Earth Science and Career Training Gain Committee Support

2018-04-23T08:24:19+00:00 April 23, 2018|

What It Was

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a markup on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503) and on the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act (H.R. 5509). Both bills passed out of committee with amendments and bipartisan support.

 Why It Matters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth science research contributes valuable data for weather forecasting and understanding our planet; decreases to this program negatively effects all Americans. H.R. 5503 would reauthorize NASA – establishing policy priorities and authorizing appropriations for the agency.

There is a growing demand for workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Work-based learning, apprenticeships, and specialized training can help increase skills, ensure a robust workforce, and reduce unemployment. H.R. 5509 would create support to grow industry partnerships and STEM training for students and the community.

Key Points

Members clashed during the NASA reauthorization (H.R. 5503) over the importance of Earth science as an agency priority. Republicans described NASA’s core focus as space exploration and aeronautics and noted that Earth science competes with those missions. Democrats expressed support for the agency’s broad portfolio and highlighted the vital role Earth science played in keeping communities safe during the plethora of natural disasters in 2017.

Additionally, Democrats registered frustration in the way the legislation was drafted, expressing disappointment in the lack of opportunity to work across the aisle and weigh in on the development of the legislation. The committee recessed for 30 minutes to attempt cross-party negations to authorize appropriations for NASA’s Earth science funding (the draft legislation was $470 million below the FY 2018 and FY 2017 omnibuses)—and successfully reached a deal through an amendment from Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7). The amendment reinserted language removed from an earlier draft, authorizing an additional $470 million to Earth Science Research (bringing the amount to the full $1.921 billion approved in the FY 2018 omnibus). Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) stated the modification “was not an easy amendment for the majority to swallow” but in the end, saw it as a compromise and a way to “move forward in good faith.”

During the markup of the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act (H.R. 5509), Republicans and Democrats agreed the U.S. should be the global leader in science, innovation, and technology and that a strong STEM workforce is essential to achieve this goal. Industry training and apprenticeship programs can help enhance college degrees or certificates by providing students and the community real-world experience. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48) voiced strong support for training disabled, veteran, and mature (age 50+) workers in science and technological fields.

H.R. 5509 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish and fund initiatives that support training partnerships between industry and academia and to invest in expanding coursework at community colleges to embrace the apprenticeship model. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) withdrew her amendment to H.R. 5509 that would recognize art as an important driver in innovation but noted industry leaders (e.g., Boeing, Intel, Lockheed Martin) value creativity and arts, and she hoped to continue the conversation. The bill passed with bipartisan support.

Additionally, in a party-line vote on Thursday, Mr. Jim Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate to be the NASA administrator. The nomination had been delayed for several months due to bipartisan concern for his qualifications.

Quotable

“The Earth Science budget supports numerous programs that help Americans…melting ice caps, rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather events, drought, and the other serious manifestations of climate change here on Earth are things we should be concerned about and studying.” – Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)

“The Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act, H.R. 5509, is a significant step in the right direction towards ensuring the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy of today.” – Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21)

 Next Steps

The bills will head to the House floor and await scheduling for vote. Once they pass the House the will head to the Senate and complete the legislative processes there.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

 Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership