Committee on Science and Technology
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Member Speeches :: May 12, 2010

Chairman Bart Gordon's Floor Speech on H.R. 5116, the COMPETES Reauthorization

As prepared for delivery
 
Madam Chair, thank you, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
 
On October 12, 2005, in response to a bipartisan request by the Science and Technology Committee and some of our colleagues in the Senate, the National Academies released the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.   The distinguished panel, led by Norm Augustine the former CEO of Lockheed Martin which also included Craig Barrett of Intel, the current Secretary of Energy Steve Chu and a cast of other distinguished academic and business leaders, painted a very scary picture. The report made it clear that without action, the future was bleak for our children and grandchildren. This report was without question a call to arms.
 
The Science and Technology Committee, along with several committees in the Senate, moved forward by turning the Gathering Storm recommendations into legislative language. The final result was enactment of the America COMPETES Act of 2007 with the bipartisan support of 367 members. Moreover, with the leadership of Senators Alexander and Bingaman, and 69 Senate cosponsors, the Senate approved the Conference Report by unanimous consent. 
 
Now after 3 years we are back to work reauthorizing America COMPETES. Since enactment of America COMPETES, the Science and Technology Committee has held 48 hearings on areas addressed in the bill considered by the House today. Going through regular order, our subcommittees, in a bipartisan process, brought the full committee a strong body of work. 

The bill was approved by the Science and Technology Committee on April 28 with a bipartisan vote of 29 to 8. I want to thank all the members of the Science and Technology Committee for their work and, more importantly, their contributions to this bill. 

Since I became chairman of this committee, it has been my goal for this to be a committee of good ideas and consensus. But more importantly, I have wanted an inclusive process that encourages members on all sides to bring forward ideas and discuss them.  I am proud of the process we have used in bringing this bill to the House and believe this is a better bill today because of the hard work of our members. So I thank them for their efforts.   I would like to also especially thank the majority and minority staffs for the many hours of thoughtful work that they have committed to this bill. 
 
Many significant pieces of legislation come before this House. We all know that. But honestly, I feel strongly that this bill is a big deal and is important. It’s a big deal and important for our country and for this Congress. It’s a big deal and an important step in leading our nation’s innovation agenda in the face of growing global competition. It’s a big deal and important for the business community, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable – which is why they have been so supportive. It’s a big deal and important for our universities and our national labs. And, it’s a big deal and important for our children and grandchildren so they are not the first generation of Americans to inherit a standard of living lower than their parents.
 
If we are to reverse the trend of the last twenty years, where our country’s technology edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today. The statistics speak for themselves. More than 50% of our economic growth since World War II can be attributed to development and adoption of new technologies. The path is simple. Research and education lead to innovation. Innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs and the revenue to pay for more research. And as private firms under-invest in research and development because the returns are too far off in the future, there is a clear and necessary role of government to help our nation keep pace with the rest of the world. 
 
To quickly summarize, The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, H.R. 5116, makes investments in science, innovation, and education to strengthen U.S. scientific and economic leadership, support businesses, and create jobs in the short-, mid-, and long-term.
 
In the short-term, programs like Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees address the immediate need of small- and medium-sized manufacturers. In the mid-term, the bill will strengthen regional economies through programs like Regional Innovation Clusters. To ensure scientific and technological leadership now and long into the future, the bill makes investments in basic research.
 
The bill includes a reauthorization of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.   Even before the price of oil hit record highs, Gathering Storm recommended greater energy independence. But as we move to a cleaner, more efficient and more balanced energy portfolio, we should not trade our dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign technology. That is why ARPA-E is so important.   The bill also includes an authorization for Energy Innovation Hubs, which will each focus on overcoming a single technological barrier to achieving our national energy innovation goals. 
 
The bill will double authorized funding for our basic research programs—the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the labs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology—over ten years.
 
Throughout the committee process, there was a lot of legitimate discussion about federal deficits. I agree that we must address the challenges presented by our deficits, but we must also invest in our country’s future. I remember Newt Gingrich saying one of his greatest regrets was not doubling the funding for NSF when he put NIH on the doubling path. During committee consideration of this bill, we made some significant changes to the bill’s authorization levels. Though we will maintain a doubling path for our research accounts over the next 10 years, we do so on a slightly less aggressive trajectory. The bill, as introduced, included authorizations totaling approximately $93 billion over 5 years. The bill we consider today includes authorizations of approximately $84 billion. 
 
This represents a 10.3% reduction in funding from the introduced bill, or a reduction of more than $9.6 billion over five years. 
 
Although some of my colleagues may believe this cut is not enough, I would offer to them that Newt Gingrich’s doubling path of NIH took place over 6 years, and in fact nearly tripled over twelve.
 
This bill provides a stable, sustainable, and achievable set of authorization levels that balance the importance of these investments with the reality of our current budget deficits.
 
Another important element of the funding roadmap in the bill is certainty. As we know, most successful businesses do not operate in one-year timetables. They generally plan years in advance. In fact, many businesses operate using at least a five-year plan.

As we continue to climb out of the worst economic downturn in a generation, we need a five-year plan to reinvest in our intellectual capital, our research enterprise, and our workforce training. This becomes even more important when comparing our efforts to other nations. Our global competitors, most notably China, address innovation in five year windows. They write a five year plan, watch its progress, and in year four they begin work on the next five-year plan. The time has come for our country to establish a clear path forward with a thoughtful, responsible five year plan.
 
Finally, let me say that more than 50 years ago when DARPA was first created, no one had any idea that the research they would fund would be responsible for the creation of the Internet or the proliferation of GPS technology. But it did. Those inventions started with federal dollars, as did countless other game-changing technologies.
 
There is an undeniable relationship between investments in R&D and the creation of jobs, the creation of companies, and economic growth. But don’t just take my word for it. The Joint Economic Committee released a report this week that shows the economic benefits from federal investment in research. The Science Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading research universities released a report this week entitled “Sparking Economic Growth: How Federally Funded University Research Creates Innovation, New Companies and Jobs.” This report tells the stories of 100 companies, including Google, Cisco, SAS, Genentech, Orbital Sciences, Sun Power, Medtronic and Hewlett Packard, that were all created based on research funded with federal dollars.   
 
And last, there are the supporters of this legislation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Council on Competitiveness, the Task Force for American Innovation, and the American Chemical Society, as well as a growing list of major companies, universities, trade associations and professional organizations, all understand the benefits to U.S companies of making a sustained commitment to research and STEM Education.

COMPETES is and will continue to be a bipartisan, bicameral effort that every member of this House can feel ownership of and should take bragging-rights on.   I am proud to bring this bill, which is endorsed by business organizations, academia, and scientific organizations, to the House today and with that, reserve the balance of my time.


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Bart Gordon, Chairman
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