United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently said that "bipartisan support for government-sponsored research should be part of the president's 'America First' agenda," as the Senate began consideration of the first appropriations bills for the next fiscal year, including the Energy and Water Development bill from Alexander's subcommittee.
"As we begin the appropriations process, I want to suggest that a candidate for the president's 'America First' agenda that has bipartisan support is the record funding for government-sponsored science, technology and research reflected in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill and in other appropriations bills, not only this year but in the last few years," Alexander said.
The Senate began consideration of the legislation today along with the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch appropriations bills.
"For the fourth consecutive year, we have included record funding levels in regular appropriations bills for the following activities:
- The Office of Science--the Office of Science provides funding for our 17 national laboratories, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which are America's secret weapon, no other country has anything like them. Funding for the Office of Science in this fiscal year's appropriations bill, the one we're voting on this week, would increase funding by 6%.
- Or let's take supercomputing--two weeks ago, Energy Secretary Perry traveled to Oak Ridge, where he announced that the United States will regain the number one position in the world in supercomputing, which we compete for every year with China and Japan. This is the result of not one year of funding, but of ten years of bipartisan effort through three different administrations, Democratic and Republican, to try to make sure America is first in supercomputing in the world. We continue to do that in the appropriations bill we're considering this week.
- Or take an agency we call ARPA-E--ARPA-E is a cousin of DARPA, which is an agency that was created in the Department of Defense some time ago, out of which came a variety of wondrous new technologies - from stealth to the Internet, for example. So, ten years ago, Congress decided, why not try the same thing in energy, and created what we call ARPA-E, to invest in high-impact energy technologies and quickly get those technologies out into the private sector."
Alexander continued: "That's just our subcommittee, in other subcommittees:
- The Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee--chaired by Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen: The fiscal year 2018 bill increased funding for the National Science Foundation by $200 million. The fiscal year 2019 bill, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, proposes to increase funding another $300 million. The National Science Foundation makes about 11,000 grants to universities and other institutions around the country, $8 billion next year, as a part of our effort to stay first in research, science and technology.
- And then one more example, in fiscal year 2018, for the third straight year, the Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee chaired by Senator Blunt and Senator Murray has provided increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and biomedical research. $2 billion additional dollars in the first year, $2 billion in the second year, and $2 billion in the third year, which is in addition to 21st Century Cures Act funding to focus on Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, among other things. Senator Blunt said that's a 23 percent increase over three years."
Alexander concluded: "So I would say to [those] who may not have noticed this quiet development, this Republican Congress, and the Democratic members as well, understand a principal reason we produce 24% of all the worlds dollars for just 5% of the people is the extraordinary concentration of brain power in the United States supported by federal dollars through our national laboratories, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies."
Alexander leads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and wrote the bill with the subcommittee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. The $43.8 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 24 by a bipartisan vote of 30 to 1.
Click here to view the full video of Sen. Alexander's floor remarks.