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6/1/2010
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House Allocates $84 Billion For Technology R&D

Reauthorization of the America Competes Act would fund efforts to keep the U.S. competitive in science and technology.

The House of Representatives has reauthorized an act that provides $84 billion in funding to help the United States stay competitive in technology and science.

On Friday, lawmakers passed the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, or H.R. 5116, which allocates the money over five years to the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other organizations that conduct research and development in science and technology.

Specifically, the NSF could potentially have access to more than $40 billion over five years for research and education programs.

Industry leaders have been urging the House to reauthorize the bill, first enacted in 2007, but it took three tries until they finally did. The reauthorization passed Friday 262-150. It still needs to pass the Senate before becoming law.

The bill passed both the House and Senate easily when it was first authorized in 2007, but this time around Republican lawmakers held up the reauthorization of the bill.

The 2007 America Competes act stemmed from a report by the National Academies in 2005 that warned the United States about its lackluster performance in and focus on science and technology education. The report said the country's future economic performance was in jeopardy.

The Obama administration has made it a priority to improve how the United States fares internationally in science and technology, concerned that the country will lose ground as a superpower if it doesn't step up research and education in these fields.

In addition to promoting R&D funding, the administration also is fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for children through its "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

The campaign is a partnership between the federal government and private sector aimed at increasing the competitiveness of American students in science and math. Currently, American students are about average globally in math and science, but the administration wants them to take the lead in 10 years.

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