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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - Senate Commerce Committee Marks Up the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006

May 18, 2006

On May 18 the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 2802, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006. The bill would implement a number of recommendations from the National Academies' Rising Above the Gathering Storm report.

Title III of the bill authorizes appropriations for NSF for FY 2006 through FY 2011, including a doubling to $11.4 billion in FY 2011. The most problematic section of an earlier draft of the bill was a provision that would have focused NSF funding only in the physical sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That provision was modified in the mark-up by the inclusion of an amendment authored by Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Hutchison that softened the language and included a provision stating that "nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or bias the grant selection process against funding other areas of research deemed by the Foundation to be consistent with its mandate, nor change the core mission of the Foundation."

Among the 35 amendments offered to the original bill, several were specifically directed at NSF, including the following:

  • Allow NSF to include outreach projects in the talent expansion program (Sen. Nelson)
  • Require NSF to study incentives to encourage participation by institutions of higher education in rural areas (Sen. Burns)
  • To add Native Americans explicitly to the list of underrepresented groups in science and technology (Sen. Burns)
  • To require a plan describing current participation of EPSCoR states in cyberinfrastructure (Sen. Burns)

At the markup a number of Senators asked to be added to the bill as original co-sponsors. No floor time has been scheduled in the Senate to consider the bill and the House has yet to consider any comparable legislation, making enactment of this bill in this Congress unlikely at this time.

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