Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee recently released a discussion draft of the 2013 America COMPETES Act reauthorization (also see an interview by Science Insider with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the ranking committee member). Congress has passed the America COMPETES Act twice before, in 2007 and 2010, with the goal of boosting American innovation. The first time around, the legislation was a result of growing interest and concerns over competitiveness, following the National Academies' Rising Above the Gathering Storm report and President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (see this 2009 Congressional Research Service report on the first COMPETES Act for in-depth background). While the 2007 version enjoyed strong support, the 2010 reauthorization was a bit more contentious. Congress is now due to again reauthorize the legislation, and the latest round could be the most contentious yet.
The bill is intended to achieve many things, but one important element of COMPETES has been funding authorizations for some key R&D agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science (DOE SC), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce. Authorizations do not provide actual funding, but they do provide targets for appropriators. Over the past two iterations of COMPETES, those funding targets have become less ambitious as fiscal challenges and partisan polarization has grown (see below chart).