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Monday, September 27, 2010

America COMPETES Act and theFY2010 Budget

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

The America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) became law on August 9, 2007. The act is intended to increase the nation’s investment in research and development (R&D), and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. It is intended to address two concerns believed to influence U.S. competitiveness: the adequacy of R&D funding to generate sufficient technological progress, and the adequacy of the number of American students proficient in STEM or interested in STEM careers relative to other countries.

The act authorizes funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC) over FY2008-FY2010. If the rate of increase provided for in the act were maintained, funding for these agencies would double, in nominal terms, in seven years. The act establishes the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) within DOE to support transformational energy technology research projects to enhance U.S. economic and energy security. A new program, Discovery Science and Engineering Innovation Institutes, is intended to support the establishment of multidisciplinary institutes at DOE national laboratories to apply fundamental science and engineering discoveries to technological innovations.

Among the act’s education activities, many of which are focused on high-need school districts, are programs to recruit new K-12 STEM teachers, enhance existing STEM teacher skills, and provide more STEM education opportunities for students. The new Department of Education (ED) Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow and the existing NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship programs provide opportunities, through institutional grants, for students pursuing STEM degrees and STEM professionals to gain teaching skills and teacher certification, and for current STEM teachers to enhance their teaching skills and STEM knowledge. The act also authorizes a new program at NSF that would provide grants to create or improve professional science master’s degree (PSM) programs that emphasize practical training and preparation for the workforce in high-need fields.

The America COMPETES Act provides authorization levels through FY2010. New programs established by the act will not be initiated, and authorized increases in appropriations for existing programs will not occur, unless funded through appropriation acts. The 110
th Congress provided FY2008 appropriations to establish ED’s Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow program, and NIST’s Technology Improvement Program (TIP), which replaced the agency’s Advanced Technology Program. The 111th Congress provided FY2009 appropriations, supplemented by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to establish DOE’s ARPA-E and NSF’s PSM program.

Congress has completed action on the regular FY2010 appropriations acts, providing funding for some programs authorized under the American COMPETES Act through two acts. Some America COMPETES Act research and STEM education programs received appropriations at authorized levels in FY2010, others did not. FY2010 funding for programs at the Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation, and Department of Education is provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117). Funding for Department of Energy programs is provided by the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-85). Several programs newly authorized in the act have never been appropriated funds, nor did President Obama seek funding for them in his FY2010 budget request. Congress is considering reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act. 

Date of Report: September 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R40519
Price: $29.95

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