Encouraging Progress on NSF Authorization

On January 25, House leadership introduced the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (America COMPETES) Act of 2022, marking an important step toward reauthorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Last year, the House and Senate each passed legislation that would authorize funding for NSF. Over the summer, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), a package of bills addressing investments at a number of executive branch agencies, largely focused on global competition, particularly with China. This included funding authorizations and the and creation of a new technology directorate at NSF. Later in the year, the House passed a series of standalone bills that somewhat paralleled those in the Senate package. These included the NSF for the Future act, a thorough reauthorization of NSF, which FABBS endorsed following a deliberate and cooperative process by the House Science Committee to consult diverse stakeholders in crafting the legislation. Until recently, however, progress was stalled due to differences between the two chambers.

A new push from the Biden Administration, largely focused on semiconductor manufacturing provisions – the CHIPS for America Act – has triggered a renewed effort to negotiate differences and pass a final bill. The first step in that process was House leadership combining their standalone bills into one larger package to facilitate more direct negotiations. The House will look to pass the America COMPETES Act in the coming weeks, and then begin negotiations with the Senate.

In addition to the NSF for the Future Act, the new America COMPETES Act includes science policy bills, endorsed by FABBS, which passed the House last year. Three of these were also included in the Senate package:

  • Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act (Also included in USICA)
  • Supporting Early Career Researchers Act (Also included in USICA)
  • Rural STEM Education Act (Also included in USICA)
  • STEM Opportunities Act
  • MSI STEM Achievement Act

It will likely take months to bring this process to fruition. Senator Young, the Republican leader on USICA, suggested Memorial Day as a potential target for final passage. Nonetheless, these developments are good news for the National Science Foundation, and FABBS is encouraged to see the Administration, Senate, and House come together to make federally supported research a top priority.