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Rising above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5
vote of 88-8. Final approval in the House of the America COMPETES authorization act was by unanimous consent following 367-57 approval of the conference report. In what perhaps might best be described as a system failure, virtually no funds to implement the Gathering Storm recommendations were included in the final version of the Fiscal 2008 Appropriations Act (although some 10,000 earmarks survived). The Gathering Storm recommendations required approximately $19 billion per year for implementation, once a transition phase was completed. Starting with the fiscal 2008 supplemental budget, funding for the relevant agencies of the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories has been on a trajectory that, if sustained, will result in a doubling by 2017. In contrast, funding of the STEM education-related recommendations lagged.
During the first two years following the release of the Gathering Storm report the principal impact of the efforts by the Academies and a wide array of interested constituencies—including the Council on Competitiveness, the Business Roundtable, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and others—was to forestall actions that would otherwise have diminished America’s competitiveness. A private-sector organization, the National Math and Science Initiative, was established based on the Gathering Storm recommendations to increase participation in Advance Placement courses in high school and to provide additional teachers qualified in mathematics and science.1
Responding to the severe downturn of the economy in the fall of 2008, “stimulus legislation,” designated the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, was introduced. A special hearing chaired by Speaker Nancy Pelosi was held, in part to address the long-term implications of any potential legislation. During the hearing witnesses noted that the Gathering Storm report emphasized the need for investments for the longer term—particularly in K-12 education and university research. Legislation that was eventually approved provided funding to implement many of the report’s recommendations. President Obama, who had previously endorsed improvements to the nation’s K-12 education system and the addition of funds for science, including a major increase in funding at the National Institutes of Health, signed ARRA on February 17, 2009.