Luján, Blackburn Lead Colleagues in Letter to Congressional Leadership Urging Robust Funding for Department of Energy to Support U.S. Competitiveness
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) led their Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter urging Congressional Leadership to allocate strong federal funding in support of research and development at the Department of Energy (DOE), a crucial component of the U.S. innovation ecosystem. Last year, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which included significant authorizations for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the DOE to advance the commercialization of technologies important to emerging industries. The House-passed America COMPETES Act of 2022 provides comprehensive authorization of DOE’s basic science mission, but it fails to include investments in DOE’s applied research programs that support U.S. competitiveness in the economy of the future. This letter calls for authorizations across the DOE’s full breadth of applied and basic sciences, as provided by the $16.9 billion in funding included in USICA.
“While the United States has long been the world leader in research and development, other countries are making enormous investments in key technology areas, leaving the U.S. at risk of being rapidly outpaced,” the lawmakers wrote. “The pipeline of innovation is fueled by investments in both basic and applied research, and we urge you to include authorizations for DOE across these areas to secure the United States’ position at the frontier of key technologies and emerging industries and ensure research and development across the federal government is coordinated and not duplicative.”
Additional signers of the letter include U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D).
The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:
Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader McCarthy:
We write today in regard to our support for strengthening American competitiveness and leadership in science, technology, and innovation. Building upon the goals outlined in the America COMPETES Act of 2007, we know that strong research and development (R&D) funding in key areas of science and technology is imperative to maintaining and enhancing U.S. competitiveness, prosperity, and security. We ask that any final competitiveness legislation provide ample support for both basic and applied research by leveraging our existing innovation ecosystem, including at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), to ensure that the U.S. remains at the vanguard of emerging technologies and industries.
While the United States has long been the world leader in research and development, other countries are making enormous investments in key technology areas, leaving the U.S. at risk of being rapidly outpaced. For example, President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Xi Jinping is focused on investing billions of dollars to create a lab network modeled after the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories to “seize the commanding heights of scientific and technological innovation”. Additionally, the PRC is creating and implementing detailed frameworks that align their government, academic, and industrial sectors with their national agenda in an effort to dominate what will likely be the key economic drivers in the 21st century.
As the Senate and House develop final language for the competitiveness bill under consideration, including the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA) and the America COMPETES Act of 2022, it is critical that we invest across our R&D ecosystems. Historically, the combination of our university, national laboratory, and business R&D has driven U.S. leadership in science and technology capability, expertise, and commerce and enabled the most innovative and entrepreneurial private sector in the world. However, recent increases in global R&D expenditures in transformative new industries, such as quantum information sciences, artificial intelligence, advanced energy, and biotechnology, place new urgency on strengthening the United States’ commitment to and investment in R&D. The Energy Department and its 17 National Laboratories already have unmatched expertise and capacity in many of these transformative new industries, as well as experience both transferring tech to the private sector and protecting it from theft by international competitors, so significant funding for DOE must be included in the final bill.
The Senate-passed USICA includes significant authorizations for both the NSF and the DOE to advance the commercialization of technologies key to emerging industries. In particular, the authorization of $16.9 billion in USICA for DOE supports programs in applied energy research to include the development of advanced energy and industrial efficiency technologies, batteries, and advanced nuclear technologies, all of which are critical for our country’s ability to address national challenges and remain economically competitive and secure. The America COMPETES Act of 2022, recently passed by the House of Representatives, provides a much needed comprehensive reauthorization of DOE’s basic science mission, but it does not include equally important additional investments in DOE’s applied energy research programs. The pipeline of innovation is fueled by investments in both basic and applied research, and we urge you to include authorizations for DOE across these areas to secure the United States’ position at the frontier of key technologies and emerging industries and ensure R&D across the federal government is coordinated and not duplicative.
From harnessing the atom to mapping the human genome to developing the nation’s first exascale computer, DOE and the National Laboratories have tackled some of the greatest challenges to face our nation. They have extensive experience and established processes to ensure research security, operate extremely productive user facilities with unique and unparalleled capabilities, support the cutting-edge research of a hundred thousand scientists, and maintain the tools and expertise to address energy and other global challenges. As negotiations over competitiveness legislation begin, we would be wise to leverage these invaluable national assets, the whole innovation ecosystem, and the basic and applied research programs that support them to ensure the United States remains ready to lead the industries of the future.