Federal Relations

March 30, 2010

America COMPETES Reauthorization Moving Forward

Congress is well on its way to reauthorizing the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science (COMPETES) Act. COMPETES was fist authorized in 2007, with bi-partisan support. The law is designed to maintain and enhance US innovation in the 21st Century through three areas of focus: (1) increasing research investment, (2) strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.  Staff in the House and Senate are both actively engaged in the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. On the House side, the House Science Committee is leading the charge, while on the Senate side, it’s a bipartisan group led by Senators Bingaman (D-NM) and Alexander (R-TN) with staff from the Senate Energy Committee; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and Appropriations Committees. Key points on the overall bill:

  • Both the House and Senate hope to have the bills passed in their respective chambers by Memorial Day, with a conference agreement completed by the July 4th recess.  The House has held several hearings on a variety of COMPETES topics; Senate Commerce has had one hearing and we don’t anticipate many more. 
  • At this point, the House is considering a 5-year authorization (beginning in FY11). The Senate may push for a shorter authorization (3 years), similar to the initial bill in order to satisfy fiscal watchdogs.  Given the current fiscal environment, there will likely be opposition to the bill in both the House and Senate simply based on its cost.  
  • The House and Senate bills will both likely keep the 3 core agencies (NSF, NIST, DOE Office of Science) on the 7% increase path outlined in COMPETES I. The energy title of America COMPETES would combine three authorization bills that provide funding for DoE Office of Science (HR 4905), Advanced Research Projects Agency -Energy (ARPA-E) (HR 4906), and Energy Innovation Hubs (HR 4907). Taken together, the three authorization bills would increase funding for DOE’s science office, ARPA-E program and so-called energy innovation “hubs” to $6.63 billion in fiscal 2011, eventually up to $9.36 billion by 2015. For FY11, several members of the Washington congressional delegation (Baird, Inslee, and McDermott) have expressed support for sustained funding for the relatively new ARPA-E.
  • Neither bill will likely include NOAA or NASA. The House Science Committee will pursue NASA legislation and a NOAA Organic Act separately. Senate Commerce may push to include NOAA, but the minority may balk at this since NOAA can be linked to climate change issues. Including NASA is seen as a non-starter on both sides, especially given questions and concerns surrounding its FY11 budget request.