To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making

Prince Otto von Bismarck

On April 22, 2010, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee introduced HR 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which was then referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The bill’s focus, as it’s title implies, is on reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act passed in 2007. Both the original act provided government support for innovation, research and development, increased funding for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM for short) in high schools and colleges, and assistance in getting the results of research and development out to the private sector, ultimately leading to the emergence of new industries and an expansion of the economy. The Reauthorization act would have expanded on this and would have included other areas, such as a reorganization of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

The House Committee on Science and Technology reported the bill out of committee with an amendment in the nature of a substitute; all of the language after the enacting clause was stripped out and new language substituted. Both the bill as introduced and the bill as reported to the House have the same language for Title I, "Science and Technology Policy", Subtitle A, "The National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendments Act of 2010", which will be our focus here.

Section 102, "National Nanotechnology Program Amendments" would require, within 12 months of the bill’s enactment into law, of a strategic plan to guide the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in achieving activities described in an earlier section and

to guide the activities described under subsection (b) that specifies near-term and long-term objectives for the Program, the anticipated time frame for achieving the near-term objectives, and the metrics to be used for assessing progress toward the objectives, and that describes–


    `(A) how the Program will move results out of the laboratory and into applications for the benefit of society, including through cooperation and collaborations with nanotechnology research, development, and technology transition initiatives supported by the States;


    `(B) how the Program will encourage and support interdisciplinary research and development in nanotechnology; and


    `(C) proposed research in areas of national importance in accordance with the requirements of section 105 of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2010;’;


This new language would replace the current version:

(A) how the program will move results out of the laboratory and into application for the benefit of society;

(B) the Program’s support for long-term funding of interdisciplinary research and development in nanotechnology; and

(C) the allocation of funding for interagency nanotechnology projects;

Section 102 would also add new language regarding support for the development of standards for nanotechnology, funding for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), by directing the NSTC to include descriptions of funding required by the NNCO to perform functions required by earlier sections an the amount of funds provided by each federal agency that participates in the program.

The NNCO would be directed to

develop and maintain a database accessible by the public of projects funded under the Environmental, Health, and Safety, the Education and Societal Dimensions, and the Nanomanufacturing program component areas, or any successor program component areas, including a description of each project, its source of funding by agency, and its funding history. For the Environmental, Health, and Safety program component area, or any successor program component area, projects shall be grouped by major objective as defined by the research plan required under section 103(b) of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2010. For the Education and Societal Dimensions program component area, or any successor program component area, the projects shall be grouped in subcategories of–


    `(A) education in formal settings;


    `(B) education in informal settings;


    `(C) public outreach; and


    `(D) ethical, legal, and other societal issues.

The requirement for a publicly accessible database has appeared in S. 1482 and H.R. 554, discussed here and here.

Section 5 would retain the requirement for the Director of the NNCO to enter into an agreement with the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a triennial review. However, the areas covered by the review would be greatly reduced from

(1) an evaluation of the technical accomplishments of the Program, including a review of whether the Program has achieved the goals under the metrics established by the Council;
(2) a review of the Program’s management and coordination across agencies and disciplines;
(3) a review of the funding levels at each agency for the Program’s activities and the ability of each agency to achieve the Program’s stated goals with that funding;
(4) an evaluation of the Program’s success in transferring technology to the private sector;
(5) an evaluation of whether the Program has been successful in fostering interdisciplinary research and development;
(6) an evaluation of the extent to which the Program has adequately considered ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns;
(7) recommendations for new or revised Program goals;
(8) recommendations for new research areas, partnerships, coordination and management mechanisms, or programs to be established to achieve the Program’s stated goals;
(9) recommendations on policy, program, and budget changes with respect to nanotechnology research and development activities;
(10) recommendations for improved metrics to evaluate the success of the Program in accomplishing its stated goals;
(11) a review of the performance of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and its efforts to promote access to and early application of the technologies, innovations, and expertise derived from Program activities to agency missions and systems across the Federal Government and to United States industry;
(12) an analysis of the relative position of the United States compared to other nations with respect to nanotechnology research and development, including the identification of any critical research areas where the United States should be the world leader to best achieve the goals of the Program; and
(13) an analysis of the current impact of nanotechnology on the United States economy and recommendations for increasing its future impact.


     `(1) research priorities and technical content of the Program, including whether the allocation of funding among program component areas, as designated according to section 2(c)(2), is appropriate;



    `(2) effectiveness of the Program’s management and coordination across agencies and disciplines, including an assessment of the effectiveness of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office;


    `(3) Program’s scientific and technological accomplishments and its success in transferring technology to the private sector; and


    `(4) adequacy of the Program’s activities addressing ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns, including human health concerns.

The report would be transmitted to be submitted to the Director of the NNCO, who in turn would

transmit it to the Advisory Panel, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, and the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives not later than September 30 of every third year, with the first report due September 30, 2010.

 The definition of "Nanotechnology" would be changed from the current



The term “nanotechnology” means the science and technology that will enable one to understand, measure, manipulate, and manufacture at the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels, aimed at creating materials, devices, and systems with fundamentally new molecular organization, properties, and functions.

to a more focused

NANOTECHNOLOGY- The term `nanotechnology’ means the science and technology that will enable one to understand, measure, manipulate, and manufacture at the nanoscale, aimed at creating materials, devices, and systems with fundamentally new properties or functions.’; and


    (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:


    `(7) NANOSCALE- The term `nanoscale’ means one or more dimensions of between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers.’.

As with earlier bills H.R. 5116 also paid attention to the effects of nanotechnology on society, by requiring the Director of Science and Technology Policy to designate an Associate Director as the "Coordinator for Social Dimensions of Nanotechnology". This Coordinator’s responsibilities would include

    (1) ensuring that a research plan for the environmental, health, and safety research activities required under subsection (b) is developed, updated, and implemented and that the plan is responsive to the recommendations of the subpanel of the Advisory Panel established under section 4(a) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7503(a)), as amended by this subtitle;


    (2) encouraging and monitoring the efforts of the agencies participating in the Program to allocate the level of resources and management attention necessary to ensure that the ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns related to nanotechnology, including human health concerns, are addressed under the Program, including the implementation of the research plan described in subsection (b); and


    (3) encouraging the agencies required to develop the research plan under subsection (b) to identify, assess, and implement suitable mechanisms for the establishment of public-private partnerships for support of environmental, health, and safety research.

The Coordinator would also be directed to convene and chair a panel of representives of the funding agencies for the purpose of developing, updating and implementing a research plan. This plan would include descriptions of how the program would ensure the

1) development of "standards related to nomenclature associated with engineered nanoscale materials",

2 development of standard reference materials for environment, health and safety testing, and

3) "standards related to methods and procedures for detecting, measuring, monitoring, sampling, and testing engineered nanoscale materials for environmental, health, and safety impacts."

This plan would also be submitted to the Senate Commitee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Science and Technology.

The bill would create "Nanotechnology Education Partnerships", which would support the development of courses of instruction on the high school and undergraduate levels, faculty professional development, acquisition of equipment for undergraduate education and research, and various enrichment programs. Again, these are drawn from previously introduced House and Senate bills which have discussed here earlier. The idea would be to create an educated and trained workforce that will be needed by and can participate in the nanotech industry, now and in the forseeable future.

Other sections of H.R. 5116 would require the establishment of industry liason groups and closer coordination of federal programs with programs on the state level.

Section 105 would direct the Program to

include support for nanotechnology research and development activities directed toward application areas that have the potential for significant contributions to national economic competitiveness and for other significant societal benefits. The activities supported shall be designed to advance the development of research discoveries by demonstrating technical solutions to important problems in such areas as nano-electronics, energy efficiency, health care, and water remediation and purification. The Advisory Panel shall make recommendations to the Program for candidate research and development areas for support under this section.


    (b) Characteristics-


    (1) IN GENERAL- Research and development activities under this section shall–


    (A) include projects selected on the basis of applications for support through a competitive, merit-based process;


    (B) involve collaborations among researchers in academic institutions and industry, and may involve nonprofit research institutions and Federal laboratories, as appropriate;


    (C) when possible, leverage Federal investments through collaboration with related State initiatives; and


    (D) include a plan for fostering the transfer of research discoveries and the results of technology demonstration activities to industry for commercial development.


Section 106, gives a nod towards the Green Movement by directing that interdisiplinary research centers supported by the program and focus on nannomanufacturing research

 include as part of the activities of such centers–


    (1) research on methods and approaches to develop environmentally benign nanoscale products and nanoscale manufacturing processes, taking into consideration relevant findings and results of research supported under the Environmental, Health, and Safety program component area, or any successor program component area;


    (2) fostering the transfer of the results of such research to industry; and


    (3) providing for the education of scientists and engineers through interdisciplinary studies in the principles and techniques for the design and development of environmentally benign nanoscale products and processes.


The NNCO would be required, within 12 months of enactment, to sponsor a public meeting to obtain the views of meeting participants, including representives of nanoindustries on:

1) the relevance and value of the research sponsored by the Program,

2) whether the research centers are adequate for (A) meeting current and future requirements for fabrication of nanoscale devices and systems and (B) providing remote access and use of equipment at such research centers, and

3) receive any recommendations on ways to strengthen the research portfolio supported under the Nanomanufacturing program component area, or any successor program component area, and on improving the capabilities of nanotechnology research facilities supported under the Program.

The NNCO would also "prepare a report documenting the findings and recommendations resulting from the meeting." Who would receive this report or if and how it would be made available to the general public was not detailed in H.R. 5116 as reported. Holding one such meeting like this would seem rather limited, particularly for the representive of nanoindustries who would not have been able to attend on a particular day or time.  One would have hoped that these meetings could have taken place on a quartlery basis in different regions of the country. These meetings could then have been used not only to gather recommendations but also to gauge the depth of the general public’s understanding (or misunderstanding) of nanotechnology. The reports from these meetings could also have been made publicly available via a website and/or distributed to public libraries as part of a government documents system.

The National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel established by the President as part of the Nanotechnology Research and Development Act would be directed to  review the nanomanufacturing program to assess

1) if funding for the nanomanufacturing program is adequate and if the program is receiving priority in the allocation of resources,

2) the relevance of the reseach supported by the program to the needs of nanoindustries, and

3) if the supported research centers can meet current and future needs and can be remoted accessed by those unable to travel to them.

On May 12, 2010, the House debated H. Res. 1344, the rule under which H.R.5116 would be debated. The debate on H.Res. 1344 was a foreshadowing of the debate on H.R. 5116 itself:

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. . .   I understand and I support the underlying principles of the America COMPETES Act, prioritizing and strengthening investments in basic research and development and STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. But we need to have an economic strategy that encourages companies, businesses in the United States, to compete, to grow, and to hire new workers, a strategy that includes the streamlining of burdensome regulations, a strategy that reduces taxation, that brings our Federal spending under control, and controls the spiraling national debt.

       So, Madam Speaker, as much as I would prefer to support the underlying legislation, I believe that at this time of severe budgetary constraints, the underlying legislation includes excessive spending levels.

   The bill has an overall authorization of nearly $86 billion, which represents approximately $20 billion in new funding above the fiscal base of this year. That is a significant increase when we’re facing record budget deficits. And that is after the so-called stimulus bill injected 6 billion additional dollars into the agencies funded by this bill.

   The current national debt projections and the majority’s insatiable appetite for spending are unsustainable. And if we continue on that trajectory, the America that we know, love, and admire will be severely threatened. Our excessive spending threatens the very foundation of our economy and our way of life. We could very well find ourselves in a position, soon, similar to today’s Greece.

Mr. PERLMUTTER. Madam Speaker, I would like to respond to a couple of the things my friend from Florida said. . . .

      My friend is right. We have to look at the spending that this country is engaging in, but we have got to put people back to work. This America COMPETES Act does that by building on our science foundation. We have, in this bill, endorsements and support from virtually every kind of company and association possible, from business associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, TechNet, et cetera, to various societies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, university associations as well, and a whole host of businesses, because they know how important this bill is towards the investment that we’re going to make in the future for this country. But it’s jobs today. . . .

 And I would just say to my friend, the investments that are being made in science and technology and in the education of scientists and engineers and mathematicians is the kind of investment for the long-term health of this country that has to be made right now.

H.Res. 1344 was adopted by the House, on a recorded vote that fell along party lines. H.R. 5116 was called up for debate, with the adoption of most of the amendments contained in H. Rpt. 111-478. An amendment to delete Title V, "Innovation", which would have created a new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and federal loan guarantees for innovative technologies was soundly defeated.  Amendment 15, offered by rep. Bishop of New York was adopted and added a new section 412:


   The text of the amendment is as follows:


    Page 174, after line 13, insert the following:


    The Director shall carry out a nanomaterial research initiative to–

    (1) develop reference materials for nanomaterials and derived products to be used in benchmarking toxicity, calibrating instruments, and facilitating laboratory comparisons;

    (2) assist in the development of international documentary standards relating to nanomaterials;

    (3) develop instruments and measurement methods to determine the physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials; and

    (4) gather and develop data to support the correlation of physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials to any environmental, safety, or other risks.

Rep. Bishop’s remarks in support of his amendment reflect some of the concerns of the general public :

Mr. BISHOP of New York.

   My amendment directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop reference materials, standards, instruments, and measurement methods for nanomaterials and derived products. My amendment also calls on the NIST to compile data to help us understand how the properties of nanomaterials correlate with environmental, health, and safety risks. We stand on the precipice of a new wave of scientific and technological advancement through the development of nanotechnology or controlling matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Advancements in this field have the potential to create new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as medicine, electronics, and energy production. I am proud to represent Brookhaven National Laboratory, where many of these breakthroughs have been discovered. However, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as with any introduction of new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials. My amendment would ensure that we closely monitor how this new technology affects our health and safety.

   Mr. Chairman, while we must do all we can to incentivize and nurture innovation and competitiveness, we must also balance and make consistent the commercialization of new technologies with our duty to protect and inform the public. My amendment, therefore, helps establish a commonsense roadmap for the development of nanotechnology standards. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment and the underlying bill.

Debate continued on May 13, 2010, with the House voting to adopt H.R. 5116 as amended. It appeared that H.R. 5116 was about to be passed.

Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, however, then rose to offer a motion to recommitt the bill. This would send it back to committee to be further amended. Among Rep. Hall’s amendments were reductions in the amounts appropriated, and to add language regarding the payment of salaries to federal employees viewing porn on government computers


    None of the funds authorized under this Act may be used to pay the salary of any individual who has been officially disciplined for violations of subpart G of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch for viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography, on a Federal Government computer or while performing official Federal Government duties.

Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I’d like to make a few points about the motion to recommit . . . .

   The motion to recommit addresses the biggest concern I, and many of the Members on this side of the aisle, have with the legislation, which is the excessive spending. It will address this issue by reducing the authorization to 3 years instead of 5, striking the new programs in the bill, and reducing the spending down to the fiscal year 2010 appropriated levels. It also would prohibit Federal funds from being used by Federal employees to view, download, or exchange pornography, including child pornography. Additionally, it will ensure that the institutions that we’re giving Federal funding to through this act will repay the Federal Government by allowing the military onto their campuses for recruitment.

   Finally, the motion to recommit will invest in an issue that’s very dear to our hearts, our Nation’s disabled veterans. This motion would ensure that our colleges and universities that make STEM programs available to our disabled veterans and those schools chartered to serve disabled veterans receive the same special consideration afforded to other schools serving the underrepresented populations.

On a recorded vote, the motion to recommitt was adopted. Further proceedings on H.R. 5116 were postponed. Effectively, H.R. 5116 died on the House floor.

In an attempt to get the bill passed, Rep. Gordon introduced H.R. 5325 on May 18, 2010. This version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 incorporated many of the changes demanded by the Republicans in the House – amounts appropriated were reduced from S85.6 billion to $48 billion, the reauthorization period was reduced from 5 to 3 years, and langauage regarding federal employees viewing porn on government computers was also added. The language of Title I, Subsection A was not changed in this version of the bill.

An attempt to pass H.R. 5325  on May 19th, under suspension of the rules, which would limit debate but does require a two thirds majority to pass a bill, failed on a vote that generally followed party lines. H.R. 5325 essentially died on the House floor.

Further action on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act may occur next week – it is listed on the Weekly Calendar for next week. One can only hope that H.R.5325 or another modified version of the bill does not fall victim to ideological divisions or becomes a "talking point" in the upcoming elections and that the hard work of Rep. Gordon and others was not in vain.