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Administration releases details on competitiveness initiative

Energy Department to request $4.1 billion for program announced in State of the Union speech.

Details released Thursday provide a clearer picture of the competitiveness initiative President Bush introduced during his 2006 State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

Under the plan, which seeks to double federal spending on physical sciences research and development over 10 years, the Energy Department will request $4.1 billion for fiscal 2007, a $505 million increase over fiscal 2006, or 14 percent increase. The new money would go to the department's science office.

"This is an historic step and will change the future of science in this country," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement. "These funds will also provide new educational and training opportunities that will give the next generation of scientists, teachers and engineers the tools they need to succeed."

Within the science office, Bush will request $1.4 billion for the basic energy science program, a $286.4 million increase over fiscal 2006. The group conducts research on improved energy technologies and materials science.

Other programs slated to receive new money include science research on nano-scale materials, or those at the molecular and atomic levels, which would be up $51 million; the hydrogen fuel initiative, up $18 million; the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, up $100 million; and the National Synchrotron Light Source II, up $45 million.

The advanced scientific-computing research program would receive an $84 million increase, for a total budget of $319 million in fiscal 2007.

In a White House press briefing Thursday, science adviser John Marburger said the full request for the research and development portion of the initiative will be $50 billion in new money over the next decade. But the plan also calls for making the R&D tax credit permanent, which would cost about $4.6 billion per year, Marburger said.

Domestic policy adviser Claude Allen outlined a few more details on the education portion of the initiative, for which the administration will request $380 million in fiscal 2007.

To reach a goal of 100,000 new science and math teachers in elementary and secondary schools, Bush plans to train 70,000 teachers and put 30,000 math and science professionals into the classroom as adjuncts.

We want to "encourage and to get students excited by giving them a vision of what the future looks like for them in the field of science, math, engineering, technology," Allen said.

The administration also wants 700,000 low-income students to take advanced-placement math and science tests in high school.

In workforce training, Bush has set the goal of giving 800,000 workers career-advancement accounts of up to $3,000 each to learn skills.

Allen also said the administration wishes to improve the flow of skilled foreign workers into the United States and will work with Congress to raise the number of H1-B visas available to such workers. Currently, 65,000 H1-B visas are granted each year.

"They are consumed very quickly at the first of the year, and we need to look at increasing that," Allen said.

NEXT STORY: The Growing Federal Workforce