H.R. 5639, The National Institute of Standards and Technology Improvement Act

H.R. 5639

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Improvement Act

July 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Monday, July 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5639, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Improvement Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on July 6, 2016, by Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) and was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5639 is a policy-only reauthorization of science and technology programs administered by NIST. It does not authorize appropriations, nor does it authorize new programs or hiring. The legislation updates policies and programs for NIST to ensure the Institute will continue its education programs, to require periodic independent review of NIST laboratory programs, to reflect recommendations of the National Academies and the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology and to strengthen the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program.

H.R. 5639 seeks to provide for technological innovation through the prioritization of Federal investment in basic research, fundamental scientific discovery, and development to improve the competitiveness of the United States.

Section 2 amends the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act to authorize the NIST Director to: (1) serve as the President’s principal advisor on standards policy pertaining to technological competitiveness and innovation ability, (2) facilitate standards-related information sharing and cooperation between federal agencies, (3) participate in and support scientific and technical conferences, and (4) perform pre-competitive measurement science and technology research with institutions of higher education and industry.

Section 3 revises the membership of the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology from a maximum of 15 to a minimum of 11, requiring that at least two-thirds of them (currently 10) to be from U.S. industry. The Visiting Committee reviews the general policy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, its organization, its budget, and its programs, and submits an annual report to the Secretary of Commerce for submission to the Congress. Section 3 also authorizes the Committee to consult with the National Research Council (NRC) in making recommendations regarding general policy for NIST.

Section 4 authorizes the Department of Commerce to undertake activities to protect NIST buildings and other plant facilities, equipment, and property and persons located in them or associated with them.

Section 5 revises requirements for research fellowships; authorizes the NIST Director to support, promote, and coordinate activities to enhance awareness and understanding of measurement sciences, standards, and technology; requires the Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program to include no fewer than 20 fellows per fiscal year (currently, no fewer than 20 nor more than 120 new fellows per fiscal year); eliminates the separate manufacturing fellowship and teacher science and technology enhancement programs.

Section 6 requires the three-year programmatic planning document for NIST to also describe how the NIST Director is addressing recommendations from the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology.

Section 7 directs NIST to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to review NIST laboratory programs as well as contract with the NRC to assess the technical quality and impact of the work conducted at NIST laboratories. (Currently, NIST may contract with the NRC for advice and studies to serve industry and science.) Section 7 also allows NIST to contract with the NRC to conduct additional assessments of NIST programs and projects that involve collaboration across NIST laboratories, centers, and assessments of selected scientific/technical topics.

Section 8 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.

Section 9 eliminates the requirement for NIST, through the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), to continue providing support originally awarded under the Advanced Technology Program. TIP assists U.S. businesses, universities, and other organizations, such as national laboratories and nonprofit research institutions with high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need.

Section 10 amends the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 to repeal the 75% of total cost of the program limitation on any grant or cooperative agreement that assists activities under the Act.

Section 11 removes the National Security Agency from the list of agencies that NIST must consult in developing standards and guidelines for information systems.

Section 12 expresses the sense of Congress concerning U.S.-Israeli cooperation with regard to basic scientific research. Calls on NIST to continue to facilitate scientific collaborations between Israel and the U.S. technical agencies working in measurement science and standardization.



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.[1] H.R. 5639 is an attempt to update and modernize those programs. The bill contains the same substantive provisions as Title IV of H.R.1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, which was passed by the House on May 20, 2015 by a recorded vote of 217 to 205. The previous legislative digest on H.R. 1806 can be found here.

[1] See CRS Report at 1.


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently not available.

Additional Information

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