Progress on Federal Research Bills

May 26, 2022

NSF Reauthorization

The House and Senate are moving forward with a Conference Committee to negotiate differences between the House-passed America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (America COMPETES) Act and Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). Both bills include provisions to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). Along with other measures aimed at bolstering domestic manufacturing and improving our country’s global economic competitiveness,

The Senate bill passed with strong bipartisan support, whereas the House package passed largely along partisan lines, and some Republican Senate supporters have said that the final agreement must be much closer to their version if it is going to garner enough votes to pass. Certain elements, including the NSF authorizations, received broad bipartisan support in both chambers. However, other issues will cause sticking points. 

Recently, Congressional leadership laid out an aggressive timeline for conference committee negotiations, though reporting suggests they are already falling behind schedule.

  • May 25 – Professional Staff Members complete negotiations
  • June 3 – Staff Directors complete negotiations on any outstanding issues
  • June 10 – Chairs and Ranking Members complete negotiations on any outstanding issues
  • June 13 to 16 – Leadership work to close out remaining items
  • June 21 – Conference report with finalized legislative text introduced

ARPA-H Authorization

On May 18, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the bipartisan ARPA-H Act, which would authorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) through 2027. 

Authorizing legislation establishes, continues, eliminates, or modifies federal programs. While these bills provide funding guidance, they do not directly appropriate funds. Annual spending legislation provides actual funds which often do not align with authorized levels.

Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations legislation provided $1 billion to establish the agency, but offered little in the way of direction for the new entity. With the details left up to the executive branch, Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services appointed Dr. Adam Russell, an anthropologist, as Acting Deputy Director, and established the agency within NIH. The ARPA-H Act would alter the existing setup, making ARPA-H an independent agency. This was a key point of contention in Congressional hearings, and a separate bill under consideration in the Senate, focused on pandemic prevention, proposes situating ARPA-H within NIH.

The ARPA-H Act also offers additional specificity for the agency, outlining legal authorities and broad goals focused on high risk, high reward research to drive breakthroughs in treatment and prevention. The legislation includes a strong focus on avoiding duplication of existing efforts at NIH and other federal research agencies, which has been a focus of FABBS advocacy efforts.