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Optical Design & Engineering

NPI volunteers urge photonics support from Congressional members

SPIE Newsroom
18 April 2016

Volunteers from industry and research labs across the USA visited Congressional offices this week to urge support for key issues related to photonics technologies and R&D, on behalf of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). Supported by NPI Founding Partners SPIE and OSA, the 26 volunteers, ranging from undergraduates and technicians to senior executives and professors, visited 51 offices with their message.

"Contrary to popular opinion, lobbying congress is an intellectually demanding but athletically enjoyable activity," said SPIE Member Kyle Drexler who was among the volunteers.

NPI volunteers asked senators and representatives to:

  •  support the Revitalize American manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI) and the President's budget including $47 million in new funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to support new, open-topic Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs) as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI),a public-private partnership between the federal government, local governments, universities, research institutes and industry to accelerate US manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications
  • reauthorize the America Competes Act, including spending for federal R&D agencies such as the NIST and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and include language advocating for photonics, to help focus private and public investments in critical optics and photonics technologies
  • reauthorize the Higher Education Act, governing federal student aid programs, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (CTE), providing more than $1 billion annually to secondary and postsecondary institutions in all 50 states to support career and technical education, and include language about optics and photonics training opportunities.

"My hope for the outcome of this event is that we were able to raise a greater awareness about the photonics industry and its role in our society within our government," said Drexler. "More specifically, I hope they will see the need to support funding for secondary and post-secondary education programs in photonics to better support the growing needs of our nation while also supporting the current needs of the industry though the IMIs."

To further illustrate the importance of photonics technologies, the NPI collaborated with the Directed Energy Professional Society in a high-power lasers display in the Rayburn House Office Building foyer.

"The science and technology of light is central to many other branches of study, from biomedicine to security and defense," said SPIE President Robert Lieberman who also participated in the event. "Because of this, and because light is inherently attractive and easy to understand, our teams received a warm welcome in Congressional offices as we fanned out across Capitol Hill.

"Working with teams from other societies participating in the National Photonics Initiative," Lieberman added, "we reinforced the need to focus attention, and resources, on these critical areas."

SPIE President Bob Lieberman, SPIE Board Member Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, and SPIE Member Kyle Drexler joined others from the SPIE optics and photonics community to visit legislators during Congressional Visits Day. Here with Rep. Jim Cooper from Tennessee (2nd from left).

A team of 26 volunteers from the SPIE optics and photonics community made over 50 office visits during Congressional Visits Day.