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From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 3 Feb 1995 18:09:59 -0500


             No. 95-6, February 3, 1995


          Report prepared by Scott Grayson,
      Manager, Career Policy Council, IEEE-USA

      On January 31, the Senate Subcommittee on
      Science, Technology and Space held a hearing to
      look at the future of the Department of
      Commerce's science and technology programs.  The
      Department's programs include the Technology
      Administration, which encompasses the National
      Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
      the Office of the Assistant Secretary of
      Commerce for Technology Policy, and the National
      Technical Information Service.  Other DOC
      technical programs and agencies also include the
      National Oceanographic and Atmospheric
      Administration, the National Telecommunications
      Information Agency, and the Patent and Trademark

      Much of the hearing, however, focused on the
      status of high-profile Commerce programs
      currently under attack by budget-cutting
      Republican leaders in the House and Senate such
      as NIST's Advanced Technology Program (ATP).
      NIST's ATP program provides grants to support
      high technology research by large and small
      companies, joint ventures, and consortia.
      According to NIST, "ATP concentrates on
      promising, but high-risk enabling technologies
      that can form the basis for new and improved
      products, manufacturing processes and services.
      It accelerates technologies that, because they
      are risky, are unlikely to be developed in time
      to compete in rapidly changing world markets
      without such a partnership of industry and
      government.  It does not fund product

      In his opening remarks at the hearing, Chairman
      Conrad Burns (R-MT) noted that "it is essential
      that this Nation maintain its technological
      edge," but expressed some concern at the
      National Bureau of Standards and Technology's
      (NIST) dramatic growth in the past two years.
      He noted that "ATP funding went from $199
      million in FY 94 to $431 million in FY 95."
      Senator Burns also posed the question whether
      ATP constitutes industrial policy and whether
      the program picks winners and losers in the

      The first testimony given by Secretary of
      Commerce Ron Brown addressed Senator Burns'
      concerns directly by stating that ATP by no
      means picks "winners and losers."  Brown
      explained that ATP does not pay for product
      development but helps fund risky high technology
      innovations that would not be funded by any
      other source of capital.  Secretary Brown
      stressed the importance of maintaining the
      funding level for all of the Department's
      partnership programs.  "Without these programs,"
      Brown stated, "the U.S. can not remain
      competitive in today's global economy."

      Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), former chair and
      currently the ranking minority member of the
      subcommittee, agreed with Secretary Brown and
      pointed out that much of today's important and
      innovative technology was derived from research
      funded in the 1950's and 1960's.  Both Senators
      Rockefeller and John Kerry (D-MA) emphasized
      that cuts to ATP or NIST's Manufacturing
      Extension Program (MEP) would be incredibly
      short sighted and would be tantamount to
      disarming the United States in its fight for
      global economic fight to competitiveness.
      Senator Kerry emphasized the importance of
      Congress staying away from an ideological debate
      over these programs and the necessity of looking
      at the successes of the various programs.

      Dr. Mary Good, Under Secretary of Commerce for
      Technology and head of the DOC's Technology
      Administration, followed Secretary Brown and
      offered testimony that reemphasized the
      importance of a continued level of funding for
      the Department of Commerce's science and
      technology programs.  NIST Director Dr. Arati
      Prabhakar, who is also an IEEE senior member,
      testified that NIST programs, "allow small
      companies to compete and win," in the global
      market.  "The ATP program," Dr. Prabhakar
      emphasized, "is an industry led program that
      receives careful review by the National Academy
      of Engineering (NAE)."  Ms. Prabhakar explained
      that ATP, which was founded in 1990 with an
      initial budget of less than $5 million, is still
      too new to fully evaluate the success of the
      program since the partnerships funded through
      ATP focus on long-term research.

      Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD), chair of the full
      Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
      Transportation, agreed that the Department of
      Commerce's science and technology programs are
      among the most important in the government and
      make up almost half of the Department of
      Commerce's entire $4.2 billion budget.  He
      cautioned, however, that "it is clear that they
      alone will not make our nation more competitive.
      Any effective competitiveness strategy must also
      include such elements as appropriate
      deregulation, tax incentives, antitrust reform,
      and product liability reform."

      To this observer, there was a general consensus
      among the Senators participating in the hearing
      that the Department of Commerce's science and
      technology programs were of great value to the
      nation's competitiveness.  It appears that the
      battle to save funding for some of these
      programs will be fought largely in the U.S.
      House of Representatives--where there is a
      greater zeal to make deep cuts.  Committee
      members intimated that it will take active
      support and advocacy by industry leaders of
      small and big businesses, as well as the support
      of the Senate to save such programs as ATP.


      This electronic bulletin is provided as part of
      an on-going effort by IEEE's United States
      Activities Board to apprise IEEE members of
      important developments related to U.S.
      technology and career-related policy issues.
      Please feel free to post this message and/or
      forward it to other individuals who you believe
      would be interested.

      Chris J. Brantley
      Manager, Government Activities
      Institute of Electrical and Electronics
        Engineers - United States Activities
      1828 L Street, N.W., Suite 1202
      Washington, DC 20036-5104
      Email:  c.brantley () ieee org
      Phone: 202-785-0017

      ====END OF ITEM====

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