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.