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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

America COMPETES 2010 and the FY2013 Budget

Heather B. Gonzalez
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

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

The President’s FY2013 budget request seeks increased funding for many America COMPETES 2010 research-related activities but includes few specific requests for the law’s STEM education provisions. This approach is consistent with prior legislative and executive actions. One exception to this trend is the President’s request for an increase in the main education account at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The FY2013 request also seeks an overall increase of 4.1% for the so-called “doubling path” accounts at the NSF, Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) core laboratory and construction. This growth rate is less than the authorized growth rate of 6.3% and equal to the FY2012 enacted growth rate (4.1%). Some legislators have expressed concerns about the feasibility of the doubling effort given the nation’s current fiscal challenges. In light of these challenges, stakeholders may perceive any increases in research funding to be a win for science.

As of June 27, 2012, the House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations had moved on two of three annual appropriations acts that typically contain funding for COMPETES Act provisions: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) and Energy and Water Development (E&W). Table 1 includes the FY2013 funding status of selected provisions from the 2010 act.

In brief, the House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations would continue increasing funding for targeted doubling path accounts in FY2013, albeit at a lower rate than in prior years. Proposed growth rates for these accounts are 3.8% and 3.9% (House and Senate committee, respectively) or almost a 20-year doubling period. The House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations disagree about funding for ARPA-E. The House provides $200.0 million for the energy innovation program while the Senate Committee on Appropriations recommends the authorized level of $312.0 million.

As for STEM education, both the House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations propose the full request for the main education account at NSF. If passed, that account would receive its first increase in two years. On the other hand, the House Committee on Appropriations expresses concern about DOE education activities and recommends reduced funding—consistent with the request—for some programs. (It is not clear how these changes will affect COMPETES Act programs because DOE does not typically seek funds for educational activities under these laws.) Both the House and the Senate Committee on Appropriations would provide the requested funding level for the primary education and training account at DOE’s Office of Science.

Other COMPETES Act authorizations with funding provisions in the respective proposed FY2013 appropriations acts are the Regional Innovation Program, Loan Guarantees for Innovative Technologies in Manufacturing, and funding for NIST.

Date of Report: June 27, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R42430
Price: $29.95
Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.

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