(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a markupand favorably reported a Committee Print of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Authorization Act of 2010. The Committee Print was comprised of legislative language fromH.R. 5074, introduced by Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR).
“This new bill moves us forward to focus NIST on creating jobs, supporting competitiveness, and meeting the measurement needs of the private sector,” said Wu. “In the face of ever-increasing global technological and economic competition, it is our responsibility in Congress to support a robust high-tech manufacturing sector that will create new jobs in the United States.”
The legislation authorizes robust funding to enable NIST to better support manufacturing and updates the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), which helps small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the U.S. compete effectively.
“This legislation structures the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to better address the challenges facing our small- and medium-sized manufacturers as well as the revenue challenges facing our states,” said Wu. “By requiring MEP Centers to inform local and regional community colleges of the skill sets that are needed by area manufacturers, we will help ensure that students have the specific job training necessary to secure a good-paying job in their community. In addition, we are creating an innovative services initiative that will help small manufacturing improve energy efficiency, use new technologies, and generate high-tech products.”
In addition to supporting manufacturing, the NIST Authorization Act authorizes funds for vital NIST programs and makes fundamental changes to the agency’s structure to help it better reflect the current technological environment.
The legislation maintains the commitment to doubling the funds provided to NIST labs and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program over 10 years. It also includes authorization that will enable the Technology Innovation Program to fund up to $40 million in new awards for high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical need each year while meeting its existing obligations and continuing the vision laid out in the original COMPETES Act.
Under this legislation, the NIST lab structure will be reorganized to better reflect the multidisciplinary nature of technology in the 21st century. The bill provides for a more efficient and streamlined organizational structure to enable them to be more responsive to industry without reducing their research capacity.
“The current lab structure of 10 operating units is more than 20 years old and no longer reflects today’s technology sectors or the inherent and increasing multi-disciplinary nature of technology,” said Wu. “This bill authorizes a lab structure of six operating units to promote efficiency and a cross-disciplinary culture at NIST. The bill also gives the NIST Director the authority to modify the agency's structure, upon notification to Congress, as technology advances and the needs of the private sector evolve.”
The bill will also give NIST a role in facilitating cross-agency coordination when the federal government is involved with the development of international technical standards, a function that supplements the agency’s current role in helping develop technical standards within the U.S.
In addition, the legislation establishes a biosciences research program to support R&D of standard reference materials, measurements, methods, and genomic and other data. In doing so, this program will advance biological drug research and development; molecular diagnostics; medical imaging technologies; and personalized medicine.
Finally, this bill elevates the Director of NIST to the level of Under Secretary for Technology and Standards.
“Elevating the Director will help inject NIST expertise into the administration’s discussions on innovation, standards, and support for high-tech growth,” said Wu.
The Committee print also included language from H.R. 4393, which was introduced by Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI).
“Small businesses, including those participating in the MEP, will create the bulk of the jobs that will fuel America’s economic recovery,” said Peters. “The MEP has been proven to help small businesses create 55,000 news jobs and billions of dollars in new investment in recent years. Business are now in danger of losing critical support at precisely the time they need it the most, and I believe that their fees to participate in this proven job-creation partnership must be reduced.”
The Subcommittee approved a Manager’s Amendment from Chairman Wu, which clarifies that the Director of NIST will not, as part of the promotion to Under Secretary, have to take on additional duties beyond his duties as the Director of NIST.
The manager’s amendment also reduces the cost share for non-federal funding from 66 percent to 50 percent for the MEP program for fiscal years 2011 through 2015, and requires the Director of NIST to prepare a report giving recommendations on how to structure the cost share mechanism moving past fiscal year 2015, in preparation for the next reauthorization of COMPETES.
“This change will ease the cost matching burden on MEP centers given the current economic troubles and pinched state budgets,” said Wu.
The Committee also approved amendments from Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Vice Chair Donna Edwards (D-MD), Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Ranking Member Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Vice Chair Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).
Ranking Member Smith’s amendment clarifies that the cybersecurity standards and guidelines developed by NIST are to be used voluntarily by private industry.
“Ensuring that our country is globally competitive relies on our ability to educate our students and equip them with the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of the future,” said Luján. “This is especially true for minority students, who are often underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math fields. The University Research Centers established in this bill will conduct hands-on research and testing activities using the skills of students trained in STEM fields at educational institutions selected through a competitive application process. My amendment requires the Director of this program to give special consideration to applications from Minority Serving Institutions.”