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Senate Appropriators Finally Concur on ATP Demise

July 24, 2006

Supporters of NIST's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) have weathered years of attempts by members of the House and the Bush Administration to eliminate the program, but this may be the biggest hurdle yet: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved language calling for the program's termination as part of the Department of Commerce fiscal year 2007 appropriations. The first of only two ATP-related sentences included in the Senate Committee report 109-580 accompanying H.R. 5672 conveys the weariness of the battle as the Committee conveys their defeat: "The Committee will allow for the phase out of activities for ATP. No funds are provided in fiscal year 2007 for ATP, and the Committee believes that sufficient funds were provided as part of fiscal year 2006 under this title to cover all necessary close out costs associated with ATP."

The Bush Administration has repeatedly called for the program's termination and the House of Representatives has often agreed. Program supporters have always counted on some funding in the Senate's version of the bill and strong pressure in conference to continue the program. It would now take an amendment to restore funding in H.R. 5672 if and when the full Senate considers the bill, possibly in September. Far more remotely, funding could be reinserted in conference. The likelihood of anything more than a continuing resolution being passed to keep the government running after Oct. 1 grows stronger with each passing day, which also moves the program into shutdown mode.

Complicating the matter and perhaps offering another avenue of hope for ATP proponents is the possibility of leadership of one or both of the chambers switching political parties with November's election. The lame duck session could be quite lame if the Democrats gain control in January. It is unknown if Democrats would attempt to resurrect the program, however.

ATP was created in 1990 to provide matching funds for industry-led research that accelerates the development of innovative technologies for broad national benefit. ATP has invested in risky, challenging technologies that have the potential for a big payoff for the nation's economy. These technologies create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting the ATP participants, other companies and industries, and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. By reducing the early-stage R&D risks for individual companies, ATP enables industry to pursue promising technologies which otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

The Senate Report accompanying H.R. 5672 is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html

More information on NIST's Advanced Technology Program, including information on the 760-plus projects approved, is available at: http://www.atp.nist.gov