Funding Growth for Science Slows Under Reauthorized COMPETES Act
President Obama’s signature on the America COMPETES Act on January 4, 2011, came as a relief to supporters of bolstering America’s competitiveness in science and innovation.
“There is nothing that will have a deeper, longer lasting, and more positive impact for our nation than this bill,” stated U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, in a news release.
A release from Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren compares passage of the bill with the 1957 launch of Sputnik. “Americans today are recognizing that we are once again on the brink of a new world,” Holdren states. “The decisions we make today about how we invest in R&D, education, innovation, and competitiveness will profoundly influence our Nation’s economic vitality, global stature, and national security tomorrow.”
Rep. Ralph Hall, incoming Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, however, criticized the outgoing Congress for rushing passage of the legislation, and called the bill’s provisions “too expensive, particularly in light of the new and duplicative programs it creates.”
While the reauthorized America COMPETES Act signals support for the National Science Foundation and other agencies, passage of the Act does not guarantee funding for science; it simply authorizes funding for programs. In addition, the new House leadership is promising spending cuts, so science funding in both FY 2011 and future years remains uncertain.
Apart from appropriations, the 2010 America COMPETES Act authorized science funding growth at a slower pace than under prior bills. The 2007 America COMPETES Act provided for a growth rate of 11 percent for NSF programs, with total funding reaching $11.1 billion by fiscal year 2013. The growth rate under the 2010 reauthorized bill is 5.4 percent, with total funding reaching at 8.3 billion by fiscal 2013.