Gardner, Peters Request Increase in U.S. Science Funding

Washington, DC – United States Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter today to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to support a substantial increase in federal funding for science, research, and development at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

Last Congress, Gardner and Peters offered an amendment at the Senate Commerce Committee to increase authorizations of appropriations for NSF and NIST by 4% over existing funding levels, and the amendment passed by voice vote. This letter builds on that effort and the pair’s longstanding work to bolster the U.S. scientific community and U.S. research and development enterprise, including their introduction of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act that President Obama signed into law in January 2017.

The letter reads in full:

Dear Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Shaheen: 

We write to request that the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies provide a 4% increase in funding for FY2018 from FY2017 levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The American Physical Society estimates that a 1% increase in national funding for research and development results in a corresponding 0.13% increase in the national gross domestic product (GDP). Ongoing federal initiatives in research and development are already responsible for billions of dollars in economic output and tens of thousands of jobs in our home states of Colorado and Michigan. 

Investments through NSF have provided grants to individual researchers across the country that have resulted in such innovations as the algorithm behind the Google search engine, the glass on the face of the iPhone, and advancements in cancer research. Through NSF programs like I-Corps, which we successfully authorized in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act earlier this year, these investments are leveraged into the commercial sector and attract significant private capital to help grow the economy. NSF also supports significant research and development centers throughout the country, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

As the nation’s premier standards and measurement agency, NIST coordinates with industry using a non-regulatory approach to develop standards and best practices on issues as wide-ranging as quantum computing and cybersecurity to pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. NIST also oversees the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, which promotes American manufacturing and provides significant value to the United States manufacturing community—for example, MEP estimates that every $1 in federal investment generates an additional $17 in manufacturing sales growth.

While the private sector invests billions annually in research and development, many in industry have indicated an inability to provide significantly more capital, leaving their investments stranded without adequate federal investment. A 4% increase from FY2017 levels is appropriate and modest compared to several historical appropriations increases. 

The United States is facing fierce international competition: China invests more than $335 billion annually on research and development initiatives, making them the second largest investor in the world and putting them on track to eclipse U.S. investments soon. Without a substantial increase in research and development appropriations, the United States risks losing its role as the global leader in innovation. We must keep America first.

If you or your staffs have questions regarding this request, please do not hesitate to contact our staff. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.