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AAAS Letter to Congress Expresses Concerns About America COMPETES Bill

Several of the provisions in the U.S. House of Representatives' America COMPETES Reauthorization bill (H.R. 1806) would pull critical support away from the national science and technology enterprise, according to a letter from AAAS to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

In April 2013, AAAS and numerous other organizations endorsed a set of Guiding Principles for the America COMPETES Act Reauthorization, which advocates for steady and sustained real growth in the major federal research agencies. But, key aspects of H.R. 1806 do not uphold these principles, AAAS Board of Directors Chair Gerald Fink writes in the 21 April letter.

The COMPETES act, which expired in 2013, authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. H.R. 1806 was debated in the House on 22 April, and the Senate has not yet drafted its own version.

The AAAS letter in the news

"Some of the big guns of the science community have withheld their support for Smith’s bill not only over funding levels but changes in how disciplines are funded."

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The bill's future is uncertain, but as ScienceInsider reports, the House science committee's leader Lamar Smith (R-TX) is expected to play an important role in the debate moving forward.

In the AAAS letter, Fink outlines several concerns, beginning with the bill's deep cuts to DOE programs such as ARPA-E, EERE, and BER, and to the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences. AAAS also questions the decision to authorize NSF directorates individually, "thus in effect placing certain directorates over others." 

The letter encourages the House committee to reconsider a provision that would restrict NSF's abilities to build large, new research facilities.  And, it argues that the limitations in Section 661 would bar DOE-supported research from being used in evidence-based, federal policy making.

Citing the 2013 principles, Fink writes that maintaining a commitment to increasing the productivity of our national science and technology enterprise is critical if the United States is to successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century. "The programs in this bill remain vitally important to fulfilling this vision," the letter states.