Supporters of America COMPETES Bill Praise Its Passage, Urge Federal Funding

Judy Franz and Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers
Photo by Marvin T. Jones & Associates

Judy Franz, American Physical Society executive officer, greets Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI 3rd) during the reception to celebrate the passage of the America COMPETES legislation.

Capping a 10-year science advocacy campaign, Congress last year finally passed landmark innovation legislation that President Bush quickly signed into law. The America COMPETES Act lays the groundwork for keeping the nation a global economic leader. Now the battle has shifted to making sure the authorization measure, which calls for improved science education, innovation and basic research, is fully implemented.

“We’ve got to get it funded,” said Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI 3rd) a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, who has supported similar legislation for many years. Ehlers shared his remarks with nearly 200 supporters during a recent Capitol Hill reception lauding the bill’s passage.

Michael Lubell, APS director of public affairs, who also addressed the enthusiastic crowd, noted that the effort by science societies to focus congressional attention on the competitiveness issue began in 1997, with the impetus of the late D. Allan Bromley, who had previously served as science adviser to President George H.W. Bush and later as APS president.

Lubell also noted that many members of Congress had played key roles during the intervening years. In addition to Ehlers, he cited the work of former Sens. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Bill Frist (R-TN), Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL 13th), Bart Gordon (D-TN 6th), Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th), George Miller (D-CA 7th) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th).

“Without the extraordinary efforts in recent years by Craig Barrett, chairman of the board of Intel Corp., and Norm Augustine, retired CEO of Lockheed Martin,” Lubell said, “the legislation might never have been enacted into law.” Lubell also praised former Under Secretary of Commerce Mary Good for bringing American industry to the table.

The COMPETES Act authorizes the expenditure of $33.6 billion over seven years, including the doubling of funding for scientific agencies such as the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  

Congressional members, their staffs and organizations from academia and industry attended the event sponsored by the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. The Task Force advocates for increased federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering.

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