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IEEE-USA ELECTRONIC INFORMATION BULLETIN -- SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE
From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 3 Feb 1995 18:09:59 -0500
IEEE-USA ELECTRONIC INFORMATION BULLETIN
No. 95-6, February 3, 1995
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND
SPACE EXAMINES COMMERCE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
PROGRAMS--FUTURE FUNDING BATTLES TO BE FOUGHT IN
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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
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- IEEE-USA ELECTRONIC INFORMATION BULLETIN -- SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE David Farber (Feb 03)