The most far-reaching bills dealt with science education and research. H.R. 3130, the Technology Talent Act of 2001, builds on earlier congressional action to strengthen scientific education at the pre-college level, said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., the committee chairman.
"Now we move to undergraduate education, which also suffers from inadequate attention, inertia and complacency," Boehlert said. "The bill encourages universities and colleges to increase the number of graduating majors in the physical sciences, math, engineering and technology."
The bill authorizes the director of the National Science Foundation to award five-year grants to both associate and bachelor degree programs. The legislation authorizes $15 million annually from 2003 to 2007 to fund the grants. Schools would use the money for programs that could include boosting participation among student groups not normally found in a science curriculum, expanding educational facilities or improving the overall quality of learning.
"The pipeline which connects our country's economic and security needs with talented young minds is broken," said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn. "This bill will help repair that pipeline by spurring the interest of our youth in pursuing fields that will propel both technological innovation and the future growth of our economy."
The committee approved several amendments to H.R. 3130, including wording for a program aimed at minority-serving schools from Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif. An amendment from Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., would provide the NSF with several million dollars to investigate advanced technological education.
The foundation also is the focus of H.R. 4664, the Investing in America's Future Act of 2002. The committee-approved bill authorizes an increase of more than $2 billion in NSF funding over the next three years, setting the agency on the path to double its budget within five years. Research programs would see more than $1.5 billion in new support, with the NSF's stipend and grant programs slated for nearly $400 million over the three years. Programs to build and maintain major scientific facilities stand to receive $144 million in increased funding.
"(The bill) provides the resources the National Science Foundation needs to expand its investments in cutting-edge research initiatives and to shore up its core research and education programs," said Rep. Ralph Hall, D-Texas, the committee's ranking member. "It will help ensure the nation maintains a vigorous basic research enterprise."
The committee approved Boehlert's amendment to H.R. 4664, which targets $105 million of the increased funding for the advanced technological education program and $30 million for the minority-serving schools program.
The other bills successfully leaving the committee included:
-- H.R. 4687, the National Construction Safety Team Act, which would create an agency, similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, to investigate structural disasters such as the World Trade Center towers collapse;
-- H.R. 2486, the Inland Flood Forecasting and Warning System Act of 2001, and;
-- H.R. 2733, the Enterprise Integration Act of 2001, which would help create standards for better supply-chain coordination within industries such as aerospace, automaking and shipbuilding.
The full House may take up the bills next month, Boehlert said.