Lawmakers introduce bill to invest $100 billion in science, tech research

Lawmakers introduce bill to invest $100 billion in science, tech research
© Greg Nash

A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation Wednesday to boost research into emerging technology including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

The Endless Frontiers Act would create a Directorate of Technology at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and would rename the NSF the National Science and Technology Foundation. 

The new directorate would be given $100 billion over five years to invest in American science and technology research, with specific research areas including cybersecurity, robotics, AI, quantum computing, national disaster prevention and biotechnologies. 

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In addition, the Department of Commerce would be given $10 billion over five years to establish “regional technology hubs” across the nation. 

Schumer said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to fund science and technology research at higher levels. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown the science and technology gap between the United States and the rest of the world is closing fast and that threatens our long-term health, economic competitiveness, and national security,” Schumer said in a statement. “America cannot afford to continue our decades-long underinvestment and expect to lead the world in advanced scientific and technological research.”

Senator Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership MORE (R-Ind.) is a co-sponsor in the Senate, while Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal It's time to eliminate land-based nuclear missiles Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director House Republican accuses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube of not doing enough to combat Chinese propaganda MORE (R-Wis.) are sponsors of the bill in the House. 

Gallagher serves as a co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which released recommendations to defend the U.S. against cyber threats in March. Gallagher pointed to concerns over the Chinese government using the COVID-19 pandemic to boost its science and technology capabilities. 

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“In recent years, the United States has taken important steps to slow the transfer of critical technologies to the Chinese Communist Party,” Gallagher said. “But in order to ensure the CCP does not gain technological superiority in the future, we also need to make proactive investments in strategic technologies central to the competition.” 

Khanna, whose district includes Silicon Valley, emphasized the need to “invest in the technologies of the future,” which would involve creating more jobs during a time when many Americans are unemployed.  

“At a moment when so many folks are in need of stable employment, Congress should do everything in our power to develop sustainable industries across our country that will be here to stay, or else risk losing our competitive edge to China,” Khanna said. 

The lawmakers previewed the bill in a USA Today op-ed published earlier this month, describing boosting science and technology research as a rare area of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill. 

The bill was introduced following increased cyberattacks on health care groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal agencies warned this month that Chinese government-backed hackers were targeting groups involved in researching COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, with members of Congress requesting briefings on this threat last week.