Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program: An Overview


Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Hollings Manufacturing Partnership (MEP) is a program of regional centers that assist smaller, U.S.-based manufacturing companies in identifying and adopting new technologies. Operating under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico provide technical and managerial assistance to firms. Federal funding is matched by non-federal sources. Existing resources in government, business, and academia are leveraged while the program endeavors to build on current state and local activities and industrial extension efforts.

The MEP program has, at times, been included in the discussion surrounding termination of government programs that provide direct federal support for industry. Questions have been raised in congressional debate as to the appropriateness of government funding for this program when the technologies are available in the marketplace. Instead of the government picking “winners and losers,” opponents argue, the marketplace should make decisions regarding firms worthy of investment. However, proponents of the program stress that, to date, no direct funding is available to companies through MEP and that assistance is technical, scientific, and/or managerial. The centers facilitate the adoption of new technologies that foster competition and promote innovation. As Congress continues to make appropriation decisions, support for manufacturing extension may be discussed in the context of the role of the federal government in facilitating research and technological advancement.



Date of Report: March 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: 97-104
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology: An Appropriations Overview


Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a laboratory of the Department of Commerce, is mandated to provide technical services to facilitate the competitiveness of U.S. industry. NIST is directed to offer support to the private sector for the development of precompetitive generic technologies and the diffusion of government-developed innovation to users in all segments of the American economy. Laboratory research is to provide measurement, calibration, and quality assurance techniques that underpin U.S. commerce, technological progress, improved product reliability, manufacturing processes, and public safety.

Continued funding for NIST extramural programs directed toward increased private sector commercialization has been a major issue. Some Members of Congress have expressed skepticism over a “technology policy” based on providing federal funds to industry for development of pre-competitive generic technologies. This approach, coupled with pressures to balance the federal budget, led to significant reductions in funding for NIST. The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which accounted for over 50% of the FY1995 NIST budget, were proposed for elimination. In 2007, ATP was terminated and replaced by the Technology Innovation Program (TIP).

While much of the legislative debate has focused on ATP and MEP, increases in spending for the NIST laboratories that perform the research essential to the mission responsibilities of the agency have tended to remain small. As part of the American Competitiveness Initiative, announced by former President Bush in the 2006 State of the Union, the Administration stated its intention to double over 10 years funding for “innovation-enabling research” done at NIST through its “core” programs (defined as internal research in the STRS account and the construction budget). In April 2009, the current President stated his decision to double the budget of key science agencies, including NIST, over the next 10 years. While additional funding has been forthcoming, it remains to be seen how support for internal R&D at NIST will evolve and how this might affect financing of extramural efforts such as TIP and MEP. The dispensation of funding for NIST programs may influence the way by which the federal government supports technology development for commercial application.



Date of Report: March 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: 95-30
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In response to concerns over the adequacy of firefighter staffing, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act—popularly called the “SAFER Act”—was enacted by the 108th Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The SAFER Act authorizes grants to career, volunteer, and combination local fire departments for the purpose of increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry-minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Also authorized are grants to volunteer fire departments for activities related to the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The SAFER grant program is authorized through FY2010.

With the economic turndown adversely affecting budgets of local governments, concerns have arisen that modifications to the SAFER statute may be necessary to enable fire departments to more effectively participate in the program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) included a provision (section 603) that waived the matching requirements for SAFER grants awarded in FY2009 and FY2010. The FY2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-32) included a provision authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive further limitations and restrictions in the SAFER statute for FY2009 and FY2010. H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, as amended, would continue to allow SAFER grants to be used to rehire laid-off firefighters and fill positions eliminated through attrition.

The Administration’s FY2011 budget proposed $305 million for SAFER. The 5
th Continuing Appropriation bill (P.L. 112-4, which funds the federal government through March 18, 2011) continues to fund AFG and SAFER at the FY2010 levels. H.R. 1, as introduced on February 11, 2011, would have provided zero funding for SAFER. However, on February 16, 2011, H.Amdt. 223 (offered by Representative Pascrell and agreed to by the House by a vote of 318-113) restored SAFER to $420 million. H.R. 1 was passed by the House on February 18, 2011. S.Amdt. 149 to H.R. 1—which was rejected by the full Senate on March 9, 2011—would have funded SAFER at $405 million and AFG at $405 million.

The Administration’s FY2012 budget proposed $670 million for firefighter assistance, including $420 million for SAFER, which according to the FY2012 budget proposal, would fund 2,200 firefighter positions.

Concerns over local fire departments’ budgetary problems have framed debate over the SAFER reauthorization, which was included in H.R. 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, passed by the House on November 18, 2009. On April 27, 2010, S. 3267, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2010, was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Ultimately, the 111
th Congress did not enact the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act. S. 550, the Fire Grants Authorization Act of 2011, was introduced into the 112th Congress on March 10, 2011. As part of the reauthorization debate, Congress may consider whether some SAFER rules and restrictions governing the hiring grants should be permanently eliminated or altered in order to make it economically feasible for more fire departments to participate in the program. The 112th Congress is also likely to consider appropriate funding levels for SAFER in FY2011 and FY2012.


Date of Report: March 11, 2011
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL33375
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.

The fire grant program is now in its 11
th year. The Fire Act statute was reauthorized in 2004 (Title XXXVI of P.L. 108-375) and provides overall guidelines on how fire grant money should be distributed. There is no set geographical formula for the distribution of fire grants—fire departments throughout the nation apply, and award decisions are made by a peer panel based on the merits of the application and the needs of the community. However, the law does require that fire grants be distributed to a diverse mix of fire departments, with respect to type of department (paid, volunteer, or combination), geographic location, and type of community served (e.g., urban, suburban, or rural).

The Administration’s FY2011 budget proposed $305 million for AFG and $305 million for SAFER. For FY2011, the 5
th Continuing Appropriation bill (P.L. 112-4, which funds the federal government through March 18, 2011) continues to fund AFG and SAFER at the FY2010 levels. H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, as introduced on February 11, 2011, would have provided $300 million to AFG and zero funding for SAFER. However, on February 16, 2011, H.Amdt. 223 (offered by Representative Pascrell and agreed to by the House by a vote of 318-113) restored AFG to $390 million and SAFER to $420 million (the FY2010 levels). H.R. 1 was passed by the House on February 18, 2011. S.Amdt. 149 to H.R. 1—which was rejected by the full Senate on March 9, 2011—would have funded AFG at $405 million and SAFER at $405 million.

The Administration’s FY2012 budget proposed $670 million for firefighter assistance, including $250 million for AFG and $420 million for SAFER. According to the budget proposal, the request would fund 2,200 firefighter positions and approximately 5,000 AFG grants.

In the 111
th Congress, reauthorization legislation for AFG and SAFER was passed by the House, but was not passed by the Senate. Debate over the reauthorization reflected a competition for funding between career/urban/suburban departments and volunteer/rural departments. The urgency of this debate was heightened by the proposed reduction of overall AFG funding in FY2011, and the economic downturn in many local communities increasingly hard pressed to allocate funding for their local fire departments.

S. 550, the Fire Grants Authorization Act of 2011, was introduced into the 112
th Congress on March 10, 2011. The 112th Congress is also likely to consider appropriate funding levels for firefighter assistance in FY2011 and FY2012.


Date of Report: March 11, 2011
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL32341
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

U.S. National Science Foundation: Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)


Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was authorized by Congress in 1978, partly in response to concerns in Congress and the concerns of some in academia and the scientific community about the geographic distribution of federal research and development (R&D) funds. It was argued that there was a concentration of federal R&D funds in large and wealthy states and universities, and that the continuation of such funding patterns might ensure a dichotomy between the “haves” and “have-nots.”

EPSCoR began in 1979 with five states and funding of approximately $1.0 million. Currently, EPSCoR operates in 29 jurisdictions, including 27 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NSF has invested approximately $920.0 million in EPSCoR programs and activities. When established, it operated solely in the NSF. EPSCoR was expanded in the mid 1980s and early 1990s; by 1998, seven other agencies had established EPSCoR or EPSCoR-like programs.

EPSCoR is a university-oriented program, with the goal of identifying, developing, and utilizing the academic science and technology resources in a state that will lead to increased R&D competitiveness. The program is a partnership between NSF and a state to improve the R&D competitiveness through the state’s academic science and technology (S&T) infrastructure. Eventually, it is hoped that those states receiving limited federal support would improve their ability to compete successfully for federal and private sector funds through the regular grant system.

Some have questioned the length of time states should receive EPSCoR support. It continues to be called an experimental program after 28 years, and observers have noted that no state has yet to graduate, or leave the program. In August 2005, the NSF’s Committee of Visitors (COV) released a review of the EPSCoR program for the period FY2000 through FY2004. One of the issues in the review was centered on determining when states would become independent of EPSCoR resources. The COV acknowledged that graduation/progression from the EPSCoR program is a “challenging” issue and it has become necessary to revisit what it means to graduate from the program.

The NSF FY2012 budget request proposes $160.5 million for EPSCoR activities, approximately $13.4 million (9.1%) above the FY2010 enacted level of $147.1 million. (As of this writing, a full-year FY2011 appropriation has not been enacted; therefore NSF is operating under a continuing resolution.) The FY2012 request supports a portfolio of three complementary investment strategies—research infrastructure improvement ($116.1 million), co-funding ($42.8 million), and outreach ($1.7 million). NSF indicates that approximately 24.0% of the funding for EPSCoR is to be used for new research awards in the FY2012 request. The remaining is to be used to provide continuing support for grants made in previous years. This report will be updated periodically.



Date of Report: March 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL30930
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.