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National Science and Technology Policy Bill’s $100 Billion Should Be for NASA

May 31, 2020 (EIRNS)—In a Congressional development with notable potential, four bipartisan Senators and Representatives on May 27 introduced the “Endless Frontier Act of 2020” (S.3832) which would give the National Science Foundation (NSF) $100 billion in five years to become the National Science and Technology Foundation. Compared to the NSF’s current $8 billion/year budget, this would balloon the new NSTF with a new Directorate for Technology, establish a regional technology hub program, and make a national policy for subsidization of specific technological developments.

The sponsors are Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) and Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The title is not accidental: “Science—The Endless Frontier” is the title of a report by Vannevar Bush, the MIT scientist who formed a committee at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt on Nov. 17, 1944 to apply the success in wartime of the Office of Scientific Research and Development that Bush headed to peacetime development.

Moreover, the exact outlines of the “Endless Frontier Act” were published at the end of 2019 in a book by MIT economists Simon Johnson and Jonathan Gruber, Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream, which was reviewed in EIR Jan. 31, 2020. That book also started from the model of Vannevar Bush’s committee. And Science reported May 26 that the Act was enthusiastically hailed by two NSF national board members from MIT, including MIT President Rafael Reif.

The release on all four Congress members’ websites says the bill is “to advance technology in 10 critical focus areas,” and here (although not to utterly ignore their disgusting, motivating attack on China), the problem recurs which was noted in EIR’s book review: There are exceptions, but most are communications technologies.

“According to the Senator, the newly established Technology Directorate would receive $100 billion over five years to lead investment and research in artificial intelligence and machine learning; high performance computing; robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing; quantum computing; cybersecurity; biotechnology; semiconductors. An additional $10 billion would be authorized to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs, awarding funds for comprehensive investment initiatives that position regions across the country to be global centers for the research, development, and manufacturing of key technologies.”

The same funding, used roughly to double the NASA budget over the next five years, would blast the Moon-Mars mission into orbit and establish exactly such regional R&D centers, but focused on frontier aerospace, nuclear, fusion and plasma technologies as well as the “advanced manufacturing” fields named by their release.

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