January 5, 2004    Volume 11, No. 1

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Manufacturing Issue Rises To Highest Level In Federal Government

The crisis in manufacturing is beginning to percolate up the chain of command within the White House. The Bush administration is in the process of creating a new Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Manufacturing Research and Development.

The group, which would be chaired by the Department of Commerce and include the involvement of at least 14 agencies, has developed a charter and would be created under the auspices of the President's National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The group would assimilate current activities being undertaken by the Government Agencies Technology Exchange in Manufacturing (GATE-M).

"Both the importance of manufacturing technology and the value of interagency coordination on manufacturing R&D is increasingly more visible," writes an administration official to members of GATE-M. "OSTP has been working with key GATE-M leaders on elevating this forum to a formal government-wide interagency working group within the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)."

The NSTC is a cabinet-level group chaired by the President. It is "the principal means by which the administration coordinates federal research policy, resources and advice," writes the official.

The Manufacturing R&D Interagency Working Group will "serve as a forum within the NSTC for developing consensus and resolving issues associated with manufacturing R&D policy, programs and budget guidance and direction," says the proposed charter, a copy of which was obtained by Manufacturing and Technology News. "The goal of the Interagency Working Group is to identify and integrate requirements, conduct joint program planning and develop joint strategies for the manufacturing R&D programs conducted by the federal government."

Among its duties, the new group will develop policy recommendations for manufacturing R&D; help to foster interagency manufacturing program planning and budgeting; and review agency priorities and technical issues for federally funded manufacturing R&D.

The interagency manufacturing group will work with the private sector and academia "to address existing and long-term R&D requirements and programs." It will identify opportunities for agencies to collaborate and address gaps in manufacturing R&D. It will also provide an annual report to the Office of Science and Technology Policy's Committee on Technology that summarizes its activities and sets forth recommendations "regarding the establishment of federal manufacturing R&D priorities and the need for specific interagency activities to address these priorities," according to the draft charter. This report will detail budget requirements of the agencies that are needed "to implement priorities and specific activities."

The IWG will create various ad-hoc committees and task forces and will coordinate planning activities with OSTP and budget submissions with OMB. The group will work with the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and other industry associations and individuals to gather private-sector advice.

The secretariat of the IWG at the Commerce Department will be supported by agency cash and in-kind contributions "on an equitable basis." A proposed memorandum of understanding will be signed by all of the member agencies.

The members of the IWG will include the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, EPA, NASA, NSF, OMB and OSTP.

The proposal is awaiting approval by Philip Bond, undersecretary of technology at the Commerce Department and chair of the NSTC's Committee on Technology, and Richard Russell, the White House Co-Chair of the NSTC Committee on Technology.

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