Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Many people have played important roles in the sustainment and growth of the SBIR and STTR programs. However, one person stood out above the rest in 2011. That person is Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBE).
Not since the early days of the creation of SBIR has one Senator or Congressman invested so much of themselves and their staff in saving the SBIR and STTR programs. Senator Landrieu's actions successfully concluded the most protracted and hard fought SBIR reauthorization in the history of the program.
In an epic SBIR reauthorization battle that started in 2006, America's small business high technology community now has SBIR, STTR and CPP programs authorized and running through fiscal year 2017. These programs are critically important to American innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.
Senator Landrieu led the battle on SBIR reauthorization and fought to keep the program's small business integrity intact so it could benefit not just the nation as a whole, but also the smaller under-served and rural states such as her home state of Louisiana.
Jere Glover, SBTC executive director, who has been a keystone in SBIR since its inception and has been an important participant in every SBIR reauthorization, stated : "There has never been a Senator that has done more for the SBIR community, and spent more personal time and personal involvement than Senator Landrieu." On the reauthorization process Glover stated "SBIR reauthorization has always been tough, but never like this."
The SBIR Community salutes Senator Mary L. Landrieu, SBIR Person of the Year for 2011.
Chronology - An unbelievable tale
Coming into 2011, SBIR was on its 11th short term CR (expiring in January) and the program was struggling due to uncertainty created by these short CRs. Ms. Landrieu fought for a longer CR to allow enough time for the House and Senate to author new SBIR reauthorization bills, but the House wouldn't budge past 4 months.
In February Landrieu and her SBE committee hosted what was thought of by many as one of the finest and most balanced SBIR program hearings ever. The witnesses were diverse and included some of the most successful SBIR participants, and experts in the history of the program.
Utilizing much of the information from this hearing, balanced with input from other SBIR stakeholders, and with consideration for compromise with issues brought up by the House, Landrieu authored an SBIR Reauthorization bill (S.493) in March which was overwhelmingly passed by her SBE committee. The bill including the compromises on the VC issue, garnered support from BIO, NVCA, SBTC, SBBC and many others.
In April, the House Small Business Committee and the House Science & Technology Committee passed their own SBIR reauthorization bill (H.R.1425). This bill contained so many bad and anti-competitive provisions that it was a non-starter in the Senate, and not supported by the small business community. At this point both House & Senate SBIR bills passed through their respective committees, but not through the full House or Senate.
In May Landrieu's S.493 bill was brought to the Senate floor under an open rule that allowed all kinds of amendments to be made to this SBIR reauthorization bill. Almost 200 amendments (mostly non-germane) were offered to the bill consuming several weeks of debate, thereby rendering the bill unpassable,
Seeing S.493 going nowhere, Senator Landrieu authored and led a successful effort to pass S.990 to extend SBIR/STTR/CPP programs for 1 year ending May 12, 2012. Unhappy with a year long extension, the House Small Business Committee passes the bill BUT with an amendment to modify the date to Sept 30, 2011. The bill was sent back to the Senate and passed BUT was hijacked (amended) to become the "PATRIOT Sunset Extension Act of 2011" (not one word of SBIR remained in the bill). This was the second time in as many years that an SBIR reauthorization bill had been hijacked for another unrelated cause. Once again the SBIR program was in great danger and close to expiring.
With SBIR due to expire May 30, the urgency to keep the SBIR program going was critical. Senator Landrieu quickly authored and passed a new bill, S.1082 to extend SBIR/STTR/CPP through September 30, 2011. However, the fight with the House continued, and former House Small Business Committee Chair, Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), now ranking member of that committee urged her democratic colleagues to vote against the extension (CR) thereby letting SBIR die.
Fortunately Landrieu's bill made sense and had more support in the House. Velazquez was "rolled" when the democratic house leadership did not support Velazquez's plea, and the extension (CR) was passed, keeping SBIR alive through September 30, 2011.
A bipartisan group of Congressmen, led by Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) urged the House to adopt the language in Landrieu's S.493 SBIR Reauthorization bill, rather than the House Small Business Committee language in H.R.1425. A fight to save SBIR via a reasonable compromise was on!
In mid-September there was no hope of reaching a bicameral SBIR reauthorization by the cut off date of September 30, so Senator Landrieu had to once again fight for an SBIR extension. This time it came in the form of a larger CR to keep the entire government open. Landrieu had to fight to get SBIR language included in the government-wide CR. This extended the program from October 1 through October 4, then another government wide CR from October 5 through November 18, 2011.
In October, eleven Senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Scott Brown (R-MA) wrote a letter of concern to House & Senate Small Business chairs and ranking members, citing several detrimental provisions in the House's H.R.1425 SBIR bill, and urged the adoption of the Landrieu's compromise language in S.493. This was additional leverage that Landrieu would need in her fight with the House Small Business and Science Committees.
In early November Senator Landrieu traveled to New Orleans, LA to deliver a keynote address at the National SBIR Conference. The speech earned her two standing ovations, as she described her support for the program, and hopes for good news on long term reauthorization in the not-too-distant future. In the short term they were working on another extension to keep the program (and the government) running through December 16, 2011.
The Senator made good on that comment and SBIR was now extended through December 16 (the 14th extension since the program was set to expire in 2008). In the background, Senator Landrieu was working with Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), with the hopes of getting SBIR reauthorization included in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA).
The next challenge was to get the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) to accept having the S.493 SBIR language in the House's version of the NDAA. Naturally, the House Small Business, and Science committees were unhappy and threatened to block SBIR inclusion in the NDAA.
This was the last straw for Senator Landrieu, and she decided to go over to the House and have a face-to-face directly with House Small Business chair Sam Graves (R-MO), and House Science chair Ralph Hall (R-TX). With some heavy munitions, and some slight additional compromises in S.493 language, Landrieu was able to get Graves and Hall on board to reluctantly agree.
With the help of many, including House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-CA), and ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA), Landrieu's modified S.493 (SBIR/STTR/CPP reauthorization) was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, H.R. 1450, and passed by both Houses of Congress.
With the SBIR, STTR and CPP (soon to be CRP) programs safe through 2017, the SBIR community owes Senator Mary L. Landrieu a debt of gratitude for her exemplary work and devotion to helping small businesses.
Congratulations to Senator Mary Landrieu, the 2011 SBIR Person of the Year!
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