On June 17, 2011, the Senate Committee on Armed Services announced that S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 had been passed unanimously and had been reported out of Committee and sent on to the Senate for debate.

S. 1253 provided $200 million in funding for the "Rapid Innovation Program" established by PL 111-383, the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.  $50 million of this is directed to the development of advanced materials, including nanomaterials, as described in S. Report 112-26

    2. Developing advanced materials: $50.0 million for increased investment in a broad range of materials technologies, both organic and inorganic, that can provide enhanced performance in extreme environments; enhanced strength and reduced weight for the spectrum of applications from aerospace to lighter soldier loads; enhanced survivability of ground, air, and naval systems; and tailored physical, optical, and electromagnetic properties for a wide variety of the challenging environments and unique properties demanded of military systems. Such materials could include advanced composites and metals, nanomaterials, and rare-earth alternatives. Investments could also address new techniques for manufacturing and processing these materials, including advancements in forming, joining, and machining. Whether increasing survivability or improving fuel efficiency for greater performance, advanced materials are a foundational enabling component of military systems across all services and all warfighting domains;

S. Rept. 112-26 also contains the following language, which doesnot appear in S. 1253 as reported:

Nanotechnology research

The Department of Defense (DOD) is one of 25 federal agencies that are part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) that was launched in 2001. The goals of the NNI are to: advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development (R&D) program; foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit; develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and support responsible development of nanotechnology. As a participant in the NNI, DOD leverages its own and other federal investments, primarily in basic research, to discover and exploit unique properties of materials at the nanoscale to enable new applications enhancing future weapon systems capabilities.

Given the broad applicability of nanotechnologies to important areas such as power and energy, electronics and sensors, and advanced materials and coatings, the committee seeks to ensure that the DOD is engaging with as broad a research community as possible to maximize its access to innovative ideas and products. Hence, the committee directs the Department to provide a briefing to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act reviewing its sources of nanotechnology research and engineering for defense purposes. Furthermore, the briefing should address whether these sources are adequate to ensure that the Department has sufficient scientific and technical access across the spectrum

S. 1253 now awaits debate in thge Senate, as does HR. 1540, the House version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. A likely scenario for both bills would be for the Senate to call up HR 1540 and amend it by substituting the language of S. 1253 after the enacting clause, which would send the amended bill back to the House. If the House agrees to the amendment, the bill would be passed and sent to President Obama to be signed into law or vetoed. A more likely scenario would be for the House to disagree with the amendment, sending it to a Conference Committee , which would be tasked with producing a comprise version that both the Senate and the House could agree to pass.

As with other legislation affecting nanotech, we’ll monitor S. 1253’s progress and provide updates.