Final competition bill should include research funds, say Romney, Calvert

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) helped lead a bipartisan, bicameral contingent of 93 other lawmakers in requesting that robust federal funding for research be included in a final competition bill.

Members of the newly convened Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation are working to reconcile the America COMPETES Act, H.R. 4521, and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), S. 1260, and the lawmakers oppose any provisions that would hamstring future research funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with a high, fixed allocation through Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) activities. 

EPSCoR is a federal-state partnership program designed to enhance the research capabilities of states that receive less than 0.75 percent of NSF funding every five years. USICA would authorize more than $100 billion over five years to support breakthrough scientific discovery and technological innovation in 10 key areas that are vital to building an innovation economy and winning the good-jobs race for the 21st century, and would increase funding for NSF activities, according to a May 24 letter that Sen. Romney, Rep. Calvert, and their colleagues sent to Conference Committee leadership.

“As you know, provisions in the Senate-passed USICA would set aside 20 percent of the total NSF budget for EPSCoR states, as well as 20 percent of funds authorized for DOE and the NSF Directorate for Technology and Innovation,” wrote the lawmakers. “We strongly oppose such provisions, which would leave behind emerging research institutions in non-EPSCoR states.

“Arbitrarily walling off a sizable percentage of a science agency’s budget from a sizable majority of the country’s research institutions would fundamentally reduce the entire nation’s scientific capacity and damage the research profiles of existing institutions — contrary to the goals of both USICA and the COMPETES Act,” they wrote.

Sen. Romney, Rep. Calvert, and their colleagues also pointed out that for the United States to maintain and expand its innovation leadership, developing the total pool of research enterprises is essential.

“We must prioritize fostering scientific talent and developing new technologies. If large portions of science agency budgets are off-limits to these institutions, innovative research in our states would be compromised,” they wrote. “We urge you to ensure that the final bill broadens participation in our world-class research ecosystem and to support policies that elevate research in EPSCoR and non-EPSCoR states alike.”