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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

America Competes 2010: FY2012 Funding and FY2008-FY2011 Funding Summary

Heather B. Gonzalez
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The 112th Congress will make several budget and appropriations decisions that may affect implementation of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358). Signed on January 4, 2011, this new law seeks to improve U.S competitiveness and innovation by authorizing increased federal support for, among other things, research and development (R&D) in the physical sciences and engineering, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. P.L. 111-358 reauthorized the 2007 America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), which enabled similar federal activities and programs from FY2008 to FY2010.

Funding for many 2007 America COMPETES Act programs was below authorized levels—in some cases substantially—during the law’s three-year authorization period. Further, although some commentators considered the FY2011 budget deal to be positive for science (on the whole) because cuts were not deeper, funding for many of the 2010 reauthorization act programs fell short of authorized levels. If Congress continues the growth rate established for these programs in FY2011, it will take approximately 15 years to achieve the so-called “budget doubling” for research in the physical sciences and engineering that the acts’ proponents seek. This pace is considerably slower than the seven-year doubling pace set by the original America COMPETES Act.

Some analysts argue that historic underfunding of federal R&D in the physical sciences and engineering and STEM education threatens the fundamental underpinnings of the economy and therefore justifies increasing national investment in these areas even in an era of fiscal constraint. Others see the national deficit and debt as greater threats to economic growth and assert that current U.S. fiscal conditions make cuts necessary.

Key budget and appropriations questions for the 112
th Congress center on whether and how to fund America COMPETES 2010 provisions—including the doubling effort—in FY2012. Other FY2012 funding questions for Congress include whether and how to respond to the STEM education program changes that the Administration seeks at the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and Department of Energy. Table 1 (at the end of the report) summarizes the appropriations status of the 2010 law’s FY2012 funding provisions.

Date of Report: July 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R41906
Price: $29.95

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