Wu Spearheads Look into NIST Budget, U.S. Competitiveness
In his first subcommittee hearing as Chairman, Rep. David Wu (D-OR) led the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation in discussing the Administration’s proposed FY2008 budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Specifically, Members examined whether NIST can maintain its goals of improving competitiveness under the President’s proposed budget, which is $25 million less than the FY2007 amount appropriated in H.J.Res. 20.
"For over 100 years, NIST has worked 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 functional," said Wu. "But NIST has not had an authorization for all its programs since 1992, and I intend to break this drought."
Wu said he wants to move a NIST authorization bill through Congress this year, which sets the agency on a path to broadly support innovation and competitiveness in the U.S.
Although the President’s FY08 budget proposal increases funding to NIST lab programs and construction, Chairman Wu expressed specific concern that it also cuts funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program by more than half and eliminates the Advanced Technology Program.
MEP is a nationwide network that establishes relationships between not-for-profit centers and small-to-medium sized manufacturers, allowing those manufacturers greater access to technologies for improved productivity. To maintain the existing national network of centers requires a $104 million budget. The Administration’s FY 2008 budget proposes a mere $46.3 million in funding for MEP.
"Both MEP and ATP are successful private/public partnerships which have contributed to American innovation and competitiveness," Wu said. "I hope that we can break this cycle where every year the Administration neglects their value, and proposes either eliminating or cutting these two programs, leaving Congress to add the funding back into the federal budget."
Peter Murray, vice president of operations for Welch Allyn Monitoring - located in Congressman Wu's district - testified at today's hearing. Welch Allyn Monitoring is a MEP success story.
Welch Allyn designs, manufactures and markets biomedical monitoring devices that improve patient care and lower health care operating costs. Like every business, Welch Allyn faces competition and is always looking for ways to increase profitability, quality and shorten delivery times.
Working with the Oregon MEP network affiliate, OMEP helped Welch Allyn accomplish these goals. Welch Allyn saved nearly $1 million in direct expenses and created 50 new jobs as a result of implementing OMEP recommendations.
"We have had experience with purely private consulting firms and we are convinced that, based on our experience with OMEP, there are key differences between OMEP and private providers," Murray said. "I view the federal funding as an efficient use of federal dollars. I have served on boards of several profit and non-profit organizations, and I view OMEP as one of the best run organizations."
Wu acknowledged the Administration’s proposal to double the agency’s Scientific and Technical Research Services and construction budgets, as outlined in the American Competitiveness Initiative. But he expressed concern that those increases come at the cost of important programs, such as MEP and ATP.
The Science and Technology Committee has jurisdiction over all civilian research and development programs of the Federal Government.