In addition to measures promoting STEM education and stimulating innovation, “The America COMPETES Act” (S. 761) adopted by the Senate on 25 April also authorized appropriations for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the research programs of several other federal agencies. The bill would authorize an increase in funding for the NSF over five years, from the $5.6 billion appropriated in fiscal year (FY) 2006 to $10.2 billion in FY 2011. During the bill’s floor consideration, the Senate voted against an amendment by Senator John Sununu (R-NH) that would have stricken language from the bill that would attach annual increases for the NSF Education and Human Resources directorate. Senator Sununu stated, “…we shouldn’t be mandating in law that the National Science Foundation direct a specific amount of money to any area.”
Across Capitol Hill, the House bills H.R. 1867 and H.R. 1868 entitled, the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 and Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act of 2007 were reported out of committee. The bills, if passed, would authorize appropriations for NSF and NIST through 2010. In contrast to the Senate version of the reauthorization language, the House would set the NSF budget to increase at a slower rate than the Senate proposal. The House adopted three amendments by voice vote. The Manager’s amendment, by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) would waive cost sharing on Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grants for groups of institutions that include at least one undergraduate institution. Additionally, the amendment would allow certain nonprofit organizations to be eligible for the Centers for Research on Learning and Education Improvement program, and would allow the Director of NSF to award three Waterman Awards annually. Two additional amendments were offered and adopted, Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) whose amendment would cap the MRI awards at $4 million or $6 million if the MRI (Major Research Instrumentation) budget exceeds $125 million; Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) offered an amendment to require increases for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in proportion to the entire research budget.
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