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NSF Congressional Highlight

S. 432 Reported to the Full Senate

April 18, 2005

On April 14, 2005, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported to the full Senate S. 432, the Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2005 sponsored by Senator George Allen (R-VA), without objection, without amendment, and with considerable commendation. S. 432 would establish at the National Science Foundation an Office of Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology, which would administer a grant program designed to provide information technology infrastructure to eligible minority-serving institutions. Grants provided through this office would support a broad variety of activities aimed at installing digital and wireless infrastructure at eligible institutions as well as support for developing educational and research services in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Awarded funds could also be used for the professional development of educators, administrators, and technical support staff in the use of information technology as a pedagogical tool. S. 432 would also establish an advisory council to oversee the activities of this new office.

Chairman Stevens (R-AK) and Senators Pryor (D-AR), Hutchinson (R-TX), and Lautenberg (D-NJ) spoke in support of the legislation. Senator Sununu (R-NH), while supporting the goals and intentions of the bill, questioned whether the National Science Foundation was the appropriate agency to administer this program as it is not entirely consistent with the overall mission of NSF. He also expressed concern that the authorization of $250,000,000 annually for the next five years for this program might put an onerous burden on the NSF budget, which is already severely constrained.

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