Panel Tweaks NIST as Part of COMPETES Physical Science Bill

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) moved a step closer to the first reauthorization of its programs in 15 years when a key science panel in the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the changes. Today’s vote is part of an overhaul of the America COMPETES Act, passed in 2007 to strengthen research at NIST, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Science Foundation.

As Richard Jones of the American Institute of Physics reports today:

At today’s markup by the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, chaired by Rep. David Wu (D-WA), Members considered the first comprehensive reauthorization of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 15 years. The subcommittee’s bill maintains the budgetary doubling path. It would reorganize NIST’s twenty-year-old laboratory structure from its current ten units to six units, a change that NIST Director Pat Gallagher has sought. It also authorizes funding levels for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Technology Innovation Program. The NIST Director’s position, with the same portfolio of responsibilities, would be elevated to that of Under Secretary of Commerce. At the markup, subcommittee members again rejected an amendment to reduce the authorization from five to three years, which Republicans said would allow for better congressional oversight of NIST’s programs. There was also discussion about the period over which the agency’s budget would be doubled. Other amendments dealt with information security standards, and programs to encourage minority STEM participation.

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