The Original America COMPETES Act:
In 2007, the President signed into law H.R. 2272, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act, also known as the America COMPETES Act. It is Public Law No: 110-69. The act authorized a total of $43.3 billion over fiscal years 2008-2010 for eight titles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and education programs across the federal government. The multi-agency act focused primarily on math, science, engineering and technology.
Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act (2010)
President Obama signed the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, H.R. 5116, the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (America COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010,” in 2011. It is Public Law No: 111-358.
This law built upon the 2007 COMPETES Act and enjoyed strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The authorization levels contained in this legislation outlined a three-year funding path for sustained investments in research, innovation and STEM education at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This $48 billion legislation was actively supported by APLU.
America COMPETES Act in the 113th Congress
In 2013, APLU joined with other university, business and science leaders in endorsing a set of “guiding principles” for a COMPETES reauthorization.
In March 2014, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act, H.R.4186) was introduced in the House of Representatives. This legislation reauthorized a number of programs from the 2007 and 2010 America COMPETES Act, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
While this legislation had some positive aspects, a number of concerns were raised from the scientific community regarding this legislation. In May, 2014 the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved the FIRST Act on a party-line vote. During the markup, an improvement to the legislation was made that would restore a shorter embargo period for public access to published articles resulting from federally funded research. However, as a whole, APLU did not support the bill that passed. This legislation never made it to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
In July, 2014, Senator Rockefeller introduced the Senate version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S.2757). This legislation included a five-year reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), with significant increases above the current funding levels. APLU endorsed this legislation, which never was brought up in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for consideration.
The America Competes Act in the 114th Congress
On April 15, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R.1806). This legislation is a two year reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and some programs within the Department of Energy (DoE).
This legislation would provide an increased authorization for NSF over FY2015 levels by about 4%, largely at the expense of the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which would face large cuts to its authorization levels. Within NSF, the legislation would authorize funding at the directorate level, which APLU opposes, because that would promote the politicization of research priorities. The bill would cuts the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate by about 45% below the FY2015 enacted levels, and cuts the Geosciences Directorate by about 8% below FY2015 enacted levels. Funding levels in the bill are the same for FY2016 and FY2017.
Within the Department of Energy title, this legislation would authorize ARPA-E at $140 million for FY2016 and FY2017, a cut of $140 million from the FY2015 enacted level of $280 million, and $185 million below the President’s FY2016 request of $325 million. The Office of Science received an increase, and would be authorized at $5.3 billion, consistent with the President’s FY2016 request, and above the FY2015 enacted level of $5.1 billion.
For FY2016 and FY2017, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program within the National Institute of Standards and Technology would be authorized at $125 million. This is $5 million below the FY2015 enacted level of $130 million and $16 million below the President’s FY2016 request of $141 million.
The bill would modify the goals of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and would remove the goal of developing energy technologies to reduce energy-related emissions. In addition, HR1806 would require prospective ARPA-E grantees to seek private funding for their projects before being eligible to receive federal dollars. This could prohibit good science from being funded if a grantee is unable to demonstrate “sufficient attempts to secure private financing” and is counter to the longstanding principle of federal funding for research – that the government will provide funding for important research that is too fundamental or long term for industry investment.
On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a day-long markup and ultimately approved the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R.1806). The legislation passed on a party line vote of 19 to 16. In advance of the markup, APLU issued a statement indicating opposition to the legislation. APLU also signed onto the letter of opposition to the legislation on behalf of the Coalition for National Science Funding. This legislation was approved by the full House of Representatives by a vote of 217 to 205 on May 20, 2015.
On May 20, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced S.1398, a bill to reauthorize the energy programs included in the America COMPETES Act. The legislation would address the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E programs and provide a five-year authorization, with approximately four percent growth. This legislation will be taken up by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will draft the remainder of a COMPETES Reauthorization.