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It’s time to fund US investments in the future

The United States is in a difficult period in many respects. Political divisions, high prices, supply chain issues and economic challenges from foreign competitors like China dominate our headlines. Fortunately, despite pressures for a myopic focus on the present, Congress and President Biden recently made a much-needed commitment to our nation’s ability to compete with the successful passage of the CHIPS and Science Act.

The main media focus of this legislation is its historic investment in the development and production of advanced semiconductors in the United States. This focus is understandable, given that semiconductors are a critical sector for economic and national security reasons. But the CHIPS and Science Act does much more than that. For example, it is creating regional tech hubs that will allow underserved areas of the United States to catch up on innovation and economic growth. It establishes a new technology directorate within the renowned National Science Foundation empowered to take new approaches to research and technology that will help us compete. It sets up a network of microelectronics research centers within our national laboratories. And it energizes the talent pool to help the next generation of scientists and engineers succeed.

For these and other reasons, many defenders and decision-makers take a well-deserved victory lap. But while the celebration is deserved, it’s also important to understand that the job isn’t done. Unlike the CHIP portion of the Act, the Science portion primarily provides permissions, which are spending goals, not actual dollars, which require credits through annual expense invoices. This is the next big step for Congress.

The authorizing officers have made some progress so far in their legislative work. The House Appropriations Committee passed its twelve annual spending bills in June, and six of them were subsequently passed in the House. The owners of the Senate also presented their twelve bills.

But notwithstanding the bipartisan victory of CHIPS and science law, rancor has erupted along partisan lines over large-scale spending. The end of the fiscal year looms in a few weeks, and the midterm reviews follow next. This means that many programs created or strengthened by CHIPS and Science will have to wait for full funding and run the risk of being harmed.

For example, the new tech hubs program mentioned above, so crucial for supporting researchers and entrepreneurs outside of wealthy cities like Boston or San Francisco, has yet to receive funding in House bills. or the Senate. The National Science Foundation, while likely to receive increases, could end up receiving billions less than projected in CHIPS and Science, limiting its ability to fully execute the emerging technology vision set by Congress. Even smaller initiatives risk being underfunded, such as Manufacturing USA, a little-known but important network of innovation institutes that partner with universities, labs and small manufacturers to improve US competitiveness. United.

Importantly, CHIPS and Science also enables robust multi-year growth for the basic science that underpins breakthrough advances. The dramatic increase in government spending on R&D in the decades following World War II was the backbone upon which the modern American economy was built, bringing widespread prosperity to our nation. But we’ve spent the last fifty years backing away from that commitment, leading to a decline in our role as a global innovation leader.

The CHIPS and Science Act predicts a major reversal of this trend. After careful consideration of the bill, we estimate that Chips and Science, if fully funded, would increase R&D spending by $75 billion over the next five years, which would likely represent a net increase of more than 10% of the federal R&D base during this period. This is a major investment that would help boost federal R&D as a part of the US economy and pay huge dividends – but it needs to be funded.

There is an unfortunate history of Congress allowing ambitious pushes for science only to run out of money. Congress deserves credit for getting CHIPS and science law across the finish line, but lawmakers shouldn’t rest on their haunches. Instead, our leaders should maintain the moment they started and ensure strong support for federal innovation – our future depends on it.

Ro Khanna has served as the U.S. Representative for California’s 17th District since 2017. Jonathan Gruber, P.hD. is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream. Matt Hourihan is Associate Director for R&D and Advanced Industry at the Federation of American Scientists.