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Committee Urges Full Funding of COMPETES Act

Feb 14, 2008
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing to consider how the Administration’s FY2009 budget proposal addresses programs authorized in the America COMPETES Act (PL 110-69) within the jurisdiction of the Committee.

Dr. John H. Marburger, III, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), testified before the Committee.  Members asked questions about how the Administration proposes to fund programs authorized in COMPETES. 

The COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272) passed the House (367-57) and the Senate (by Unanimous Consent) on August 2, 2007 and was signed into law by the President on August 9, 2007.

The Committee plans to hold additional hearings on this topic that will address specific agency budgets, including for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy (DOE).

Full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) – the lead author and sponsor of the COMPETES legislation – offered the following comment at today’s hearing:

"Last August, Congress passed and the President signed into law the America COMPETES Act. A response to the 2005 National Academies’ report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, and supported by a wide range of U.S. industries, universities, and science organizations, COMPETES seeks to ensure U.S. students, teachers, businesses, and workers will continue leading the world in science, innovation, research, and technology.

As we all know, the global marketplace continues to become more competitive. The fact of the matter is, our country can not and should not compete with the rest of the world on wages when half of the world’s workers earn less than $2 a day.  Our country needs to compete at a higher level – with better skills and higher productivity.

This was the goal of the America COMPETES Act.  The law presents a balanced set of policies to improve our country’s short-term and long-term competitiveness.  COMPETES invests in long-term science and research, but also short-term technology development and innovation. 

Just as importantly, COMPETES ensures not only that our nation will produce the world’s leading scientists and engineers but also that all students will have a strong grounding in math and science and are prepared for technical jobs in every sector of the economy. 

Unfortunately, although the Administration’s budget is supportive on basic research, it is weak on several other components critical to our country’s competitiveness.

Dr. Marburger, I see in your testimony that you quoted from the President’s State of the Union Address.  Well I would like to quote the President’s speech as well.  The President said that:  ‘Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record.’

I suppose that’s the good news.  Unfortunately, the bad news is that our students are far from measuring up compared to other industrialized countries.  According to the latest OECD Program for International Students Assessment, or PISA, students in the U.S. ranked 25th out of 30 developed countries in math. 

In science, the news is just as bad - U.S. students ranked 21st in science - down from 19th in 2003 and 14th in 2000.  In fact, 25 percent of U.S. students failed to reach even a basic level where they could identify scientific concepts or apply data to a personal decision.

Knowing this, I am deeply disappointed that, yet again, the President’s budget does not make K-12 education programs at NSF a priority. 

The top recommendation of the National Academies was to ensure K-12 STEM teachers across the country have strong content knowledge and effective teaching skills.  The National Academies’ report cited the UTeach program, which was developed 10 years ago at the University of Texas, as an example of what is working for STEM teacher education. 

Based on its success, UTeach has been used as a model by the State of California in an effort to reform STEM teacher education.  Likewise, the private sector has pledged significant funding to expand this teacher education model nationwide.

This Committee led the way in COMPETES, taking this top recommendation and revamping NSF’s Robert Noyce scholarship.  But under the Administration’s budget, the Noyce program would receive only 10% of the funding needed to mobilize the new program.

COMPETES also seeks to ensure that U.S. companies and small businesses lead the world in innovation, creating jobs in the process.  Our country has lost 3.4 million manufacturing jobs under this Administration’s watch, with 217,000 jobs lost in 2007 alone, and manufacturing employment in the U.S. now stands at its lowest point since 1950. 

COMPETES seeks to reverse this trend with robust funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Technology Innovation Program  – both of which have proven track records for return on investment and job creation. 

However, the Administration’s budget phases out MEP and eliminates TIP immediately.  These programs help create good American jobs that this budget would put in jeopardy.

Finally, COMPETES seeks to reduce our dependence on foreign energy and address global climate change through an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy - ARPA-E.  Modeled after the Defense Department’s successful DARPA program, ARPA-E is charged with rapidly developing and commercializing transformational clean energy technologies through collaborative research with the university and private sector.  Nothing like this research model currently exists within the Department of Energy.  A successful ARPA-E will stand on its own within the Department, and have the authority and resources to quickly assemble teams to crash on research projects that neither industry nor the Department will do on their own.  A successful ARPA-E just might cause us to rethink how we do energy research in the U.S., and the Administration should reconsider its lack of support for the program.

The President is right that basic R&D funding included in his American Competitiveness Initiative is important to our economy and our future. But I believe the Administration is wrong that we don’t also need to be committed to a globally competitive workforce, investments in small manufacturers that create jobs, and a new approach to cutting edge energy research.

Last year, the President threatened to veto appropriations bills that would have come much closer to fully funding COMPETES, as well as his ACI.  The Administration should listen to the businesses and educators and scientists and engineers in this country and support full funding of COMPETES this year.” 

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110.211

110th Congress