Congress invests in science and technology of future

Sen. Ben Ray Luján
Sen. Ben Ray Luján

As the final days of summer wean off their last few minutes of sunlight, kids revive their calculators with fresh batteries for the upcoming school year and teachers return to the classroom to make sure every computer is booted up, ready to go.

It’s amazing to think about all of the advanced technologies that keep everyone moving forward in life – most of which would not be imaginable 20 years ago.

Without decades of government investments in technology development, the cellphone you hold in your hand today would cost $10,000 and be the size of a room. There are thousands of examples just like this – where federal funding played a role in the science and technology industries, resulting in innovative breakthroughs and public goods that benefit all Americans.

With the recent signing of the CHIPS and Science Act, among other victories I secured for New Mexico, some have asked what this new funding will actually do for the American people. All you have to do is look at our country’s past technological and scientific advancements and ask yourself: where would we be today if the U.S. government didn’t invest in ourselves?

New Mexico’s very own U.S. Sen. Dennis Chávez and other lawmakers back in the mid-century knew that to further our country’s economic endowment and growth, there had to be consistent funding and support placed into research and development.

The federal-backing of science and technology led to a mass-production of microchips for computers and cellphones, and folks suddenly became connected to one another like never before. But the tech boom of the ’90s and early 2000s later gave way to a steady decline in funding, both public and private, in America’s next big idea. Companies were finding alternatives overseas. And it became very clear and urgent our government had to act.

This is why Congress took action to bolster federal investments in scientific innovation and technological advancement right here at home. The CHIPS and Science Act is landmark legislation that represents the most significant investment in the United States’ science and technology in a generation.

Investing in New Mexico

I was very proud to secure a long list of investments that will directly benefit New Mexico, which is home to two of the most prominent Department of Energy national laboratories, Los Alamos and Sandia.

This legislation will steer $16.5 billion toward strengthening the future of DOE’s research and development efforts in 10 key technology focus areas, including clean energy and energy efficiency, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences.

I know our state needs updated equipment and surrounding infrastructure if we’re going to continue leading the country in scientific research and innovation. That’s why I helped secure $14.7 billion for national lab revitalization, of which $2 billion will be available immediately thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. From updating facilities and roads to investing in the latest scientific instrumentation, this funding will support not only the technological capacity of our laboratories, but also create good-paying local jobs.

Additionally, this legislation enacts a proposal I’ve championed for years: a nonprofit foundation to support the DOE’s work to bring new technologies to market and help channel private-sector and philanthropic funds to promote clean energy and make our nation more secure.

And while the list goes on of what this bill is going to do for American research and development in the 21st century, I’m proud of the clean energy investments Congress put back into our communities. Between this and the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest climate legislation ever passed in Congress, the U.S. is now emerging as a climate leader on the global stage.

What next?

The United States had a long tradition of betting on ourselves.

I see it in the eyes of the scientists and researchers at Sandia and Los Alamos labs – a hunger to do what’s never been done before.

Since returning home to New Mexico after passing this historic investment, I cannot wait to see the wheel of innovation reenergized by this funding. And the reasons why we worked to secure these investments for New Mexico will soon start to come to fruition – new ideas, more jobs, and a renewed hope America will remain competitive in the global economy of the future.

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