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The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Role in Supporting Economic Competitiveness in the 21st Century

Date: 
Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:00am
Location: 
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Chairman David Wu

I want to welcome everyone to the first hearing of the Technology & Innovation Subcommittee.  It seems only fitting that with the Subcommittee’s focus on technology, competitiveness, and innovation our first hearing is on the National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST.  For over 100 years, NIST has done outstanding work to promote the public welfare and support industrial growth:  from setting standards for uniform pipe threads on fire hydrants to the time measurements that make electronic financial transactions and the Global Positioning System (GPS) functional.  NIST has always been responsive to industry’s and the public’s needs.

NIST’s development of uniform pipe thread standards for fire hydrants was one of NIST’s first success stories.  Three years after NIST’s creation, a fire in Baltimore largely destroyed the city.  Why?  Because when the fire companies from within a 100 miles radius showed up, none of their hoses would fit Baltimore’s fire hydrants because there was no uniform standard.  NIST solved the problem.

Now, on to the issue at hand – the Administration’s FY08 budget request for NIST.  I am glad that the Administration has recognized the importance of at least a portion of NIST work as outlined in the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).  Congress and the prior Administration have long been supportive of the NIST lab programs.  During the past 15 years, NIST’s lab budget has increased by 130%.  When President Clinton took office the NIST lab budget was $163 million; 8 years later it was $313 million.  In addition, Congress had also provided more than $310 million for the construction of new lab facilities.  There are few Federal agencies that have grown so rapidly over the past decade.  The Science & Technology Committee has always been one of NIST’s strongest supporters.

I am concerned that the Bush Administration continues to follow a strategy of paying for increases in the lab programs and construction by cutting funding for the MEP and eliminating the ATP.  Both of these programs are successful public/private partnerships which have contributed to American innovation and competitiveness.  I hope that we can break this cycle where every year the Administration proposes either eliminating or cutting these two programs and then Congress restores the funding.

NIST has not had an authorization for all its programs since 1992 and I intend to break this drought.  I want to move a complete NIST authorization bill through Congress.  I’m hoping that the Administration will work with me on this effort.  We need to move an authorization bill which sets NIST on a path to broadly support innovation and competitiveness in the United States.  We are in a global race for economic competitiveness – we can’t afford to stand idly by and watch our economy burn to the ground as happened in Baltimore, 100 years ago.

Now, I would like to recognize the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Dr. Gingrey, for his opening remarks.

Witnesses

Panel

1 - Dr. William Jeffrey
Director National Institute of Standards and Technology National Institute of Standards and Technology
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2 - Dr. Stan Williams
Sr. H.P. Fellow, Quantum Research Hewlett-Packard Laboratories Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
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3 - Peter Murray
Vice-President Welch Allyn, Inc. Welch Allyn, Inc.
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4 - Michael Borrus
General Partner X/Seed Capital X/Seed Capital
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5 - Mike Ryan
President & CEO TUG Technologies Corporation TUG Technologies Corporation
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Witness Panel
Witnesses take oath before the Subcommittee
L-R: Dr. Jeffrey, Dr. Williams, Mr. Borrus, Mr. Murray, Mr. Ryan
For information on the witnesses, use the links at left
110th Congress