Capitol Connection

August 2007 Volume 12, Issue 08

Table of Contents:

Landmark Innovation Law Signed—ACS Celebrates Major Victory

“You know, this bill shows that we can work together to make sure we're a competitive nation.” -- President George W. Bush, on signing the America COMPETES Act

On August 9, President Bush signed into law landmark legislation to bolster U.S. competitiveness in the global economy by authorizing more than $43 billion of new funding over the next three fiscal years to boost federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences, expand math and science education programs at the K-12 and university levels, and revitalize policies that encourage innovation. The enactment of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act, H.R. 2272—more commonly known as the America COMPETES Act—represents the culmination of more than three years of intense effort on the part of the scientific, education, and business communities to push for bold action to strengthen the foundations of American scientific and technological competitiveness.

ACS President Catherine Hunt thanked the bill’s sponsors for their efforts: “The COMPETES Act represents a truly bipartisan effort to ensure that our great nation remains the world's economic and technological leader by renewing our focus on research and development in the physical sciences, science and math education, and other policies that encourage innovation. This bill is a huge victory for science and for our country.”

“This package of legislation is proactive and far-reaching. It puts in place measures designed to invigorate U.S. innovation, which in turns stimulates our economy,” said House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). Securing a brighter future for our children is simply not a partisan issue. I’m proud that my colleagues and I have been able to work together to move this bill forward--this is truly a team effort,”

“Keeping America's brainpower advantage is the single best way in a global economy to keep good jobs from going overseas to China, India, and other fast-growing countries,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who served as lead Republican conferee on the legislation in the Senate. “Congress will enact no more significant piece of legislation this year.”

The America COMPETES Act is based largely upon the recommendations of the widely regarded 2005 National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. That report, requested by a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, found that the U.S. stands to lose its competitive edge over other nations without action. In particular, the law

  • Authorizes significant funding increases for research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, placing these agencies on a path to doubling within the next 5–7 years
  • Authorizes a total of $33.6 billion dollars over fiscal years 2008–2010 for STEM education programs across the federal agencies—dramatically expanding NSF’s education programs and authorizing several new educational initiatives proposed by the president’s American Competitiveness Initiative
  • Establishes large-scale grant programs to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers in the areas of science and math education
  • Creates the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—a reinvigorated version of the Advanced Technology Program
  • Establishes the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), designed to engage in high-risk, high-reward energy research under the Department of Energy

Passed by overwhelming margins: 367-57 in the House and approved unanimously in the Senate.

Over the last three years, the American Chemical Society and its members played a leading role in building support and crafting the details of this sweeping legislation that will bolster research accounts at key federal research agencies and will devote substantial resources to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Legislative Action Network members have sent more that 21,000 letters and emails to Congress discussing aspects of this legislation and ACS members have made over 75 district visits to discuss the importance of these issues with legislators and their staffers. In Washington, ACS staff members have made the passage of this key legislation a top priority.

We Want to Say Thanks

The ACS Board Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations (PA&PR) and the Office of Legislative and Government Affairs will be co-sponsors of an upcoming Member Involvement Reception at the Boston National Meeting. The reception will take place on Monday, August 20, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Boston’s Back Bay Ballroom D. All ACS Legislative Action Network members attending the meeting are invited.

Science Budget Update

Congress adjourned for its annual August recess on August 4 and the House of Representatives was able to approve the last of its annual spending bills. The Senate, however, has only completed one of its spending bills—the Homeland Security bill. Thus, it is going to take a Herculean effort for Congress to complete its spending bills prior to October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. Additionally, President Bush has promised to veto any appropriations bills that exceed his budget request, setting the stage for a possible showdown with Congress as the fiscal year draws to a close.

Here is a rundown of the House approved budgets for the federal agencies that support chemistry.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The House proposed to increase NSF's total funding by $592 million from last year, a modest 1.3 percent above the president's request. The Research account, which covers the bulk of NSF's grant programs, would receive the majority of that increase, up $474 million (+10.2 percent) from FY 2007. Adding to the good news at NSF, the House did not adopt the president's proposal to reduce funding for the Math and Science Partnership program; instead, it proposed an increase of $66 million (+43.5 percent).

Department of Energy (DOE)

The DOE Office of Science would be the biggest winner in budget terms of this year's American Competitiveness Initiative, receiving a whopping $717 million increase (+18.9 percent) by the House. This increase would bring DOE science closer to congressional-recommended funding levels passed in last year's comprehensive energy legislation. Basic Energy Science, steward of the nation's national laboratories, would receive a $249 million increase (+19.9 percent).

National Institutes of Standards and Technologies (NIST)

Under the House legislation, NIST laboratories would increase by $67 million (+15.4 percent), and the President's request to eliminate the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which provides grants to companies seeking to bring technology to the marketplace, would be ignored. Instead the House proposed a $14 million (+17.7 percent) increase for ATP over the previous year.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Bucking a trend in recent years, the Science and Technology program at EPA actually would see a $57 million increase (+7.8 percent) over FY 2007, an impressive gain for another agency targeted by the President for significant funding cuts.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

In marked contrast to the president's proposed $378 million (-1.3 percent) cut, NIH would receive a $651 million (+2.2 percent) increase in funding by the House for FY 2008. This includes increases for ACS priorities National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Center for Research Resources of $30 million (+1.5 percent) and $38 million (+3.4 percent) respectively.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Reversing several years of strong funding gains, DHS Science and Technology Directorate would see its funding levels cut by $71 million (-8.4 percent). It appears that the S&T account has been purchasing existing technology for several years and those purchases were curtailed and redirected to another account for FY 2008. This in turn resulted in the approval for a decrease in S&T funding. Similarly, the Senate proposed an $838 million (-10 percent) cut to S&T funding. Hopefully, this is an issue that can be mitigated during a forthcoming conference between the House and Senate.

Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD again saw reductions in funding levels from last year. However, while the House passed a hefty $1.133 billion (-8.5 percent) cut in overall defense S&T it remained significantly less than the president's proposed $2.53 billion (-19.2 percent) cut.

Outreach to the 2008 Presidential Campaigns

ACS, along with its allies in business and academia, recently requested meetings with the major Presidential campaigns in an effort to raise the innovation and competitiveness message as a top domestic policy concern. ACS President Katie Hunt--along with Intel Chairman Craig R. Barrett, Retired Lockheed Martin CEO and Chairman Norm Augustine, Cornell University President David J. Skorton and University of California President Robert Dynes--has asked to meet with the top six candidates from each party.

ACS staff members have met with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s domestic policy campaign employees and have had preliminary discussions with the other campaigns. To date, Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards have developed STEM education & scientific-research-based policy positions. This is a new initiative for ACS. One of the innovation community’s primary objectives is to ensure that the next president considers scientific research and STEM education to be fundamental pillars of a strong and competitive U.S. economy.

New YouTube Innovation Competition

The ACS Office of Legislative and Government Affairs, in conjunction with the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America (ASTRA), unveiled a new YouTube-based American innovation video contest. The contest asks scientists, engineers, educators, and students to submit a three-minute video explaining how federal science funding has helped them contribute to the U.S. or society in general. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please submit your videos.

Contest organizers are looking for a video that, in a funny or clever way, shows how science has changed our lives. The submission deadline is September 10. The winner will receive $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. where the winning video will be presented during a Capitol Hill reception recognizing the 40th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik!!

ACS Fellowship Program

Each year the American Chemical Society selects two or three public policy fellows. Congressional fellows work a year for a member of Congress or congressional committee, while the science policy fellow works in the ACS Office of Legislative and Government Affairs for one or two years.

Congressional fellows begin in September with a two-week orientation program organized by the American Association for the Advancement Science. Following orientation, they search for placement in offices on Capitol Hill for the remainder of the year.

ACS fellows gain first-hand experience with policymaking for science, federal research funding, regulatory rule making, and the impact of science on decision-making. They also offer scientific and technical expertise to the government and forge links between the scientific and government communities.

The congressional and science policy fellowships have had much success in bringing sound science advice to congressional offices. In fact, a third of all ACS fellows continue to work in the scientific and policymaking communities after their fellowships.

ACS now is encouraging experienced chemical professionals and recent Ph.D. graduates to apply for the 2008-2009 fellowships. The application deadline is December 31, 2007. If you have any questions about the program or would like to contact former fellows, please contact the ACS Office of Legislative and Government Affairs at (202) 872-4386, or congfellow@acs.org.

ACS Weighs In on Undergraduate Curriculum

On July 26, the U.S. House Science & Technology Committee listened to university testimony about the globalization of research and development. To complement the investigation, ACS submitted written testimony describing global initiatives in undergraduate chemistry education. “While globalization does not affect the chemical principles or scientific process that undergraduate chemistry students must master, it does impact the world that students must be prepared to work and live in when they finish their degree,” the testimony indicated.

Educators support study-abroad programs to prepare chemistry students for international work and society. The ACS testimony cites statistics showing that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students are an underrepresented group in U.S. study abroad programs. “[Science] students face three challenges when deciding to study abroad: finding appropriate science classes, being proficient in a foreign language, and securing funds.” Despite the challenges, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will soon require an international educational experience for a percentage of its graduates.

The testimony also highlighted summer research programs abroad for chemistry undergraduates. Summer programs are an attractive option for students who do not want to miss classes at their home university. ACS began a pilot program this year for 10 U.S. students to exchange with 10 German students for summer research. Four other U.S. universities also supported by the National Science Foundation send students to institutes around the world each summer to engage in chemistry research.

Efforts to bring a global view to domestic STEM coursework are beginning to grow. Faculty at the University of Maryland–College Park have added international case studies and partnered with undergraduate classrooms abroad. Robert Yuan estimates that the East Asia Science and Technology program has reshaped 18 courses and impacted 1,700 undergraduates since its inception in 2000. The testimony also highlighted the vital role of international students on domestic campus. “Foreign-born teaching assistants regularly contribute their perspectives in classes and laboratories, and international students make significant contributions to the scientific endeavor.”

The testimony concluded with the acknowledgement that “development of the state of knowledge about chemistry has always been a global endeavor” and that the higher education community will continue to examine how to prepare students for the global marketplace.

Hot Summer for Energy in D.C.

As tempers frayed and Congress rushed to leave Washington D.C., for its August recess, the House of Representatives passed its version of a major overhaul of the nation’s energy laws. This followed the Senate’s work on a similar energy bill in June.

Congress has held dozens of hearings this year to prepare for major legislation, and both chambers began working on actual bills in June. In mid-June, the Senate took two weeks to pass energy legislation. On a rare Saturday session, the House passed a substantially different measure.

The Senate legislation would create a biofuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022, an increase from the current level of 7.5 billion. Twenty-one billion gallons of the new mandate would be “advanced,” e.g. cellulosic ethanol. The legislation also increases corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) from the current 28 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon for cars and trucks by 2020. Beyond the vehicle mileage and biofuels increases, the bill also would create new laws against gasoline "price gouging," boost appliance and lighting efficiency, further carbon sequestration testing, and seek to stimulate production of advanced technology cars. The legislation does not have a renewable energy standard for electricity generation or a tax title.

Unlike the Senate, the House legislation would mandate that 15 percent of the country’s electricity be produced from renewable resources by 2020. In addition, a major tax piece would lower profits from generous oil and gas leases in the 1990s and repeal several tax benefits passed for oil and gas exploration in 2005. The revenues from the tax repeal would go toward renewables and conservation. The House bill would create or update a number of new programs: new appliance standards; building efficiency codes; assistance in expanding ethanol production, distribution, and storage; and loan guarantees for automobile battery technology and plug-in hybrids. The legislation does not have CAFE standards, which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised to pursue in conference this fall and House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) vowed to oppose.

The legislation is the combined work of no less than 10 different House committees, and at times during debate and drafting, nearly crippled the House due to regional, philosophical, and political differences. Negotiations with the Senate are expected to begin soon and will be difficult.

Green Chemistry Legislation—Third Time the Charm?

By unanimous consent, the House Science Committee passed legislation to create a dedicated research and development program into Green Chemistry. H.R. 2850, the Green Chemistry Research and Development Act would authorize approximately $55 million dollars a year in research grants at NSF, DOE, NIST, and EPA in addition to assisting commercialization and creating a panel to coordinate research among the agencies. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2005 and 2006. H.R. 2850 is expected on the floor of the House in September.

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President George W. Bush signs
H.R. 2272, The America Competes
Act, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, in the
Oval Office. Pictured with President
Bush are, from left: Director John
Marburger of the Office of Science
and Technology Policy; Senator Jeff
Bingaman (D-NM) Congressman
Bart Gordon (D-TN); and Senator
Pete Domenici (R-NM).