Status Report

AIP FYI #161: Presidents Signs Nanotechnology Bill

By SpaceRef Editor
December 16, 2003
Filed under , ,

President Bush has signed into law a bill authorizing $3,677.7
million for federal research on nanotechnology over the next four
years. Under this legislation the “21st Century Nanotechnology
Research and Development Act,” the National Science Foundation,
Department of Energy, NASA, NIST, and EPA would augment, in some
cases dramatically, their support of nanotechnology R&D programs
from FY 2005 through FY 2007.

Intended to ensure “United States global leadership in the
development and application of nanotechnology,” the bill that made
its way to President Bush’s desk for the December 3 Oval Office
ceremony was the result of bipartisan cooperation on both sides of
the Capitol and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Introduced by
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on January 16, and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
(R-NY) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) on February 13, the two bills had
the support of a wide range of ideologically differing Members of
Congress. The House passed its bill on May 7 by a vote of 405-19;
the Senate its version on November 18 by Unanimous Consent. Within
two days of the Senate vote, Boehlert secured the bill’s final
passage on the House floor by voice vote.

The legislation, P.L. 108-153, while not providing the actual
funding, is an important signal of the Bush Administration and
Congress’s support for nanotechnology. Said Boehlert, “The U.S. is
the leader in nanotechnology and must remain so as this new field
starts remaking the marketplace. The nanotechnology program will be
a model of government, university, industry cooperation, and of
coordination, interdisciplinary research and public involvement.”
When introducing his bill, Wyden said “Our country’s National
Nanotechnology Initiative is a step in the right direction. This
Nation has already committed substantial funds to nanotechnology
research and development in the coming years. But funding is not
enough. There must be careful planning to make sure that money is
used for sound science over the long-term. That is the reason for
the legislation I am issuing today. The strategic planning it
prescribes will ensure that scientists get the support they need to
realize nanotechnology’s greatest potential.” The Bush
Administration identifies nanotechnology as a one of its “top” R&D
priorities, with nanotechnology research funding increased by 83%
since 2001.

This bill authorizes, or sets spending parameters for, five
government departments or agencies over the next four fiscal years.
Under its provisions, NSF would receive $1,734 million, or 47% of
the total funds if they were appropriated in full. DOE would
receive $1,459 million, or 40% of the money. NIST would receive 8%
of the total authorization, with NASA 4% and EPA 1%. If actually
realized, appropriated funding at the authorized levels would mean
large increases. NSF will receive $254 million for Nanoscale
Science and Engineering this year. In FY2005 the authorization
figure (assuming comparability) is $385 million; in FY 2007 the
figure is set at $476 million.

The authorization figures are just one section of this ten-section
law. Other provisions establish various mechanisms to coordinate
and promote R&D through the National Science and Technology Council
(see, a coordination
office with full time staff, an industry/academic advisory panel,
and external reviews through the National Academy of Sciences. A
series of reports are to be prepared to monitor progress. In
addition, a preparedness center will examine societal impacts of
nanotechnology, and another center will conduct and disseminate
research on new manufacturing technologies.


Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094


SpaceRef staff editor.