The Senate late on May 17 voted to proceed with debate on the Endless Frontier Act, a bill introduced in April with broad bipartisan sponsorship that would pour $100 billion of Federal spending over five years into research and development spending on ten hot-button tech areas.

The Senate voted 86-11 to proceed with debate, indicating the high level of support for the measure, which has been marketed in part as an investment by the government to fend off tech competition from China. In particular, the bill aims to use the government-funded research to commercialize the underlying technologies with businesses located in the United States.

It remains unclear exactly when that Senate floor debate will take place, but various news reports have said Senate leaders hope that happens in the run-up to the Memorial Day holiday.

The bill has been championed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and would establish a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which would invest the $100 billion of funding in areas including AI, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, and biotech.

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In addition, the bill would establish a new supply chain resilience and crisis response program conceived as part of a national security strategy aimed at strengthening critical technology supply chains in the U.S. and with global allies and partners.

On the policy front, the bill would charge the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with annually developing a Federal strategy to improve U.S. competitiveness in science, research, and innovation.  And to spread the impact of the problem – and to increase its attractiveness to a wider swath of members of Congress – the bill would establish regional technology hubs “that support regional economic development that diffuses innovation around the United States,” according to a summary of the bill.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. Schumer called the bill a “once in a generation investment in American science and American technology.” He continued, “We can either have a world where the Chinese Communist Party determines the rules of the road for 5G, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, or we can make sure the United States gets there first.”

The White House via the Office of Management and Budget endorsed the bill late Monday, saying the measure “is an important step in ensuring the U.S. remains globally competitive in the 21st century,” and aligns with President Biden’s vision to build a stronger, more inclusive innovation engine in the United States.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.