Congress can help America stay competitive with COMPETES Act reauthorization (Rep. Michael Honda)



It is critical that we sustain proper support for scientific research and STEM education, or our ability to compete in the global economy will be put in jeopardy. As the Joint Economic Committee noted in a new report released today, basic research plays a critical role in sparking innovation, and it is prudent for the federal government to increase its basic research expenditures now. That is why I am proud to support H.R. 5116, which authorizes those much needed investments.

The bill includes provisions to ensure coordination of federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education activities by elevating an existing committee under the National Science and Technology (NSTC). Providing this coordinating mechanism for the federal STEM education programs, along with requiring the development of a STEM education strategic plan and the submission of an annual report about the budget and activities of federal STEM education programs, is critical to ensuring America remains innovative and competitive in the 21st century the global economy.

For too long we have failed to ensure that the various agencies involved in STEM education efforts are aware of what is being done and what has already been done elsewhere. According to the Academic Competitiveness Council’s (ACC) report, in 2006 the U.S. sponsored 105 STEM education programs at more than a dozen different Federal Agencies. These programs devoted approximately $3.12 billion to STEM education activities spanning pre-kindergarten through postgraduate education and outreach. The report notes that many of these Agencies do not share information or work collaboratively on similar programs, demonstrating a need for better coordination.

The STEM education coordination provisions of this bill are similar to those included in my own bill, the Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (E-STEM) Act, H.R. 2710. To incorporate another element from H.R. 2170 into America COMPETES, stimulating collaboration between the federal and state levels throughout the nation, I have offered an amendment to the bill to make it the responsibility of the STEM Education Advisory Committee created in the bill to facilitate improved coordination. Between federally supported STEM education programs and state level activities, including P-16 and P-20 councils.

I am also pleased that H.R. 5116 contains a reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative that incorporates numerous provisions that I originally proposed in my own legislation, the Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities (NANO) Act, H.R. 820.

Both bills seek to focus America’s nanotechnology research and development programs on areas of national need such as energy , health care, and the environment, and have provisions to help assist in the commercialization of nanotechnology. They also require the development of a nanotechnology research plan that will ensure the development and responsible stewardship of nanotechnology by addressing uncertainty about the health and safety risks it might pose and support the development of educational tools and partnerships to help prepare students to pursue postsecondary education in nanotechnology.

The Science and Technology Committee and Chairman Gordon are to be congratulated for their work on this bill and thanked for incorporating so many of the provisions from my bills and for accepting my amendment. This important legislation will ensure that our nation leads the world in innovation and science and technology.

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