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  • Washington Highlights

    House Committee Approves Alternative Proposal for NSF Funding, Competitiveness


    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved the bipartisan National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) by voice vote on June 15. The legislation is an alternative proposal to the Endless Frontier Act, which was passed by the full Senate as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 on June 8 [refer to Washington Highlights, June 11].

    Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in her opening statement noted that American innovation “has been the most important engine of our economic growth for at least the past 100 years. … If we are to remain the world leader in science and technology, we need to act now. But we shouldn’t act rashly. Instead of trying to copy the efforts of our emerging competitors, we should be doubling down on the proven innovation engines we have.”

    “America’s continued scientific leadership requires a comprehensive and strategic approach to research and development that provides long-term increased investment and stability across the research ecosystem. It also requires inter-agency collaboration and public-private partnerships,” Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said in his opening statement.

    The committee also approved 12 additional amendments, resulting in several changes to the underlying bill following its initial approval by the research and technology subcommittee on May 13. Like the Endless Frontier Act, the committee-approved House bill aims to increase the country’s research competitiveness through additional investments in the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a total authorized investment of $78 billion over 5 years, compared to the $81 billion passed in the Senate package.

    The House bill would also create a new technology directorate within the NSF to enhance translational research, through a $13.2 billion investment over five years, compared to the Senate-passed proposal of $29 billion. “Our proposed Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions takes the basic research funded by NSF and helps apply those discoveries to solving national challenges from cybersecurity to climate change. We also propose a funding profile for the new directorate that is practical, sustainable, and in balance with the rest of the Foundation,” Lucas stated.

    The committee-approved bill also includes measures to address research security within the NSF grantee community. The underlying bill maintained a provision to create a Research Security and Policy office to address issues of research integrity, and the committee approved an amendment to prohibit participation of NSF grantees in foreign talent recruitment programs during the markup.

    The bill also aims to increase the STEM workforce pipeline, support professional development activities for students and postdoctoral scholars, and study the mental health and wellbeing of federally-funded student researchers.

    The committee also approved the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593), which would authorize $50 billion to the department over five years.

    A timeline has not been set for consideration of the bills by the full House of Representatives. If passed, the House and Senate will need to reconcile differences between the House bills and the Senate-passed package, which may be accomplished through convening a conference committee.