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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of2010 (H.R. 5116) and the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69): Selected Policy Issues

Heather B. Gonzalez, Coordinator
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

John F. Sargent Jr.
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

On August 9, 2007, President George W. Bush signed the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (P.L. 110-69) into law. The law responded to concerns about long-term U.S. economic competitiveness and innovative capacity by authorizing increased investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering. Statutory authorities for certain America COMPETES Act provisions expire in 2010 and work on reauthorization has begun in both chambers of Congress. On April 28, 2010, the House Committee on Science and Technology ordered reported as amended H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. Similar legislation has not been introduced in the Senate yet. 

H.R. 5116 builds upon, and differs from, P.L. 110-69. Among H.R. 5116's many provisions and titles, it augments and amends P.L. 110-69's provisions in STEM education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering. H.R. 5116 includes new provisions that seek to increase coordination among federal STEM education programs and that seek to improve STEM teaching and learning in higher education. It would also increase authorizations for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories, and Department of Energy Office of Science for a period of five years; and would make program changes that seek to provide for high-risk, high-reward research, and increased collaboration and commercialization. 

H.R. 5116 would also expand provisions of P.L. 110-69 that sought to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM education and employment, and would reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative and Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, two federal multi-agency R&D initiatives. 

In both the debate about H.R. 5116 and evaluation of P.L. 110-69 critics have raised concerns about appropriations. They argue the bill is fiscally unsustainable in the current economic and budgetary environment. Supporters contend existing weaknesses in STEM education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering threaten the fundamental underpinnings of the economy and therefore justify national investment even in an era of fiscal constraint. 

This report provides background information on P.L. 110-69 and H.R. 5116 and analyzes four policy issues addressed by both measures: (1) STEM Education, (2) Federal Research Programs and Activities, (3) Broadening Participation, and (4) Funding. It also discusses selected policy concerns identified in the debate about U.S. competitiveness and describes how H.R. 5116 responds to those concerns. It contains a description of federal multi-agency research and development initiatives that are included in H.R. 5116 but not found in P.L. 110-69. This report does not attempt to address all provisions of H.R. 5116 or to project likely outcomes from its provisions.

Date of Report: May 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41231
Price: $29.95

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