The original American Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (America COMPETES Act), was signed into law in August of 2007 with strong bipartisan support; its aim to improve America’s position in an increasingly global market. As might be expected, scientific and technological advances can further economic growth. The America COMPETES ACT is designed to increase investment in science and engineering research, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education from kindergarten to graduate school and postdoctoral education. The bill was passed in response to the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" Report issued by the National Academy of Sciences.
Focus is placed on two areas believed to influence future US competitiveness: inadequate research and development funding to produce substantial technological progress, and inadequate numbers of American students with adeptness in science and mathematics or interested in science and engineering careers, relative to international competitors. As an authorization act, any new program proposed will not be initiated unless funded through subsequent appropriations.
Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, Bart Gordon (D-TN), announced in 2010 that he intended to reauthorize America COMPETES in 2010. He is retiring at the end of the year and passing this legislation is one of his major goals before he steps down. The bill will reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation, National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science and will include spending authorizations for each agency.
While it was not easy, Gordon did manage to shepherd legislation through the House. The House finally passed the Reauthorization bill, H.R. 5116, on its third trip to the floor by a vote of 262 to 150 in late May. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed its version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, S. 3605, on July 22. Unlike on the House side, the bill avoided a public political battle and was passed unanimously by the subcommittee.
While both Democrats and Republicans agree on the importance of investing in science, Republican opposition stems from concern over authorizing new spending in tight fiscal times. The bills passed thus far have lower authorization levels for programs than originally proposed by Chairman Gordon. Ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), remarked during the markup of the bill that the bill is important but still too expensive.
The full Senate has not yet voted on the bill and it is unknown when that may occur.
Over 750 organizations endorsed reauthorization of COMPETES, including the Biophysical Society.
Commerce Committee Advances America COMPETES Reauthorization Bill
Innovation Legislation Clears the House With Bipartisan Support
Library of Congress Bill Summary and Status