House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) has a busy agenda planned for 2010. Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, reauthorization of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), creating a nuclear energy research and development program, spurring development of new energy technologies, and codifying the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are among the chairman’s ambitious goals for the second session of the 111th Congress.

Top legislative priority for the House Science Committee is reauthorization of the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act. Enacted in 2007, the law set a number of ambitious goals, including authorizing a doubling of the budgets of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) over seven years. Actual appropriations, however, have fallen well behind the authorized levels. The reauthorization will allow Congress to revisit the funding trajectories for these agencies, as well as the many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs included in COMPETES. The Act expanded early career research grant programs for young investigators and increased support for K-12 STEM education and teacher training programs at NSF and DoE.

Another bill on the Committee’s legislative agenda for 2010 is of interest to biologists: the NOAA Organic Act would formally authorize the agency in law. NOAA was created by Presidential executive order in 1970. By codifying the agency in law, Congress would have greater ability to direct the agency’s priorities and authorities. This issue is especially timely given NOAA’s central role in U.S. climate science and the Obama Administration’s interest in pursuing marine spatial planning.

The House Science Committee will be under a tight deadline to complete their legislative work. With the mid-term elections in November, any bills would need to be passed by the House and Senate prior to the Congressional recess in August.


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