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Committee Print – National Institute of Standards and Technology programs

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Opening Statement By Chairman David Wu

I want to welcome everyone to this morning’s mark-up of the NIST portion of the COMPETES bill.
When the Subcommittee went through this exercise in 2007, it was the first comprehensive authorization of NIST in 15 years. In the first version of COMPETES, we put NIST labs on a path to double their funding, and we replaced the 20-year-old Advanced Technology Program with the Technology Innovation Program, or TIP, to focus on small, high-tech entrepreneurial firms where technological innovation often occurs.
However, the first version of COMPETES largely maintained the status quo. This new bill moves us forward to focus NIST on meeting the measurement needs of the private sector, supporting competitiveness, and creating jobs.
In the face of ever-increasing global technological and economic competition, it is our responsibility in Congress to support high-tech manufacturing in the United States. This bill authorizes robust funding for NIST to enable it to meet that goal. It maintains the commitment to double funding for the NIST labs and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program—known as MEP—over 10 years. It also provides authorization for TIP consistent with the vision laid out in the original COMPETES Act, enabling it to meet its existing obligations and fund up to $40 million in new awards each year. This bill elevates the Director of NIST to the level of Under Secretary for Technology and Standards in order to inject NIST expertise into the Administration’s discussions on innovation, standards, and support for high-tech growth.
The current lab structure of 10 operating units is 20 years old and no longer reflects today’s technology sectors or the inherent and increasing multi-disciplinary nature of technology. This bill authorizes a lab structure of six operating units to promote efficiency and a cross-disciplinary culture at NIST. The bill also gives the NIST Director permission to modify the NIST structure, upon notification to Congress, as technology advances and the needs of the private sector change.  
This legislation also structures the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to better address the challenges facing our small- and medium-sized manufacturers and the revenue challenges facing our states. The legislation:
1.    Requires MEP Centers to inform local and regional community colleges of the skill sets local manufacturers require in their workforce;
2.    Creates an innovative services initiative to help small manufacturing improve energy efficiency, use new technologies, and manufacture high-tech products;
3.    Allows the Secretary, as he deems appropriate, to modify current cost-share requirements as state budgets come under increasing pressure.
The legislation also creates a bioscience research program at NIST to develop measurement tools and support research that will open new fields in the treatment of disease through personalized medical biologics.
After one Full Committee hearing and three Subcommittee hearings, my Subcommittee has a strong hearing record to support its policy objectives for every element in this bill. We also circulated the bill text to the witnesses for their comments and suggestions, many of which have been incorporated.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

111th Congress