Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today joined 33 Senate and 26 House colleagues in a letter to congressional leaders highlighting important provisions included in the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to strengthen the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The members called on leadership to incorporate these landmark provisions as both chambers consider legislation to improve U.S. competitiveness, especially against China.
Despite its statutory mission to “avoid undue concentration” of scientific research and education, the National Science Foundation (NSF) spends nearly half of its research and development (R&D) budget in six states plus the District of Columbia. Congress established the EPSCoR program to improve the competitiveness of institutions and researchers in jurisdictions that receive comparatively small amounts of R&D funding by setting aside funds to strengthen research capacity and capability. Today, 25 states and three territories qualify to participate, and five federal agencies have EPSCoR programs including the NSF, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Institutes of Health.
“If the United States is going to stay a step ahead of China, we need to promote the scientific talent, expertise, and capabilities found throughout America, not in just a handful of states and universities,” said Wicker. “The Senate language strengthens the EPSCoR program by helping ensure that institutions and researchers across the country receive a fair share of federal R&D funding and contribute to innovation in key technology areas. My support for this legislation is dependent on these provisions remaining in the bill.”
Wicker authored the EPSCoR provisions highlighted in the letter and shepherded its passage through the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate floor. Specifically, these sections of USICA would require the NSF to allocate at least 20% of its annual funding to the EPSCoR program, including for the new Technology Directorate. It would also require NSF to make at least 20% of its STEM workforce awards to institutions located in EPSCoR jurisdictions including undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and traineeships, postdoctoral awards, and other awards.
“We strongly support this approach and believe that it is necessary to leverage every state and community in the nation to remain globally competitive,” the members wrote. “With the robust investment in R&D funding included in the United States Innovation and Competition Act, this approach will continue to support states that traditionally receive a high amount of NSF research dollars while also supporting innovation in underserved regions.”
Members who joined Wicker in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., include: Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Christopher Coons, D-Del., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Thomas Carper, D-Del., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., Angus King, I-Maine, Tim Scott, R-S.C., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, John Boozman, R-Ark., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., James Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, John Barrasso R-Wyo., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., and James Lankford, R-Okla. The letter also includes: Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., Sharice Davids, D-Kan., Andy Barr, R-Ky., James Langevin, D-R.I., Trent Kelly, R-Miss., Chris Pappas, D-N.H., Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Dina Titus, D-Nev., Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., Steven Horsford, D-Nev., Don Bacon, R-Neb., Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-N.M., Ron Estes, R-Kan., Chellie Pingree, D-Minn., Garret Graves, R-La., Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., Tracey Mann, R-Kan., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., Don Young, R-Calif., Tom Rice, R-S.C., Hal Rogers, R-Ky., William Timmons, R-S.C., and Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
Find a copy of the letter HERE.
Leaders from universities in Mississippi are expressing support for the EPSCoR provisions:
“The EPSCoR program has been vital in assisting universities in smaller and disadvantaged states become more competitive for research funding,” said Dr. David Shaw, Provost and Executive Vice President of Mississippi State University. “Zip code should not determine whether talented students can develop the workforce of the future, the new ideas for entrepreneurial businesses, and the economic development so desperately needed in some of our more depressed economies. MSU strives for all students, but particularly those from under-represented and disadvantaged populations, to be successful. To do that, however, we must be provided the resources to involve these students in creative discovery, technology development, and entrepreneurship to ensure that they are given all the tools necessary to be successful in their lives and careers.”
“The State of Mississippi has significantly benefited from EPSCoR funding, providing numerous means to attract top researchers as well as invest in state-of-the-art equipment,” said Dr. Gordon Cannon, Vice President for Research at University of Southern Mississippi. “During my 35 year tenure at The University of Southern Mississippi, I have seen firsthand the significant impact of EPSCoR funding has on research faculty and students. Senator Wicker's leadership and continued support of the EPSCoR program will ensure the continued growth of Mississippi's research enterprise. We appreciate Senator Wicker's ongoing support of vital programs like EPSCoR, as they will ensure that the United States remains technologically competitive in the emerging global research market.”
“The United States is fortunate to have tremendous science and engineering talent across our nation, but the federal funding for research and development is concentrated in a small number of states,” said Dr. Josh Gladden, Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs at University of Mississippi. “The EPSCoR program has been extremely beneficial in helping states like Mississippi build the research and development infrastructure required to unleash the talent of our researchers to create innovations that benefit society. With four research-intensive universities, these additional funds will generate significant for the research enterprise in the state with impacts for the country and the world. We thank Sen. Wicker for his leadership and vision to benefit the lives of Mississippians and all Americans through discovery.”
"We commend Senator Wicker's foresight and leadership in championing the EPSCoR set-aside provisions in the Endless Frontier Act/ US Innovation and Competition Act, and look forward to the impact this set aside will have on research and innovation in EPSCoR states,” said Dr. Joseph Whittaker, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University. “As an HBCU, this proposed level of support would enable Jackson State University (JSU) to increase its competitiveness through capacity building as well as enhanced research and technology infrastructure development.”
Commerce Committee Announces August 23 Subcommittee Field Hearing on Space and Science in Colorado Springs, CO
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, will convene a field hearing titled “Collaboration and Competition in Space: Ushering in a New Era” on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 2pm MDT in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The United States has long been the global leader in space exploration and has benefitted from robust, peaceful international collaboration. Other nations, such as China and Russia, have announced their own space ambitions, and desire to build their own international collaborations. This hearing will examine actions to promote the competitiveness of the U.S. commercial and civil space sectors and to attract and maintain strong international partnerships that deliver tangible benefits back here on Earth.
- Hon. Jim Bridenstine, Former NASA Administrator
- Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, Axiom Space
- Mike Gold, Executive Vice President for Civil Space and External Affairs, Redwire Space
Monday, August 23, 2021
2:00 p.m. MDT (4:00 p.m. EDT)
The Broadmoor (Broadmoor Theater in the main building)
1 Lake Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Stories of heroism in the U.S. Coast Guard are part of the service’s legacy. Indeed, the Coast Guard conducts an average of 45 search and rescue missions per day. But those rescue missions are just one part of a highly capable and diverse agency that protects our national security, enables safe shipping and trade, and safeguards the maritime environment.
The motto of the Coast Guard is “always ready,” and the men and women who serve as Coasties live up to that motto every day. What often goes unreported, however, is the woeful lack of resources supporting the Coast Guard’s missions.
In too many cases, the Coast Guard operates out of trailers in parking lots, uninhabitable buildings and crumbling piers. It is time to give this branch of our armed forces its rightful attention and support.
The Coast Guard facilitates diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region, partners with the Navy in the South China Sea, delivers maritime security in the Middle East, provides a surface presence in the Arctic and deters illegal fishing in international waters. It enforces our domestic fisheries laws, keeps our rivers open, and protects U.S. ports and waterways.
Without a doubt, the Coast Guard is one of America’s most versatile and valuable assets. Its funding should reflect this important role.
As Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has stated, every mission begins on shore and at the waterfront. However, more than half of all Coast Guard facilities are beyond their service life, with over 5,000 facilities suffering from unfunded deferred maintenance. As of June 2021, the Coast Guard’s maintenance and infrastructure backlog had reached a staggering $3 billion. Without adequate bases, buildings and piers, the Coast Guard cannot continue to fulfill its responsibilities effectively.
In February of this year, I wrote to President Joe Biden in support of increased funding for the Coast Guard. I was disappointed when his fiscal 2022 budget failed to address these needs. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, negotiated by President Biden and a small group of senators, will be another missed opportunity to provide our Coast Guard with the funding it deserves. I sponsored and co-sponsored several amendments to boost funding for the service and have been disappointed by the Senate’s lack of interest in adopting these measures.
In addition to these amendments, I recently introduced the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard (USCG) Act to address some of the Coast Guard’s longstanding challenges. This bill would provide full funding to eliminate the shore-side facility maintenance backlog and build resiliency into these facilities. It would also support renovations to the Coast Guard Yard in Maryland. As the Coast Guard’s only shipyard, this facility is responsible for most long-term fleet maintenance and is in urgent need of modernization. Without these upgrades, the shipyard will be unable to maintain and service the current and future fleet.
The USCG Act would also protect pay and allowances for Coast Guard members through any gap in federal funding. During the most recent government shutdown, Coast Guard members were the only service members who went without pay while continuing to serve. My bill would ensure that Washington’s failures do not impact the men and women who keep us safe.
Since 2010, the Coast Guard has seen only a modest 8 percent increase in operation and support funding. By comparison, all other services have seen increases between 28 and 42 percent. Having the Coast Guard clearly identify its needs will inform Congress about how to modernize and recapitalize our Coast Guard fleet to meet its mission requirements.
It is popular for members of Congress to publicly support the Coast Guard, as evidenced by the 34 senators who tweeted birthday wishes on Aug. 4. Adequate funding of Coast Guard needs would be a much more meaningful show of support.
This op-ed was orginally ran in Defense News.