March 2, 2020

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TechNet Outlines Appropriations Priorities to Congress for “Funding the Future of U.S. Innovation”

Washington, D.C. — As the FY2021 appropriations process gets underway in Congress, TechNet is highlighting the technology industry’s funding priorities for this year in a letter sent to the House and Senate.  These include strengthening federal support for computer science education, Minority Serving Institutions, tech-related programs within the Department of Defense, advanced energy, rural broadband, and the Trump Administration’s request to double research and development spending in quantum information science and nondefense artificial intelligence, among others.

“As the House and Senate begin the FY2021 appropriations process, TechNet welcomes this opportunity to share our industry’s perspective on several key programs we support and view as vital to funding the future of U.S. innovation,” wrote TechNet president and CEO Linda Moore.  “Last year, we were encouraged that the two rounds of funding packages for FY2019 and FY2020 included totals of $125 million for computer science education and STEM grants, $50 million for implementation of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, and $791 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program.  This year, we renew our support for these efforts, as well as additional programs we believe are key to the U.S. being the global innovation leader in this new decade.”

A PDF of the letter can be found here.  The text of the letter is below.

RE: Funding the Future of U.S. Innovation in FY2021 Appropriations

To All Members of Congress:

As the House and Senate begin the FY2021 appropriations process, TechNet welcomes this opportunity to share our industry’s perspective on several key programs we support and view as vital to funding the future of U.S. innovation.

TechNet is the national, bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives that promotes the growth of the innovation economy by advocating for a targeted policy agenda. Our diverse membership includes dynamic American businesses ranging from startups to the nation’s leading technology companies and represents more than three million employees and countless customers in the fields of information technology, e-commerce, the sharing and gig economies, advanced energy, cybersecurity, venture capital, and finance.

Last year, we were encouraged that the two rounds of funding packages for FY2019 and FY2020 included totals of $125 million for computer science education and STEM grants, $50 million for implementation of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, and $791 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program.

This year, we renew our support for these efforts, as well as additional programs we believe are key to the U.S. being the global innovation leader in this new decade.  They include the following:

Computer Science Education Funding

As part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that Congress strengthen federal investments to expand access to quality computer science education for all students by providing $250 million in funding.

Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act

We encourage Congress to appropriate $50 million for implementation of the MGT Act and to work with the Office of Management and Budget and agencies that are asking for the authority to either expand existing working capital funds or create new ones (e.g. Departments of Education, Labor, Agriculture, Treasury, and Commerce) as a part of the 2021 budget request.

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)

We respectfully request that Congress appropriate $497 million to ARPA-E for FY2021. This $72 million increase over the FY20 level is in line with the bipartisan, bicameral ARPA-E reauthorization bills that passed the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The energy sector is already a more than $6 trillion global market, and nations like China, Korea, and Russia are making significant investments in advanced energy technologies to seize the economic and geopolitical advantages afforded by technological supremacy in this field.  ARPA-E helps fund transformative, early stage energy research in support of American energy security, economic competitiveness, and our efforts to combat climate change.  In its 10-year history, 145 of more than 800 projects supported by ARPA-E have attracted over $2.9 billion in private sector follow-on funding, and 76 projects have gone on to form new companies.

2019 National Defense Authorization Act — National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC)

We urge Congress to provide full funding of $75 million for NSIC, which was authorized under Section 230 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act but has yet to receive any appropriations to date.

NSIC is a part of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) within the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD) (R&E)) focused on dual-use hardware startups.  Its mission is to leverage DoD laboratories, national laboratories, academic laboratories, hardware- focused incubators, and venture capital firms to identify relevant startups that are seeking financing in the form of grants, loans, or equity.  Specifically, this program is focused on early-stage hardware companies with difficulty raising sufficient capital from U.S. investors, presenting long-term supply chain risks for the U.S. economy.  The areas NSIC has identified as its initial focus include quantum devices, rare earth processing technologies, small unmanned aerial systems, space systems components, and high-density batteries.

Emerging Technologies — Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Information Science Computing (QIS)

AI is transformational and can revolutionize the way we live and work — to defend our country against cyberattacks, deliver high-quality health care solutions, assist persons with disabilities, and train workers, among other applications.

We encourage Congress to view the Trump Administration’s request to double R&D spending in quantum information science and nondefense artificial intelligence from approximately $973 million to almost $2 billion by FY 2022 as a funding floor.

All together, we welcome the Administration’s detailed proposal to equip the following federal agencies with the funding needed to advance their unique AI and QIS missions: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Department of Energy’s Office of Science (including $25 million to support early stage research for a quantum internet), and Department of Defense’s Joint AI Center and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In particular, given TechNet’s strong interest in equipping American students and workers with the education, skills, and training needed to succeed in the modern economy, we welcome the Administration’s call for investments in AI and QIS- focused education and job training with an emphasis on community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions.

Additionally, we encourage Congress to direct the Administration to utilize quantum funds in a manner that helps galvanize a robust quantum computing market in the U.S. and strengthens our nation’s position at the forefront of quantum computing research — including through support for user access to leading quantum computing resources produced by U.S. industry.

Funding Programs Authorized in 2020 National Defense Authorization Act

In furtherance of the tech industry’s longstanding partnership with the military in advancing U.S. national security objectives — and to ensure that our men and women in uniform have access to the most cutting-edge technologies available to defend the American people — we urge Congress to fund several policy priorities authorized in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report.  These include the following:

  • Provide any needed funding to improve employment opportunities for military spouses by allowing the service branches to cover the costs of reimbursing licensure and certification expenses arising from a permanent change of station.  We supported this in last year’s NDAA in light of innovations in online platforms that help facilitate work opportunities for these individuals.

  • Full funding for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency’s efforts to acquire advanced cyber threat detection sensors, hunt and response mechanisms, and commercial cyber threat intelligence to ensure Defense Industrial Base networks remain protected from nation state adversaries.

  • Full funding for cyber basic and applied research programs authorized in last year’s NDAA.

  • Full funding for the Defense Digital Service to support the modernization of DOD IT systems.

  • Full funding for advanced manufacturing, materials, and printed circuit boards.

  • Full funding for Defense Innovation Unit AI research and expanding AI research by DOD across several areas.

  • Full funding for science and technology efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy, especially in the areas of AI, 5G, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and university research.

  • Full funding allowing the DOD and Air Force to establish a Quantum Information Science Innovation Center.

Broadband Funding

We respectfully ask that Congress continue its support of rural broadband by appropriating $232 million for the ReConnect program, which aligns with the Administration’s FY2021 budget request.  Since the pilot program was established in 2018, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has awarded over $573 million in grant or loan funding to 30 different states, providing service to a total of 133,686 households.  While RUS is in the process of receiving its second round of applications for funding, Congress’ continued support for this program is essential to help ensure rural Americans receive access to broadband services.

We also encourage Congress to ensure that the ReConnect program is technology- neutral. As noted in the RUS’s FY2021 budget congressional justification, new and developing technologies like TV whitespace technology have serious potential to accelerate the speed at which broadband can be provided to rural Americans.

In sum, broadband has the potential to revitalize rural America, empower American farmers and ranchers, and provide opportunities for our fellow citizens in rural communities. Broadband infrastructure increases educational opportunities, economic growth, access to health care, and the creation and staying power of jobs in these communities.  Continued direct federal investment, whether through the ReConnect program or through a larger infrastructure package, is critical to empowering rural Americans to participate in the digital economy.

Note Regarding Mandatory Funding Established By Other Laws

In addition to these aforementioned programs, TechNet has supported a wide range of other federal programs that support the future of America’s innovation economy and its workers through previously enacted laws that authorized mandatory funding — thus, not necessitating annual appropriations requests.

This includes but is not limited to major initiatives such as:

  • The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) that, among other things, boosts access for people with autism to programs that provide them with skills training and valuable work experience to facilitate their transition to adulthood and the workforce;

  • the Autism CARES Act; and

  • the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions.


To the extent the worthy aims of these laws are being advanced through other programs subject to the annual appropriations process, we would welcome the opportunity to engage on those efforts.  For example, with regard to Minority Serving Institutions, as part of FY2021 appropriations, Congress should increase the Title III discretionary program supporting these institutions up to its authorized amount, which is $375 million, up from its current FY20 level of $325 million.

Sincerely,

Linda Moore
TechNet President and CEO

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