President Bush Signs Competitiveness Bill

Article excerpt

On August 9, President Bush signed into law the bipartisan America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272), aimed at bolstering basic research and education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to ensure the nation's continued economic competitiveness. Despite signing the bill, however, the president expressed concerns about some of its provisions and said he would not support funding some of its authorized spending.

The passage of H.R. 2272 culminates two years of advocacy by the scientific, business, and academic communities, as well as by key members of Congress, sparked by the release of the 2005 National Academies' report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

The legislation, which incorporates many prior bills, authorizes $33.6 billion in new spending ($44.3 billion in total) in fiscal years (FY) 2008, 2009, and 2010 for a host of programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Department of Education. It puts NSF and NIST on a track to double their research budgets over three years by authorizing $22.1 billion and $2.65 billion, respectively. It also authorizes $5.8 billion in FY 2010 for DOE's Office of Science in order to complete the goal of doubling its budget.

The act's sections on NSF, DOE, and the Department of Education all have significant educational aspects. They are broadly aimed at recruiting more STEM teachers, refining the skills of current teachers and developing master teachers, ensuring that K-12 STEM education programs suitably prepare students for the needs of higher education and the workplace, and enabling more students to participate in effective laboratory and hands-on science experiences.

At NSF, for example, the law expands the Noyce program of scholarships to recruit STEM majors to teaching. DOE's role in STEM education will be expanded by tapping into the staff expertise and scientific instrumentation at the national laboratories as a resource to provide support, mentoring relationships, and hands-on experiences for students and teachers. The Department of Education will become involved in developing and implementing college courses leading to a concurrent STEM degree and teacher certification.

The act would replace the Advanced Technology Program at the Department of Commerce with the Technology Innovation Program, with the primary goal of funding high-risk, high-reward technology development projects. …