COMPETES Act Reauthorization Takes First Step Through Congress

By David Bruggeman

Last Wednesday at the end of a long markup session, the House Science and Technology Committee approved a bill that would reauthorize the American COMPETES Act, passed in 2007. That bill covered many things, most prominently budget authorizations that would – if followed – double the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy over a 10 year period. You can read the full bill, H.R. 5116, online.

The reauthorization measure would continue the doubling trend for these agencies. It also covers reauthorization of the new ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. While created by the initial COMPETES legislation, it was not funded until 2009. Other parts of the reauthorization bill deal with other innovation programs in nanotechnology (the National Nanotechnology Initiative), information technology (Networking and Information Technology Research and Development), and energy (Energy Innovation Hubs). The bill would also require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to examine government policy on public access to research, and to establish a federal committee for coordinating STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) education programs across federal agencies.

The long markup session reflected a large number of amendments offered on the bill. A number of these amendments were attempts to roll back the authorized spending amounts while others concerned ARPA-E and a reluctance to give the agency much of an authorization having only just started its work. Most of theses amendments were defeated. The bill is headed to the House floor, where Science and Technology Chairman Gordon hopes to see a vote by June.