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Research and industry leaders urge Congressional support for photonics

National Photonics Initiative volunteers stress vital role of photonics in economy, national security

26 March 2014

SETWG NPI Florida team with John Mica

NPI volunteers from several states visited Congressional offices including that of Rep. John Mica (R-Florida; third from right) to urge support for legislation related to photonics technologies. From left are Richard Benson, Robert Bernath, Bahaa Saleh, Mica, Amy Van Newkirk, and Krisinda Plenkovich.


WASHINGTON, DC, and BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Volunteers from industry and research labs across the USA visited Congressional offices today to urge support for key issues related to photonics technologies and R&D, on behalf of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). Supported by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and other NPI founders and sponsors, the 36 volunteers from photonics were among a total of nearly 200 volunteers participating in this year's Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group (SETWG) Congressional Visits Day.

NPI volunteers urged support for:

  • the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 (RAMI), to establish manufacturing institutes known as the Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NMI); the institutes would function through a public-private partnership between the federal government, local governments, universities, research institutes and industry to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications
  • reauthorization of the bi-partisan America COMPETES Act (originally passed in 2007 and expired in December 2013) to ensure American competitiveness in the global marketplace, and adding language specifying photonics to reflect the industry's critical role in the ongoing innovation of many other sectors
  • establishment of a National Photonics Prototyping and Advance Manufacturing Facility within the Department of Defense's manufacturing mandate, possibly through inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); establishment of such a facility could produce critical defense applications for warfighters, as well as drive new generations of high-tech commercial applications such as a more secure Internet, enhance medical diagnostics, and portable sources of renewable energy.
Robert Lieberman, Rush Holt

Volunteers including Robert Lieberman
(left) were welcomed to Capitol Hill by
breakfast speaker Rep. Rush Holt before
heading out to visit Congressional offices.

"(SPIE Vice President) Robert Lieberman and I and the other NPI volunteers had a productive day discussing with Congressional staff the importance of optics and photonics for our nation's economic and national security, and how the NPI strengthens our nation's future," said SPIE President Philip Stahl.  "We enjoyed the give and take of our exchanges and were happy with the level of engagement. We found genuine support for the NPI in offices representing districts across the country, from coast to coast."

SPIE Past President James Harrington's team visited several offices of New Jersey members of Congress. "All of our legislators indicated their appreciation of the scientists and engineers who came to the Hill to promote science funding," Harrington said. "They said that the suggested language given to them in the ask would be very helpful as the look at drafting their amendments to legislation such as the COMPETES act."

SPIE Fellow Bahaa Saleh reported that the visitors were successful in raising awareness among Congressional staff and members about the importance of photonics technology and the goals of the NPI.

"There appears to be some appreciation for our agenda of promoting reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act and having Congress recognize that optics and photonics research and technologies are critical to our nations' leadership in global markets," Saleh said. "I am hopeful that our request for support for the RAMI Act and investment in the development and production of high-power laser technology will have some effect."

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) was awarded the SETWG George E. Brown, Jr., Leadership Award at a reception for Members of Congress, their staffs, and SETWG volunteers Tuesday evening in the Rayburn House Office Building. The award recognizes leadership in, advocacy for, and specific actions taken to advance science, engineering, and technology policy.

The reception included an exhibition featuring 15 companies and societies with technology demonstrations and information.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) welcomed SETWG visitors to Capitol Hill at a breakfast Wednesday morning.

Other SPIE members participating in the NPI-sponsored visits were Robert Baker, Dale Karapanagiotides, Casey Boutwell, Mary Potasek, Zuleykhan Tomova, Cathy Chen, Hsu-Cheng Huang, and Andrew Traverso.

The NPI is a collaborative, industry-driven campaign to advance photonics research and funding. Activities concentrate on five key areas: defense and national security, energy, healthcare, communications, and manufacturing. More information is at http://lightourfuture.org.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 256,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2013.


SETWG Congressional visits training session

Volunteers were briefed on budget, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) policy, and other issues by Capitol Hill experts, in preparation for visiting Congressional offices.


SETWG reception and exhibtion

Congressional Visits Day volunteers, Members of Congress, and Congressional staffs packed into the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building for an awards reception and exhibition.



Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478