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Policy

Science Policy: Oversight And Reauthorization Will Dominate Activity

by Susan R. Morrissey
January 17, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 3

The successful passing last month of the reauthorization of the America Competes Act will be followed up this year by rigorous oversight of the programs included in the bill. Signed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 4, the measure authorizes funding for key science agencies and makes a number of revisions in some science programs. Although there is bipartisan support for science and technology, this measure has drawn criticism from Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee.

“This measure continues to be far too expensive, particularly in light of the new and duplicative programs it creates,” Hall said in a statement following passage of the bill. He noted that the bill goes “beyond the goals and direction of the original America Competes Act, taking us from good, solid fundamental research and much too far into the world of commercialization.”

As a result, Hall’s committee is expected to hold hearings to investigate the need for the authorized programs as well as to take a look at their cost.

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration will also be on the agenda for the House Science, Space & Technology Committee—which officially reintroduced “space” into its title this year— as well as the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee. Hearings are expected to provide oversight of the agency as it transitions the operation of parts of its human space exploration program from in-house to the commercial sector.

The House committee will also take a close look at reauthorizing the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which had been part of an earlier version of the America Competes Act reauthorization. Established in 2001, NNI coordinates nanotechnology R&D among 25 federal agencies and is past due for congressional review. Committee oversight hearings are also expected on issues such as climate change, scientific integrity, energy R&D, cybersecurity, and science education.

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