06:14 PM

Competitiveness Bill Targets Research, Education

A package of bills to be introduced in the U.S. Senate today would double basic research funding. Also part of the proposals: funding merit-based scholarships for future math and science teachers and visa reforms that would keep foreign math and science students here.

WASHINGTON — Legislation to be introduced Wednesday (Jan. 25) in the U.S. Senate seeks to double federal funding for basic research, boost science education and reform the U.S. high-tech visa program.

The "Protect America's Competitive Edge Act" includes a package of three bills sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Along with doubling basic research funding, the package calls for funding merit-based scholarships for future math and science teachers, visas reforms that would keep foreign math and science students in the U.S. and extension of the R&D tax credit.

Engineering groups praised the proposals. "We are encouraged to see Congress not only solicit the advice of the engineering and science community, but also to adapt that advice into a comprehensive legislative initiative," IEEE-USA President Ralph Wyndrum Jr. said in a statement.

The spending proposal nevertheless faces tough sledding as the Bush administration and Congress look for ways to slow the rate of federal spending and reduce record budget deficits.

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