(Senate - June 03, 2008)

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[Pages S4971-S4973]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. REID (for Mr. Obama (for himself, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Carper, 
        and Mr. McCain)):
  S. 3077. A bill to strengthen transparency and accountability in 
Federal spending; to the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs.
  Mr. OBAMA. I am proud today to introduce the Strengthening 
Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008. This 
important legislation will improve Government transparency and give the 
American people greater tools to track and monitor nearly $2 trillion 
of Government spending on contracts, grants, and other forms of 
  Throughout my time in public service, I have consistently fought to 
increase the openness and accessibility of Government and to encourage 
greater participation by people of all interests and backgrounds in 
public debates. One of the most important public debates is how 
Washington spends the people's money. Unfortunately, it has been far 
too difficult for ordinary citizens to see where, how, and why money is 
  Congress took a big step toward improving transparency two years ago 
when it passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act 
that I introduced with Senator Coburn. That bill, which created the 
public website, makes information about nearly all 
Federal grants, contracts, loans and other financial assistance 
available to the public in a regularly updated, user-friendly, and 
searchable format. The website includes the names of entities receiving 
Federal awards, the amounts of the awards, information on the awards 
including transaction types, funding agencies, location, and other 
information. Soon the website will also include information about 
subcontracts and subgrants.
  Our work is not done however. The early success of 
has demonstrated that additional public information should be made 
available. Whether you believe Government ought to spend more or spend 
less or just spend differently, we all should be able to agree that 
Government spending should be transparent and that public information 
ought to be accessible to the public. We should also be able to agree 
that the quality of Government financial data must be improved and made 
more reliable.
  Today I am pleased to be joined by Senators Coburn, Carper, and 
McCain on a bill to build upon and further advance 
Government transparency. In addition to a few technical corrections, 
the bill we are introducing today will require the website to include 
additional public information, including a copy of each Federal 
contract in both PDF and searchable text format. The improved website 
will also include details about competitive bidding, the range of 
technically acceptable bids or proposals, the profit incentives offered 
for each contract, and the complete amount of money awarded, including 
any options to expand or extend under a contract.
  With this legislation, the website will also show if a Federal grant 
or contract is the result of an earmark as well as provide an 
assessment of the quality of work performed. Ordinary citizens will be 
able to use the website to find information about Federal audit 
disputes and resolutions, terminations of Federal awards, contractor 
and grantee tax compliance, suspensions and debarments, and 
administrative agreements involving Federal award recipients. The 
website can also be used to find information about any civil, criminal, 
or administrative actions taken against Federal award recipients, 
including for violations related to the workplace, environmental 
protection, fraud, securities, and consumer protections.
  Under the enhanced website, information about government lease 
agreements and assignments will be available in the same manner that 
information is reported for contracts and grants. Information about 
parent company ownership will also be available.
  In addition to improving the transparency and accessibility of public 
data, our bill will also improve the quality and usability of data that 
is made available. For one thing the data on will be 
accessible through an application programming interface. The bill also 
requires the use of unique award identifiers that prevent the release 
of personally identifiable information. Finally, the bill creates a 
simple method for the public to report errors and track the performance 
of agencies in confirming or correcting errors while also requiring 
regular audits of data quality.
  People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to 
defend their rights and stand up for their interests. To do that we 
have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the 
democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings 
of Washington.
  This bill helps to shine that light. It is simple common sense and 
good governance that has been endorsed by a diverse range of grassroots 
organizations and Government watchdog groups, including the American 
Association of Law Libraries, Americans for Democratic Action, 
Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Center 
for Democracy & Technology, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in 
Washington, the Environmental Working Group, the Federation of American 
Scientists, the Government Accountability Project, the National 
Taxpayer Union, OMB Watch,, POGO, Public Citizen, 
Sciencecorps, the Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense 
Action, U.S. Action, and U.S. PIRG among others.
  This bill continues the bipartisan progress we have made opening up 
Washington to greater scrutiny and oversight. I am grateful for 
continued grassroots leadership on these issues and I appreciate the 
hard work of my Senate colleagues. Together I know we can change the 
way business is done in this town and make our Government more 
accountable to the people who sent us here to work for them. I urge 
support for this important legislation.
      By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mrs. Clinton):
  S. 3078. A bill to establish a National Innovation Council, to 
improve the coordination of innovation activities among industries in 
the United States, and for other purposes; to the Committee on 
Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the National 
Innovation and Job Creation Act, a bill which aims to spur the adoption 
of new technologies and practices that can accelerate economic growth 
and build a secure foundation for good, high-paying jobs. I am pleased 
that Senator Clinton joins me in offering this legislation.
  We are all familiar with the fiscal challenges our Nation will face 
in the coming years. Over the next 2 decades, more than 75 million 
members of the Baby Boom generation will leave the workforce and enter 
retirement. The loss of their participation in the workforce, coupled 
with our Social Security obligations and rising healthcare costs, will 
put enormous strains on our economy. So too will competition from other 
countries, brought about by increased international trade and 
globalization. If we do not act to strengthen our competitiveness, our 
nation's ability to create good, high-paying jobs will be severely 
  Indeed, there are already troubling signs that our economy's 
competitive edge has been dulled, and we are losing ground to other 
nations. In just the last 4 months, we've seen 340,000 jobs lost across 
the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.6 
million more workers unemployed today than in 2001, and 800,000 more 
workers unemployed than just

[[Page S4972]]

one year ago. Our trade deficit is now 6.5 percent of GDP--the highest 
in history--while manufacturing continues its decades-long decline, 
accounting for only 12.1 percent of GDP in 2006. We now import more 
high-technology products than we sell to other nations, and even in 
agriculture, where America has long been the world leader, our trade 
surplus is dropping toward zero.
  Even the service sector is not immune from the effects of 
international competition. With the increased telecommunications 
capacity provided by trans-oceanic fiber-optic networks, geographic 
proximity to the market is no longer necessary for services such as 
back-office operations, call-centers, and software development.

  As the Brookings Institute pointed out in a series of recent white 
papers on the topic of Innovation, ``the growth of international trade 
and the globalization of production make it increasingly important for 
the United States to innovate to maintain its standard of living.'' 
They explain that low-wage countries will always find it easier to 
compete with America for labor-intensive work that is difficult-to-
automate, but that does not mean that we must surrender whole 
industries to China and India, nor does it mean that we must fear the 
inevitable loss of high value-added jobs that depend upon research and 
development, and advanced technology.
  Rather, it means that we must build upon what has always given 
America its competitive edge--innovation. This means taking what has 
already been invented, and putting it to use. It is only by doing this 
that we can raise our productivity rate, and ultimately, continue to 
create the high-paying jobs that Americans need and deserve.
  Last year, with the passage of the America COMPETES Act, we took an 
important step toward bolstering research and education that can serve 
as the foundation for future innovation. But we must go beyond this, to 
help enterprises understand innovative technologies and services that 
can make them more competitive, and to help them overcome the barriers 
they face in adopting these innovations.
  That is what the bill Senator Clinton and I are introducing today 
aims to do. The bill creates a National Innovation Council in the 
Executive Office of the President, to take the lead in coordinating 
existing Federal efforts on innovation, and to help support those 
efforts at the State and local level. Six Federal programs that share 
innovation-based missions would be relocated to the NIC. These are: The 
Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (the ``MEP''), the 
Technology Innovation Program, Partnerships for Innovation, the 
Industry-University Cooperative Research Center Program, the 
Engineering Research Center Program, and the Workforce Innovations in 
Regional Economic Development program, known as the ``WIRED'' program.
  The operation and funding of these existing programs would be 
unaltered by my legislation, but the NIC would lead these programs to 
coordinate their activities where feasible.
  The NIC would operate several grant programs to support efforts to 
spread innovation and create good jobs. Chief among these would be a 
grant program to support innovation-based economic development 
partnerships in every State. The NIC would also provide grants for the 
diffusion of technology in every state, operating through the existing 
MEP program.

  The NIC would also oversee a new ``Cluster Development'' program 
which would operate alongside the six existing programs I have already 
mentioned. I want to focus for a moment on this aspect of my proposal 
since cluster development is so essential to our ability to keep and 
create good, high-paying jobs in the face of international competition.
  ``Clusters'' are geographic areas where interrelated economic 
activity is taking place. Businesses that locate in a cluster build the 
foundation they all rely on to succeed, even as they compete with one 
another. Because of this, clusters are often at the heart of strong 
regional economies. Silicon Valley in California, Route 128 around 
Boston, and the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham, North 
Carolina, are famous examples of clusters in the high-tech sector. But 
cluster development is not just a phenomenon of the high-tech 
industry--successful clusters can and do arise in any sector of the 
economy. Think insurance in Connecticut, theme parks in Florida, movies 
in Hollywood, and boatbuilding in Maine. Each of these ``clusters'' is 
built around a skilled labor force that can command good wages, and is 
ready to compete with the best the world has to offer.
  In Maine, cluster development has been championed by Karen Mills, the 
primary author of the Brookings Institute's white paper ``Clusters and 
Competitiveness.'' From her work in helping Maine secure $15 million in 
WIRED funding to further develop the composite and boatbuilding 
clusters in a project that hopes to create 2,500 high-quality jobs over 
the next 5 to 7 years, to her current position as chair of Maine's 
Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, Karen's hard work and 
dedication on cluster development is unsurpassed.
  The WIRED grant has enabled Maine to make great progress on cluster 
development, but more must be done nationally. As Karen explained in 
the Brookings white paper, our Nation's network of cluster initiatives 
is ``thin and uneven,'' and consequently ``many U.S. industry clusters 
are not as competitive as they could be, to the detriment of the 
nation's capacity to sustain well-paying jobs.'' Because of this, ``too 
many workers are losing decent jobs, and too many regions are 
struggling economically.''
  The Cluster Development program we are proposing in this bill is 
modeled after the Department of Labor's WIRED program. It would 
identify geographic regions where cluster activity is taking place or 
can develop, and provide assistance to local and regional efforts to 
build on those clusters.
  I look forward to working with my colleagues on this and other 
proposals to bolster innovation, strengthen our Nation's 
competitiveness, and most of all, help preserve the foundation for 
high-quality jobs in the face of the coming economic challenges.
  Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, today I introduce the National 
Innovation Act of 2008, a bill that will strengthen America's 
leadership in technology and manufacturing innovation, while helping to 
keep and create more jobs here at home. I would like to recognize my 
colleague, Senator Collins, for her leadership on this bill, and I 
thank her and her staff for all their hard work.
  Our Nation is at a crossroads. Every day we hear of more jobs being 
sent oveaseas and new technology centers growing halfway across the 
world. In this increasingly global economy, we need to have the tools 
and the knowledge to compete and succeed. There is no doubt that 
technology and innovation will be the foundation of the new economy. 
And America must be at the forefront of this new, innovation economy.
  The National Innovation Act is a comprehensive plan to spur the 
growth of innovative technologies to increase America's productivity 
gains and economic growth. It builds on the longstanding bipartisan 
commitment to improve our Nation's competitiveness by strengthening our 
innovation infrastructure.
  This new legislation creates a ``National Innovation Council'' to 
coordinate Federal innovation policy, and to help support efforts at 
the State and local level to accelerate the adoption of innovation 
technologies throughout the economy. It will include six existing 
Federal programs which share this important innovation-based mission.
  The National Innovation Act also establishes a CLUSTER Information 
Center and a Cluster Grant Program. The CLIC will collect, develop, and 
disseminate analysis on industry clusters throughout all 50 States, 
provide technical assistance guides for regional cluster development, 
and develop initiatives and programs.
  Since I took office, I have devoted time and energy into trying to 
help the economically distressed communities throughout New York State, 
particularly those in upstate New York that were once economically 
vibrant but now are facing a declining economy. This legislation will 
help revitalize communities in upstate New York and across the country 
who have been hit hard by manufacturing and job loss by establishing 
regional economic clusters. It will bring innovation to every corner of 
America. Communities can

[[Page S4973]]

use cluster grants to build on the strengths of their particular 
regions by utilizing the skills and knowledge base of local businesses, 
economic developers, colleges and universities, scientists, nonprofits, 
and the public sector.
  In order to secure the future of America's economy we must create 
new, good-paying jobs here at home. Investing in new technologies and 
industries will expand our workforce, ensuring America remains 
competitive in the global economy and putting us on a course toward 
growth and prosperity for future generations.
      By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Cardin, Mr. 
        Sanders, Mr. Feingold, and Mr. Brown):
  S.J. Res. 37. A joint resolution expressing the sense of Congress 
that the United States should sign the Declaration of the Oslo 
Conference on Cluster Munitions and future instruments banning cluster 
munitions that cause unaccapetable harm to civilians; to the Committee 
on Foreign Relations.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am pleased to join with my friend from 
California, Senator Feinstein, in sponsoring this joint resolution 
calling on the administration to sign the Convention on Cluster 
Munitions when it is open for signature in December.
  This treaty is the product of a year of negotiations among many of 
our closest allies and other nations that came together to prohibit the 
use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
  I regret that the United States did not participate in the 
negotiations. The Pentagon continues to insist that cluster munitions 
are necessary, but the country with the world's most powerful military 
should not be on the sidelines while others are trying to protect the 
lives and limbs of civilians in war.
  Any weapon, whether cluster munitions, landmines or even poison gas, 
has some military utility. But anyone who has seen the indiscriminate 
devastation cluster munitions cause over a wide area understands the 
unacceptable threat they pose for civilians. These are not the laser 
guided weapons that were shown destroying their targets during the 
invasion of Baghdad.
  And there is the insidious problem of cluster munitions that do not 
explode as designed, and remain as active duds, like landmines, until 
they are triggered by whoever comes into contact with them. Often it is 
an unsuspecting child, or a farmer.
  This resolution follows an amendment I sponsored which prohibits U.S. 
sales and exports of cluster munitions that do not meet strict 
criteria, which became law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations 
Act, 2008. These criteria are no different from what the Pentagon set 
for itself 7 years ago for new procurements of cluster munitions, 
applied also to those in existing U.S. stockpiles. Senator Feinstein 
and I have also introduced legislation that would apply these same 
criteria to the use of cluster munitions. That legislation now has 20 
  I want to express my appreciation to the Government of Norway for its 
leadership in initiating the process that led to the agreement on the 
treaty in Dublin, and to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, a group of 
some 200 nongovernmental organizations that worked diligently in 
support of the treaty.
  I traveled to Dublin last week to meet with delegates to the 
negotiations, including the president of the Conference Daithi 
O'Ceallaigh. He did a masterful job of guiding the discussions to a 
successful conclusion.
  There are some who have dismissed this effort as a ``feel good'' 
exercise, since it does not have the support of the United States and 
other major powers such as Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Israel. 
These are the same critics of the Ottawa treaty banning antipersonnel 
landmines, which the U.S. and the other countries I named have also 
refused to sign. But that treaty has dramatically reduced the number of 
landmines produced, used, sold and stockpiled, and the number of mine 
victims has fallen sharply. Any government that contemplates using 
landmines today does so knowing that it will be condemned by the 
international community. I suspect it is only a matter of time before 
the same is true for cluster munitions.
  The administration insists that the Convention on Certain 
Conventional Weapons, known as the CCW, is the right place to negotiate 
limits on cluster munitions because all countries are represented. I 
don't doubt their intentions, but it is what they said about landmines, 
and nothing happened because Russia and China were opposed. The same is 
likely for cluster munitions. It is a way to make it appear as if you 
are doing something, when you are not.
  It is important to note that the U.S. today has the technological 
ability to produce cluster munitions that would not be prohibited by 
the treaty. What is lacking is the political will to expend the 
necessary resources. There is no other excuse for continuing to use 
cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
  Finally, I want to thank Senator Feinstein who has shown a real 
passion for this issue and has sought every opportunity to protect 
civilians from these weapons.