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America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5116). Our investments in scientific research and education underwrite our national prosperity and success. Economists attribute over half of the growth in our gross domestic product (GDP) since World War II to progress in science and technology. Yet for decades, we have underinvested in our nation's tools for advancing innovation and competitiveness. In 2005, the National Academies issued a call for action in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report. In 2007, Congress responded by implementing many of the report's recommendations in the America COMPETES Act, and this reauthorization would build on the progress we have made over the last three years.

* Basic research is a powerful source of new and unexpected discoveries that can transform our economy. This legislation maintains the doubling path for authorized funding at our nation's basic research agencies--the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy's Office of Science. These funds support fundamental research in every discipline, maintain our national laboratories, and provide vital training for the next generation of scientists and engineers. Under this legislation, research grants will be awarded on the basis of scientific merit alone and not for any other considerations. The dividends from our investments in research and development are the breakthroughs that yield new industries, drive job growth, and sustain our future economic and technological competitiveness.

* The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act includes a number of new programs and initiatives to foster innovation. Regional Innovation Clusters would leverage collaboration between businesses, academic institutions, and other participants to facilitate the transfer of technologies from the laboratory to the commercial sector. The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Department of Commerce would accelerate the commercialization of research and development by identifying ways to overcome existing barriers and providing access to relevant data and technical assistance. Agencies involved in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program would be required to develop a strategic plan to address long-term challenges related to information technology, encourage the transfer of research and development into new technologies and applications, and strengthen education in networking and information technology.

* Additional assistance for manufacturers and other businesses would promote the adoption of new technologies and improve productivity. The legislation requires NSF to support research in transformative advances in manufacturing. It increases the federal government cost share of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program to 50 percent through 2015, and MEP Centers would be required to inform regional community colleges of the skill sets needed by local manufacturers. A newly established Innovative Services Initiative would assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in implementing energy and waste reduction technologies, including renewable energy systems. A loan guarantee program would allow manufacturers to access capital for the installation of innovative technologies and processes that will help increase their efficiency and maintain their competitiveness.

* To preserve our leadership in scientific and technical fields and strengthen our competitiveness in the 21st century economy, the U.S. must continue to produce theworld's best scientists, and we must ensure that every student is exposed to the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act would establish an interagency committee to coordinate federal STEM education programs and a separate advisory committee on STEM to present recommendations on how to better align federal programs with the needs of states and school districts. Updates to the NSF's Robert Noyce Scholarship program would allow more schools to participate and more qualified STEM educators to reach high-need schools. Support for graduate students would be strengthened, and academic institutions would be awarded grants to reform graduate education to emphasize preparation for diverse STEM careers. New grant and fellowship programs would encourage research in STEM education, help transform undergraduate education in STEM fields, and expand educational opportunities in energy systems science and engineering.

* Women and minorities remain underrepresented in STEM fields, and this legislation would provide grants for institutions of higher education to increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups. Federal science agencies would be required to carry out a series of workshops to minimize gender bias in academia, and a uniform policy would be developed to assist federally funded researchers with care giving responsibilities in maintaining their research programs. It also would ensure that smaller, minority-serving institutions will be more fully integrated into research partnerships with major universities and prioritize the inclusion of these institutions in grants to establish regional university-industry partnerships for research and innovation.

* In the energy field, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act includes a first-time authorization for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which is the nation's largest supporter of physical sciences research. Reauthorization of the Advanced Research Projects agency for Energy (ARPA-E), which is modeled on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), would help us pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology develop that might not receive support otherwise. The newly established Energy Innovation Hubs would provide for multidisciplinary collaborations on research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of advanced technologies designed to tackle technological barriers to our national energy goals.

* Finally, I am pleased that this legislation incorporates two amendments that I offered. The first expresses the sense of Congress that the importance of peer-review and the role of scientific publishers in the peer-review process should be taken into account by the new National Science and Technology Council working group on the dissemination and long-term stewardship of unclassified federally funded research. The second amendment would help stitch together the diverse initiatives in the COMPETES Act by requiring the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to prepare a comprehensive national competitiveness and innovation strategy. I look forward to receiving that plan for evaluating and strengthening the U.S. position in the global economy.

* The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act makes long overdue investments in the foundations of our national innovation system. It would create jobs in both the short- and long-term, support manufacturers and businesses in commercializing new technologies, help us pursue a clean energy economy, improve STEM education, and strengthen our international competitiveness. I commend Chairman Gordon and the Science and Technology Committee for their hard work on this important piece of legislation.

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