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Americans Deserve Effective Science Funding

Photo of Rep. Lamar Smith
Rep. Lamar Smith
Chairman, House Science Space, and Technology Committee
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      Rep. Lamar Smith

      Lamar Smith represents the 21st Congressional District of Texas.
      He serves as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over programs at NASA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

      The Committee oversees agency budgets of $39 billion, where the primary focus is on research and development.

      Congressman Smith continues to serve on both the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. He is a former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Ethics Committee.
      In the last Congress, Congressman Smith was named Policymaker of the Year by POLITICO for his work on patent reform legislation.

      A fifth generation Texan and native of San Antonio, Congressman Smith graduated from Yale University and Southern Methodist University School of Law. He and his wife, Beth, have an adult daughter and son.

      The 21st Congressional District includes parts of Bexar, Travis, Comal and Hays Counties and all of Bandera, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr and Real Counties. The district’s population is about 700,000. Congressman Smith maintains district offices in San Antonio, Austin and Kerrville.

There’s a growing worry that America is falling behind, with our best days behind us. Our economic strength and national security depends on technological leadership.  Since the 1940s, America has led the World in research and development (R&D) spending. But our crucial technological edge isn’t guaranteed.  Experts now project the U.S. will fall behind China in R&D spending in about ten years.

Five years after the Obama administration announced the end of the recession, unemployment remains at historically high levels, including nearly 3.5 million long-term unemployed and millions of recent college graduates who are jobless. Our gross domestic product (GDP) fell almost three percent in the first quarter of this year, which makes this the worst GDP report in five years.

China now operates the world’s fastest supercomputer. American astronauts rely on Russia to transport them to and from the International Space Station. High-energy physicists look to research conducted in Europe over research conducted in America.  And we also risk losing our lead in other areas such as nano-technology, the health sciences, and lasers.  This is the wrong direction for our country’s future.

We can’t have innovation without research and development. Efficient and effective investments in research and development (R&D) can curb this trend. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is leading our country toward a future in which new technology-driven businesses and jobs will be created elsewhere. The president’s science advisor says that America should get used to being second (or third) in R&D, conceding, “We can’t expect to be number one in everything indefinitely.”

We must re-direct public investments in research to the areas that boost economic growth and job creation:  biology, computer science, mathematics and engineering. Smart use of taxpayer dollars geared toward R&D will help fuel the economy, create jobs and lead to new technologies that benefit Americans’ daily lives. The investments in R&D today will lead us to the innovative technologies and ideas of tomorrow.

The White House budget cuts funds for research in the medical and physical sciences and instead increases spending for social and political science studies. The National Science Foundation (NSF), a critically important outlet for taxpayer-supported basic research, has spent millions of taxpayer dollars in recent years on frivolous and expensive projects such as “The Great Immensity,” a climate change musical that closed after three weeks, and “Re-live Prom Night,” an online game.

When taxpayer money is spent on frivolous musicals, there is less money to support scientific research that can yield technological breakthroughs and opportunities for economic growth. I and others in Congress have asked repeatedly for information about many questionable grants, but the NSF refuses to provide answers.