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March 21, 2017

CRS Report on Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress Includes Nanotechnology and the NNI

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) prepared a March 14, 2017, report entitled Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress.  The report outlines science and technology policy issues that may come before the 115th Congress.  The report notes that, given the rapid pace of science and technology advancement and its importance in many diverse public policy issues, issues not discussed in this report may come before Congress.  The selected issues are grouped into nine categories.  The category Physical and Material Sciences includes the subcategory “Nanotechnology and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).”  The report states that development of this field has been fostered by “significant and sustained” public investments in nanotechnology research and development (R&D).  In 2001, President Clinton launched the NNI to accelerate and focus nanotechnology R&D to achieve scientific breakthroughs and to enable the development of new materials, tools, and products.  According to the report, more than 60 nations subsequently established programs similar to the NNI.  Through fiscal year (FY) 2016, Congress appropriated approximately $21.8 billion for nanotechnology R&D; the President requested $1.4 billion in FY 2017 funding.  In 2003, Congress enacted the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (P.L. 108-153), providing a legislative foundation for some of the activities of the NNI, establishing programs, assigning agency responsibilities, and setting authorization levels through FY 2008.  The report notes that although legislation has been introduced in successive Congresses to amend and reauthorize the Act, none has been enacted into law.  According to the report, Congress “has directed its attention primarily to three topics that may affect the realization of nanotechnology’s hoped-for potential:  R&D funding; U.S. competitiveness; and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns.”