Amidst a flurry of legislative action during the week prior to the August recess, the House and Senate agreed to the conference report for HR 2272, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act (COMPETES). As has been reported in recent issues of the Public Policy Report, the America COMPETES Act is comprehensive legislation intended to improve U.S. competitiveness through significant investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and education. The conference agreement authorizes $43.3 billion over three fiscal years (2008-2010) for STEM research and education.

On 1 August 2007 Senate and House conferees officially met and agreed to the conference report in which they reconciled some major differences in scope and funding in the House and Senate versions of the legislation. The compromise was then approved by both chambers on 2 August 2007; the House passed the measure by a vote of 367 to 57, and the Senate agreed to the conference report by unanimous consent. It now goes to the White House for consideration by President Bush, who previously has expressed concerns about the creation of too many new programs and excessive levels of funding in the innovation bills moving through Congress.

Highlights of H.R. 2272 include:

-Three-year authorization of funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories that set the budgets of NSF and DOE on a path to double in 7 years and the NIST budget on course to double in 10 years.

-Direction from Congress that both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should be important participants in American innovation and competitiveness activities.

-The creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) in the DOE to support high-risk, high-reward energy research and technology development.

-Expansion of early career research grant programs for young investigators at NSF and the DOE.

-Increased support for K-12 STEM education and teacher training programs at NSF and DOE, including increased investment in the Noyce Teacher Scholarship program and the Math and Science Partnerships at NSF as well as investments in DOE programs to establish STEM specialty schools in each state and establish or expand teacher summer institutes at the national laboratories. The conference agreement also authorizes grant programs at the Department of Education to enhance teacher education in STEM fields and critical foreign languages.

“Now is the time for us to strengthen our support for the creativity, the innovation and the talented workforce that makes the U.S. unique and gives us our competitive edge,” said House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the lead House negotiator on the bill. “Securing a brighter future for our children is simply not a partisan issue. I’m proud that my colleagues and I have been able to work together to move this bill forward – this truly was a team effort.”

 


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