House Science Committee Approves America COMPETES Reauthorization

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By Mark Vieth, Senior Vice President, CRD Associates

On a straight party-line vote, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015.”  This legislation reauthorizes several federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Similar to the markup that occurred last June, nearly every Democratic amendment was defeated on a party line vote.  The bill was opposed by dozens of national science and higher education societies and associations.  During the debate, the Chairman was asked if any national scientific societies endorsed the bill, but none were identified.

Unlike the original bipartisan COMPETES statute and the 2010 reauthorization bill, H.R. 1806 includes several controversial proposals and funding provisions that were opposed by the science community.  Breaking with previous authorization and appropriations practices, the bill includes specific authorization levels for each of NSF’s research directorates –increasing funding for some and decreasing funding for others.  Specifically, the bill cuts more than 45 percent from the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate.  These provisions were opposed not only by the social and behavioral science community, but also by scientific society across all disciplines, colleges and universities, and esteemed organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Prior to the markup, the Social and Behavioral Science (SBS) Campaign, coordinated by CRD Associates, significantly augmented its advocacy efforts in opposition to the bill.  The Campaign reached out to every member of the Science Committee, working closely with universities located in the home states of each member. 

Despite near universal opposition from the science and higher education community, the bill may be brought up on the House floor in May.  The SBS Campaign will broaden its advocacy efforts to all members of the House to work for significant changes to the bill, with the hopes that a bill similar to the original COMPETES Act can be enacted with bipartisan support

Lisa Ellington

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