Statement On Senate Passage Of The United States Innovation And Competition Act Of 2021

Today, in a bipartisan vote, the Senate advanced important legislation to increase our nation’s competitiveness with China. The United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021 is significant legislation, and an example of what process and debate can yield in the United States Senate.

This legislative package is the end result of the bipartisan work of from multiple Senate Committees and reflects the urgency of addressing the challenges faced by domestic manufacturers and American researchers in our global competition with China.  This includes an emergency appropriation of $54 billion in funding for grants to make semiconductor chips here in America, and for the continuation of chip production in Essex, Vermont.  The package also allocates $1.5 billion in funding for implementation and domestic research and development (R&D) of 5G technology, to ensure that the United States drives the modernization of its own communications infrastructure.

The bill significantly raises authorization levels by almost $120 billion over five years for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Commerce (Commerce), and the Department of Energy (DOE).  These historic investments in American ingenuity will help strengthen our country’s R&D capabilities, regional economic development opportunities, manufacturing capacity, and supply chain resiliency. 

Through the creation of a new Directorate of Technology and Innovation at the NSF, the Federal Government will be able to better support research and technology development in key focus areas, such as the growing artificial intelligence space and quantum science. Among other activities, the Directorate will help fund R&D at collaborative institutes, establish technology testbeds, and award scholarships and fellowships to build a workforce equipped to lead us through the 21st century and beyond.

Throughout the process, I was encouraged to see a strong focus on the need to continue to increase education, research and workforce opportunities in rural and underserved areas throughout the country.  The regional technology hub program at the Commerce Department established in this bill will benefit rural communities in Vermont and across the country.  These hubs, of which there will be three per EDA region, will carry out workforce development activities, business and entrepreneur development activities, among other important activities.  I appreciate the work done by fellow members in the Senate to ensure that these hubs truly and accurately represent the significant economic needs of rural areas in this country. 

The inclusion of increased supplementary funding for research at universities that participate in the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) takes important steps to build our nation’s capacity in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field.  This funding will also help reduce the geographic concentration of research and development and education opportunities across the country.  For far too long, Americans have had to leave their hometowns and even their home states to get an education and find work.  This bill will give rural residents more reasons to stay close to home and help their communities grow from the ground up.  I have seen the incredible work that has already been done by the University of Vermont’s participation in EPSCoR and am excited to see what’s to come from this substantial investment.

This serious legislative package shows what can be done when we all work together in the Senate.  Thanks to these efforts, we will be able to secure America’s role as a global leader in technology, R&D and manufacturing.  I hope the House of Representatives will soon consider this legislation, so President Biden can sign this historic initiative into law.

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