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 SchumerObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda Schumer gets shoutout, standing ovation from crowd at Tony Awards 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 YoungHow to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ind.) is a co-sponsor in the Senate, while Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse passes sweeping defense policy bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Tech groups take aim at Texas Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates 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.