U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a third-term Democratic congressman representing California’s Silicon Valley, is the leading force behind a bipartisan bill that promises to invest in research, development and manufacturing of critical technology to preserve the United States’ global leadership through this century.
The Endless Frontier Act was introduced by Khanna; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana; and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, in April. It was passed by the Senate on June 8 and now goes to the House.
“If America is to lead the 21st century economy, we need to increase our federal spending in research & development to ensure the new inventions and technologies of the future are created here in America,” Khanna told India-West. “Not only must we keep innovation here in this country, this prosperity must be shared by all Americans.”
Khanna has been working on this bill since his first few months in office. The congressman traveled to all stretches of the country, including the likes of Paintsville, Kentucky, to Jefferson, Iowa, listening and learning from so many folks eager to participate in this digital revolution.
“I want to take the wealth and innovation culture from my district and share it with the rest of our great country,” he said. “That’s what the Endless Frontier Act is really about: bringing technology jobs to every corner of America.”
The bill is a bold initiative to advance and solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation through increased investments in the discovery, creation, and manufacturing of technology critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness, a news release said at the time.
The bipartisan legislation further targets support to ensure new research investments translate into American industries and manufacturing and high-tech jobs in regions across the country to become global centers of emerging technology, it said.
“This could be one of the few substantive bills that passes the Senate this year,” Khanna told India-West when asked about the bipartisan nature of the bill.
Senate co-sponsors include Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Gary Peters, D-Michigan; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Steve Daines, R-Montana; Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; and Mark Kelly, D-Arizona.
House co-sponsors are Susan Wild, D-Pennsylvania; Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania; and Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.
“Unlike some of the more ceremonial resolution that typically enjoy bipartisan support, the Endless Frontier Act has already cleared a procedural hurdle with a filibuster-proof majority,” the Indian American progressive added. “It is a genuinely substantive bill that will be transformative for years to come. Investing in America’s technology future and innovation jobs across the country is not a partisan issue.”
“I’m tremendously thankful to have the partnership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on this bill. Senator Todd Young and Representative Mike Gallagher have also been critical in getting our bill supported by key Republicans,” he added. “We’ve built a diverse coalition of members who all believe in the future of American excellence and technological leadership. It was a lot of phone calls, discussions, and tough negotiations, and while we’re not across the finish line, in the end I’m hopeful we’ll still pass this bill into law.”
Today, the United States’ position as the unequivocal global leader in scientific and technological ingenuity and innovation is eroding under pressure from China, the April news release noted.
Threatened by decades of U.S. underinvestment in research, manufacturing, and workforce development, coupled with foreign competitors stealing American intellectual property and aggressively investing to dominate the key technology fields of today and of the future, U.S. competitiveness and national security are at risk, it said.
The Endless Frontier Act will reinvigorate the U.S. innovation economy, support research and development throughout the country, lead to the creation of new jobs of the future and keep the U.S. economically competitive against China and other countries.
The members of Congress emphasize that without a significant and sustained increase in investment in research, education and training, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and the broader U.S. innovation ecosystem across the nation, it is only a matter of time before America’s global competitors overtake the U.S. in terms of technological primacy, threatening national security and prosperity, the release noted.
Specifically, the Endless Frontier Act proposes an expansion of the National Science Foundation with the establishment of a new Technology and Innovation Directorate within NSF to advance research and development in 10 key technology focus areas, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology, and advanced energy, the joint news release continued.
“The Endless Frontier Act will give our National Science Foundation a massive funding boost for research and development in order to combat the concentration of wealth on our coasts and instead promote research and new industries in communities left behind,” Khanna explained to India-West. “Specifically, the bill establishes a Technology Directorate at the National Science Foundation and creates technology hubs where folks can acquire tech jobs, learn, innovate and create, all without leaving their hometowns.
The new Directorate will also have scholarship programs and research grants, and focus on technology sectors of the future, including synthetic biology and cybersecurity, among some other components, he said.
The newly-established Technology and Innovation Directorate would receive $100 billion over five years to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialization, and education and training programs in technology areas critical to national leadership.
An additional $10 billion would be authorized at the Department of Commerce to support regional technology strategies and to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs, awarding funds for comprehensive investment initiatives that position regions across the country as global centers for the research, development, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing of new key technologies.
The Endless Frontier Act also establishes a new Supply Chain Resiliency and Crisis Response Program with the national security mission of strengthening critical technology supply chains in the U.S. and with global allies and partners. Additionally, the bill invests in U.S. manufacturing innovation and competitiveness with over $2.4 billion in funding to enhance and expand the Manufacturing USA network to ensure global leadership in the manufacturing of key technologies.
To support the country’s national security capabilities, the bill mandates a strategy on national competitiveness and ingenuity in science, research, and manufacturing to support the national security strategy, the release said.
This bill promises to be a crowning achievement for Khanna, assuming it survives after it comes out of the conference committee, he notes.
“Things almost went a bit off the rails (in May) when we tried to pass this in the Senate, but I’m confident we’ll get a vote this month for final passage,” he told India-West.
Still, with the Endless Frontier Act as a watershed moment in his political career, Khanna, an up and coming progressive, will continue to strive for progress, while maintaining an eye on this bill.
“After that, I’ll reevaluate what still needs to be introduced in order to make this vision a reality,” he said.