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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Waters Amendment on STEM Disciplines Included in FY 2012 Defense Authorization

May 26, 2011
Press Release

The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and includes an amendment authored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). The amendment provides a preference for potential Department of Defense (DOD) contactors that carry out certain investment and philanthropic activities to bolster education, training, and employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  The Congresswoman's amendment is intended to promote enhanced public and private partnerships, and civic and investment activities to strengthen our nation's STEM pipeline and ensure that the United States continues to produce highly skilled STEM professionals that are both diverse and innovative.

Her remarks describing the amendment, as prepared for delivery to the Rules Committee – which made her amendment in order, thereby allowing it to proceed to and be accepted by the full House – are below:

"I would like to thank my colleague from California, Chairman David Dreier; Ranking Member Louise Slaughter; and all of the members of the committee for allowing me to testify today.

I am here to request that the Rules Committee waive all points of order and allow me to offer an amendment to H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.  My amendment provides a preference for potential Department of Defense (DOD) contractors that carry out certain investment and philanthropic activities in the United States. 

My amendment to H.R. 1540 provides a preference (not a hard line criteria or quota – merely one or many activities DOD can consider) for potential Department of Defense (DOD) contactors that carry out certain investment and philanthropic activities to bolster education, training, and employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. 

My amendment is intended to promote enhanced public and private partnerships, civic, and investment activities to strengthen our nation's STEM pipeline and ensure that the United States continues to produce highly skilled STEM professionals that are both diverse and innovative.

Specifically, my amendment would encourage DOD to consider potential contactors that: make investments in programming and curriculum development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs within elementary and secondary schools; enhance undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in STEM disciplines; make personnel available to advise and assist college and university faculty in the performance in the performance of STEM research; establish partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority institutions for the purpose of training students in scientific disciplines; awards scholarships, fellowships, and establishes cooperative work-education programs in scientific disciplines, and establishes other programs and outreach efforts to strengthen STEM programs in the United States.

Recent studies and reports indicate that America is falling behind in graduating engineers, computer scientists, and IT professionals.  Therefore, we need to promote more public and private partnerships, federal policies, civic, and investment activities to strengthen our nation's STEM pipeline and ensure that the United States continues to produce highly skilled STEM professionals that are both diverse and innovative. 

STEM jobs pay more than double in comparison to jobs in the service sector.  STEM jobs are important to the economy and our nation's future.  Part of the reason they pay so well is because they create additional jobs through prompting innovation in various sectors, leading to overall economic growth.  
 
Last year, DOD concluded that the "significant national decline" in the number of U.S. college graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees is "harming our national security."  According to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's research agency, the issue is of "national importance" and "affects our capacity to maintain a technological lead in critical skills and disciplines" on the international stage.

While improvements in STEM education will take time to yield results, in the mid-term, efforts to increase domestic supply of qualified and diverse tech professionals can be enhanced by training those individuals who are already skilled in computer science and engineering proficiencies.  Applied training provided by corporate and academic sponsors, complemented by a community of mentors, could transition already talented workers into information technology professionals. 

My amendment will promote this type of activity by signaling to potential contractors that the federal government is serious about improving STEM education and creating a pipeline that will protect the nation's economic future.

I thank the Rules Committee for considering my amendment and respectfully request that you allow me to offer this amendment on the House floor."

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