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Optical Design & Engineering

Innovation Task Force urges funding for America COMPETES Act

SPIE and more than five dozen other members of the Task Force on the Future of Innovation called on American legislative leaders again this week, urging full funding for the America COMPETES Act.

In a letter to Congressional and Senate leaders, the task force said that increasing funding for basic research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was critical to avoid further eroding the United States' scientific leadership and talent base.

"Congress and the Administration made substantial progress last year with the enactment of the America COMPETES Act," the task force said in its letter. "This year, the Administration assigned a high priority to our global economic competitiveness in its FY 2009 budget request by including funding for the American Competitiveness Initiative. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees marked up FY2009 bills with robust funding for the NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST. Additionally, Congress recognized the importance of basic research by approving FY 2008 supplemental funding for the NSF and the DOE Office of Science -- additional funding we greatly appreciate.

"However, there is a long way to go toward full funding of the America COMPETES Act," the group said, "and we are very concerned about the possibility of a long-term CR (Continuing Resolution) that freezes funding for these agencies at FY08 levels."

The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act was passed with bipartisan support in August 2007. Its goals are to ensure innovation leadership by strengthening scientific education and research, improving technological enterprise, attracting a talented workforce, and providing progressive job training.

The task force warned legislators that failing to build upon the additional funding provided for science in the FY08 emergency supplemental bill "would represent a step backwards, again threatening our national laboratories and sending yet another negative signal to young scientists and students at our universities."

The task force is comprised of organizations from industry and academia and advocates for increased federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering.

For more detailed reports from SPIE on U.S. public policy, see SPIE's September Public Policy News.

Read SPIE press releases about recent advocacy efforts of SPIE members and those of fellow engineering and scientific societies: