The U.S. House began debate yesterday on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. While H.R. 1806 shares a name with the largely supported legislation passed in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010, it falls short of delivering the visionary policy priorities and investments in science research of its predecessors.
COMPETES authorizes $7.6 billion for the National Science Foundation in fiscal year 2016 and 2017, which represents a $50 million increase over current FY15 funding levels. With a modest increase in FY16 and flat authorization in FY17, COMPETES fails to offer a financial platform that supports science progress. Another issue with COMPETES is that it seeks to authorize individual NSF directorates. Authorizing funding by directorate would add a level of Congressional micromanaging of the NSF that may introduce barriers to supporting innovative and interdisciplinary research. Finally, the current version of COMPETES would cut funding to the Geosciences and Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences directorates of the NSF. NSF’s mission was defined in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 to pursue progress in all fields of science including geoscience and social science. These directed funding cuts undermine the progress of science by unnecessarily politicizing the science funding process at an important science funding agency.
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology opposes H.R.1806. The White House has also threatened to veto this bill. In a statement of administration policy, the White House states it “believes that H.R. 1806 would be damaging to the Administration’s actions to move American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth forward through a world-leading science, technology, and innovation enterprise.” For the U.S. to be competitive on the world stage in science and technology research, the ASBMB advocates for sustainable federal financial support and investments in all aspects of the research enterprise as determined by scientists. Despite its name, COMPETES leaves the U.S. poorly situated to deliver the level of innovative progress that will keep us at the forefront of the science research enterprise.
For more information on COMPETES and other science policy news, follow the ASBMB Policy Blotter.