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Wednesday, December 7, 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 into law on January 4, 2011, this new law seeks to improve U.S competitiveness and innovation by authorizing, among other things, increased federal support for research and development (R&D) in the physical sciences and engineering, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. P.L. 111-358 reauthorizes the 2007 America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), which enabled similar federal activities and programs from FY2008 to FY2010.

Overall, enacted and proposed FY2012 congressional appropriations for programs with a specific funding level authorized by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (hereinafter referred to as “America COMPETES 2010”) are close to FY2011 enacted levels. However, Congress shifted funding within America COMPETES 2010 agencies in FY2012—particularly at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These shifts increased funding for certain research accounts and decreased support for other agency activities. Increases in research and construction funding at the NSF were offset with reductions to STEM education; while at NIST, Congress eliminated the Technology Innovation Partnership (TIP) program, among other things, and reduced the construction account.

Some of the most closely watched R&D provisions in America COMPETES 2007 and 2010 are designed to double aggregate federal support for targeted accounts at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, NIST, and NSF. The status of the so-called “doubling path” policy for R&D in the physical sciences and engineering is now uncertain. Prior year appropriations for doubling path accounts were generally below authorized levels and FY2012 enacted and currently proposed appropriations would further reduce the average annual growth rate in FY2012. At the FY2012 proposed rate, it would take almost 20 years to achieve the doubling. The Obama Administration’s September 1, 2011, Mid-Session Review acknowledged that the doubling goal would need to be delayed.

The largest source of STEM education funding in America COMPETES 2010 is the education account at the NSF. Congress reduced support for this account in FY2012 (compared to FY2011). Appropriators in both chambers also (1) rejected NSF’s request to reduce funding for the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship and Mathematics and Science Partnership programs, (2) continued encouraging the NSF to address the needs of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and (3) directed NSF to distribute widely its recent report on best practices in STEM education. House appropriators raised concerns about certain Department of Energy STEM education programs, suggesting that the department’s scholarship and fellowship programs may be more appropriate functions of the NSF.

Other America COMPETES 2010-related provisions in FY2012 appropriations proposals address the participation of under-represented minorities in STEM, support regional economic development and manufacturing programs, and monitor agency efforts to implement new authority to offer prizes in return for scientific and technological achievement. Table 1 at the end of this report summarizes the FY2012 appropriations status of selected provisions from the 2010 law.

Date of Report: November 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: R41906
Price: $29.95

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