House and Senate Continue to Hold Hearings on America COMPETES Act
Created by lgreen on 11/21/2013 12:48:39 PM

By Meghan McCabe

Amid many uncertainties on Capitol Hill, work continues on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. On November 6, the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Committee held its first hearing on the legislation, featuring testimony from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX), who gave impassioned remarks about the historic bipartisan support of the bill and its importance for the future of American competitiveness. Other witnesses included Vice Chairman of the National Science Board Kelvin Droegemeier, PhD; Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley and Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Saul Perlmutter, PhD; President of Harvey Mudd College Maria Klawe, PhD; and President and CEO of University City Science Center Stephen Tang, PhD. Many of the Committee’s questions focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and training programs, as well as President Obama’s proposed plan to consolidate the current projects.

The following week, the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology held its first
hearing on the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Representative Larry Buschon (R-IN) repeatedly emphasized that the FIRST Act is still a draft and the Committee will continue to work towards crafting final legislation that is both bipartisan and directed toward supporting “high integrity, high impact” science. Although not a member of the Subcommittee, full committee Ranking Member Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also gave an opening statement in which she criticized the “tone and volume” of the FIRST Act, saying it focused on perceived problems with science rather than offering an imaginative vision for the future.

The Subcommittee called four witnesses: Vice President for Research at Purdue University
Richard Buckius, PhD; Co-Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and Professor of Science and Society at Arizona State University Daniel Sarewitz, PhD; President of the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY) and Vice Chancellor for Research at SUNY Timothy Killeen, PhD; and Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition James Brown. Most of the Subcommittee’s questions focused on how to develop legislation that spurs innovation and works with the National Science Foundation to support quality research. After both hearings, Committee members agreed that more discussion was needed for the legislation to attain bipartisan, bicameral support.