Issue Date: August 13, 2007
CONGRESS HAS GIVEN final approval to landmark legislation aimed at making the U.S. more competitive in the global marketplace through substantial increases in federal R&D funding and in science and math education spending.
The America Competes Act (H.R. 2272) authorizes a total of $33.6 billion during the next three fiscal years for science, technology, engineering, and math education programs across the federal government. It also authorizes multiple grant programs at various federal agencies to educate current and future teachers in science and math.
The new law also authorizes doubling spending for NSF and the Department of Energy's Office of Science within seven years, and it would double spending for the National Institute of Standards & Technology within 10 years. Most far-reaching is the creation of an autonomous Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy within DOE to conduct high-risk energy research unlikely to be funded by DOE or private industry. Some $300 million is set aside for 2008 for this agency.
Passage of the legislation drew immediate praise from a number of scientific organizations, including the American Chemical Society. "This bill is a huge victory for science and for our country," ACS President Catherine T. Hunt says. "The need to train more and better scientists, invest in world-class scientific facilities, and provide our leading researchers the resources that will lead to transformational scientific breakthroughs has never been greater."
On Aug. 2, the House adopted the legislation by a vote of 367-57, while the Senate endorsed the measure by unanimous consent. On Aug. 9, President George W. Bush signed the bill, praising the funding increases for physical science and education.
"Keeping America competitive will help us keep good jobs on our nation's shores and ensure our ability to compete in a global marketplace," says House Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). "That process begins with a high-quality educational system and follows with ideas and investments in people here at home."
Although the bill would put research at NSF, NIST, and DOE's Office of Science on a path to double their budgets, the actual amount of money to be spent will be determined by the appropriations committees of the House and Senate.
The legislation is largely based on recommendations in the 2005 National Academies' report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," which concluded that the U.S. is falling behind other countries in math and science education. The report found that about two-thirds of the students studying chemistry and physics in U.S. high schools receive instruction from a teacher who is lacking a degree or certification in the field.
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