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Capping a ten-year science advocacy campaign, Congress early this August 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 shifts 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 Sept. 20 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) and 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.
Citing the highly acclaimed National Academies report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," developed under Augustine's chairmanship, Ehlers pointed out that “the storm is here, and it’s time to react now.” The report notes that the U.S. is losing economic ground to countries such as China, India and Korea, all of which are successfully applying the U.S. innovation model in their countries. To better compete with those nations, the report proposes measures for an educated and skilled workforce and revitalized research at U.S. universities and national laboratories.
Congressman David Wu (D-OR 1st), also a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, thanked the attendees and praised the House leadership for its support of the bill.
“Without Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership,” this legislation would not have been possible, said Wu. “She really gets it…about competition.”
Judy Franz, APS executive officer, greets Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI 3rd) during the reception to celebrate the passage of the America COMPETES legislation.
Michael Lubell (center), APS director of public affairs, celebrates during the reception with Jim Barbera (left) and Martin Sokoloski (right), both members of the IEEE-USA Research & Development Policy Committee.
The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, D.C.