I appreciate the opportunity to testify in front of the Subcommittee today on funding levels for Fiscal Year 2011. As we continue our work to create jobs and strengthen our economy today, we must also lay the foundation for economic prosperity in the future. This means making significant investments in science and innovation. These investments lead to the development of new technologies, creating whole new industries, new businesses, and new jobs.
The America COMPETES Act, which is set for reauthorization this year, recognized this critical linkage. Through an increased investment in basic research, the COMPETES Act sought to foster the development of the new ideas that are needed to fuel our economy, strengthen our competitiveness, and enhance our quality of life. I respectfully request that the Subcommittee fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) consistent with the Administration’s budget request, which keeps them on the doubling path laid out in the COMPETES Act.
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY
As you know, the mission of the National Institute of Standards and Technology is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness. In recognition of the important role that the agency plays in strengthening our economy, I strongly support the Administration’s request of $919 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2011 for NIST.
I also strongly support the Administration’s request of $129.7 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, and urge the Subcommittee to provide funding at this level. MEP is the only Federal program that specifically targets small- and medium-sized manufactures to help them modernize their operations, improve their competitiveness, and reduce or reverse job losses.
In addition, I am pleased that the Administration has proposed to increase funding for the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) by $10 million to $79.9 million. As you know, TIP was created in the COMPETES Act to provide cost-shared support for innovative technology development by small- and medium-sized companies. In order for the program to make a true impact and accelerate the development of game-changing technologies, the COMPETES Act authorized $40 million in new TIP awards each year. Unfortunately, the current budget request will provide TIP the resources to fund only a few new awards in Fiscal Year 2011. To allow TIP to realize its full potential, I urge the Subcommittee to consider providing the program with additional funding to enable it to support more than just a few new awards.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
As you well know, the National Science Foundation is the primary source of Federal funding for non-biomedical basic research conducted at colleges and universities. I support the President’s budget request of $7.4 billion for NSF in Fiscal Year 2011, which keeps the agency’s budget on a doubling path consistent with the COMPETES Act.
In addition to basic research, NSF plays a critical role in strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels. As you may recall, the top recommendation of the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, which prompted the COMPETES Act, was to ensure that K-12 science and mathematics teachers across the country have strong content knowledge and effective teaching skills. The COMPETES Act took important steps to meet this challenge by, among other things, revamping the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to provide scholarships for STEM majors who take tailored courses needed to become certified teachers.
If we are to have the workforce we need to fill the technical jobs of the future, we must ensure that our children have access to a top-quality math and science education. I appreciate the Subcommittee’s past commitment to the Noyce Scholarship Program, particularly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and urge the Subcommittee to consider providing at least an inflationary increase to the program in Fiscal Year 2011.
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
Certainly, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a source of inspiration and pride for people throughout the United States. NASA is also responsible for a large portion of Federal research and development. As a result, I urge the Subcommittee to provide funding for NASA in Fiscal Year 2011 that will ensure its health and productivity.
I am pleased that the budget request provides increased support for some key areas within NASA’s budget, including Earth science and climate research, aeronautics R & D, and the operation and utilization of the International Space Station. I hope that the Subcommittee will provide funding consistent with the request in these areas.
As you are well aware, the budget request also includes a proposal to cancel funding for the Constellation Program and instead invest in the development of commercial crew human spaceflight vehicles. This proposal represents a significant shift in policy, and certainly requires careful and deliberate consideration. The Science and Technology Committee is still in the process of conducting a detailed review of the proposal and thoroughly considering its implications. To date, our hearings have uncovered a number of unanswered questions and issues, some of which have raised serious concern among a number of the Members of the Committee. Once we have completed our review, we look forward to working closely with the Subcommittee to determine the best path forward for NASA’s human spaceflight program.
Thankfully, the American economy appears to be on the road to recovery. Now, in order to avoid another downturn in the future, it is more important than ever that we reinvest in our economy and prioritize funding for programs that will create the jobs of the future. As a result, I urge the Subcommittee to keep the commitment that we made in the America COMPETES Act and keep funding for our science agencies on a doubling path. Thank you once again for the opportunity to testify before you today.