America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 a setback for Science and Technology Community

A Note from Dr. Mary L. Good on the Future of the America COMPETES Act….  ASTRA is a collaboration of over 130 companies, academic institutions, professional societies, trade associations, and foundations. ASTRA’s mission is to ensure that there is an adequate, and growing, investment by the Federal government in basic research in the physical sciences, the mathematical and computational sciences, and engineering.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED: The full U.S. House of Representatives voted to recommit the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 on Thursday, May 13 on a 292-126 vote.  This was a setback for many in our community.  It occurred on an amendment by Ranking House Science & Technology Committee Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), who had previously warned about what he called "excessive spending" contained in the bill, H.R. 5116.  Other provisions of Hall's proposal included:

  1. . Freezing all funding to FY 2010 appropriated levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), DOE Office of Science, and theNational Institutes of Standards & Technology (NIST).

  2. . Striking any new programs added to the original COMPETES Act. In effect, this would end several new initiatives like Energy Innovation Hubs and other prototype programs at the three agencies affected.

  3. . Ending the authorization at FY 2013 rather than FY 2015.

WHAT'S NEXT? All Members of the U.S. House need to hear from us, IMMEDIATELY, both individually and through our various organizations, businesses and universities.  Supporters of the bill have told ASTRA that it is going to come back this week – or soon thereafter – probably under a different bill number, with the funding restored and the programs restored.  Then there will be another vote.  This vote will be a critical decision by the U.S. House for our country's future.

ACTIONS FOR NOW: 1.  Get informed!  Decide whether or not you yourself support this legislation.  Bipartisan support for this bill is essential.  Partisan differences over R&D funding are a great threat to our nation's future viability.   Public education about the consequences of such trends needs to be focused on all concerned.  ASTRA, among scores of organizations, is now able to provide timely, daily updates on issues and developing news through use of our two Web Sites.  Please use them.  (www.usinnovation.org and www.aboutastra.org)

ASTRA has supported efforts like the COMPETES Act for a decade.  We have used facts-based advocacy to make the case.  For more details about what this bill would do for the nation's science, engineering and technology infrastructure and workforce, see an article compiled by MIT's Washington Office staff located here:  http://www.usinnovation.org/files/UpdateAmerica%20COMPETESforCVD2010.pdf 2.  Download our recently updated ASTRA State R&D Sheets and the STEM Ed Report Cards and forward them to your Member in the U.S House.  These sheets are "value neutral."  They objectively measure and depict the current importance of federal R&D funding to your own state's and your Congressional District's economy, your kids' future, and our country's economic competitiveness and innovation capacity.  Please go to: http://www.usinnovation.org/state/state_rd_list.asp  and use these materials.

3.  Communicate with your own Member of the U.S. House immediately!  

One easy way to do so it for you to send an e-mail or just telephone your Representative's office.  Simply use the handy Web tool provided by the U.S. House Clerk's Office found below.  Follow the instructions provided by the link, and you will be connected to your Representative's office.  You can e-mail, or make a phone call:  https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Consider these talking points – and keep them simple by focusing on a few of them.  Also, tell your Representative how your own experience as an individual fits into these talking points, if applicable – for example, how your business has benefitted from R&D investments, the role federal support played in your own education and careeer, how your local economy has benefitted by jobs from such investments, etc. 

A key element of America's 21st Century economy – a robust workforce of trained scientific and engineering talent – cannot be allowed to leave our shores.  Jobs and industries will surely continue following this talent migration if we under-invest in R&D.

.  Past federal investment in our scientific and engineering ecosystems was an essential element in creating the most effective economic engine in world history.  R&D is the fuel for future U.S. jobs, economic growth, promoting national security and raising our standard of living.

The COMPETES Reauthorization Act is a bill that lays the basis for sustained funding increases in our nation's often neglected science, engineering and technology resources.  Increases are needed now because of prior under-investment during the past generation.  Under the guise of "saving money" we have suffered the consequences of not investing enough in our future. 

Now is NOT the time, given our fiscal predicament, to stop INVESTING in America's "seed corn" – our world class R&D infrastructure.  If anything, it is the time to INCREASE strategic investments to leverage our resources and talents.

Sabotaging our innovation future now by reducing the amount of future R&D funding is dangerous – and a false economy.   Why undermine our own country's abilities to compete and innovate globally?  

.  Our private sector simply lacks the capital and incentives to pick up the slack, especially in basic R&D investments.  Wall Street and investors punish companies that are not riveted upon nearly immediate returns on capital.  We cannot change that philosophy in the short term.

Prior under-investment in the science & technology community is one of the very reasons our country is in peril of losing our former dominance in many world markets and in scientific and engineering competence. COMPETES is an effort to catch up to where we should have been many years ago. 

Let's not make science R&D a partisan issue.  Please urge Congress to maintain its long-standing bipartisan support for science and engineering R&D funding.  It's a matter of highest national priority.

#RampD #connecticut #STEM #NIST #NSF #math #nationalsciencefoundation #FederalLegislation #engineering

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