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America C.O.M.P.E.T.E.S. Act

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Congress Passes Legislature to Increase Funding for Basic Research

Fearing that people would think I didn't read anything that isn't about electronics, I didn't want to write my second paper based on an article from an IEEE publication. Still, I couldn't pass up this article I found on the IEEE-USA website. It's called, "Congress Passes Landmark Legislation, America C.O.M.P.E.T.E.S. Act", by Bill Williams.

The article explains how on August 2nd of this year Congress unanimously passed legislation that will increase funding for basic research and improve science, technology, math and engineering education. The bill, signed into law on August 9th, is called the "Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science", or the "America COMPETES Act". This bipartisan bill is based almost exclusively on the report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future", written by the National Academies of Sciences, National Academies of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. Congress commissioned this report three years ago to evaluate the United States' competitive edge with foreign countries and to recommend a course of action to ensure our continued dominance in these areas. The America COMPETES Act authorizes the expenditure of $43.3 billion over the next three years in science, engineering, math and technology research. Several new research departments will be created, as well as the retooling of certain existing ones. The legislature also includes programs designed to entice graduates with degrees in technical fields to teach in K-12 public schools. Most notable of these programs is the Noyce Scholarship, where the federal government would offer scholarships up to $20,000 per year to students seeking degrees in science, math, engineering, etc., in exchange for a five year post-graduate commitment to teach in a public school.

Unfortunately, this bill only authorizes the expenditure of the funds. The next step is a little trickier; getting Congress to pass the spending bills to fund the programs. A prime example of how difficult this can be is the funding for the National Science Foundation. In 2002, Congress authorized an increase in funding for the NSF that was supposed to double their existing budget over the next five years. Sadly, their funding has actually decreased over that time. In fact, the percentage of researcher proposals that were funded by the NSF in 2004 was lower than the previous



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