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Defense bill extends Regional Innovation Strategies, Manufacturing USA

December 19, 2019
By: Jason Rittenberg

This year’s national defense authorization act (NDAA) includes extensions of the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program and Manufacturing USA. The House and Senate have passed the FY 2020 legislation, which authorizes up to $738 billion in appropriations and sets policy for a wide range of defense-related activities. The NDAA is one of the few bills that passes Congress each year. For this reason, the bill is often viewed as a vehicle for defense-related policies that may not garner sufficient attention separately. In 2018, for example, the NDAA extended SBIR/STTR pilot programs. The following policy areas addressed in the FY 2020 NDAA are the most relevant to regional innovation economies:

Regional Innovation Strategies

Once the NDAA is signed into law, RIS will be authorized through FY 2024 and increases the authorization level to $50 million (subject to appropriations). Additional changes remove “clusters” from the language to clarify the program’s unique focus and require feedback to unsuccessful applicants. These changes largely help to secure the program’s support for another four years.

SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council has made RIS reauthorization a top priority for this year.

Congressional leaders contributing to this action include: Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mark Warner (D-VA), who led the Startup Act, containing the original RIS reauthorization provisions; Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH), who led the introduction of RIS and Manufacturing USA legislation in the House; and, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), who led the introduction of related legislation in the Senate. Each of these bills had multiple, bipartisan cosponsors as well.

Manufacturing USA

The FY 2020 NDAA also provides Manufacturing USA research centers an opportunity to receive additional funding from their sponsoring agencies. To qualify for new funds, the centers need to demonstrate that they are meeting performance standards. Further, centers are required to explain how their activities will leverage existing “industrial, research, entrepreneurship” assets in the region, as well as provide greater coordination with the MEP network.


Several changes to SBIR/STTR policy will occur through the legislation. The most notable are: the Department of Defense (DOD) is given permission to provide cybersecurity technical assistance to awardees, and DOD may now award up to 10 percent of its SBIR awards to companies wholly or majority owned by venture capital or private equity firms.


To learn more about SSTI’s work to advance federal innovation policy, or to become a SSTI member or supporter of the Innovation Advocacy Council, contact Jason Rittenberg (rittenberg@ssti.org | 614.901.1690).

dept of defense, policy, legislation, RIS