Buried in a Senate bill meant to increase U.S. competition with China is a measure that allocates $5 million in taxpayer funds for a "chief diversity officer" at the National Science Foundation.
The provision is part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), a sprawling bill that seeks to increase American manufacturing and shore up the United States' supply lines to boost competition with China. Republicans object to several portions of the bill, including a passage that awards $5 million annually to the National Science Foundation for a chief diversity officer who would oversee directives such as "establishing a strategic plan for diverse participation" in federal science programs. The official would also collect and report demographic information, such as gender and race, for patent applicants and ensure that any state seeking science-related grants enacts a plan to address "inequity." States can do that, the bill says, by giving subgrants to close "equity gaps" and boosting enrollment in computer science education coursework for students who face "systemic barriers."
The diversity officer would be in charge of developing plans to ensure that "traditionally underrepresented populations," such as native Hawaiians, Alaska natives, and Indians, get access to federal programs. This would also include "historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges or universities, [and] minority-serving institutions," according to the legislation.
Senior Republican aides who are tracking the legislation said the addition of these measures into a critical national security bill is part of an effort by the Democratic Party's far-left flank to mainstream their "woke agenda" and progressive priorities centered on race relations.
"This is a thinly veiled attempt to push a radical woke agenda in what the Democrats say is supposed to be a critical national security bill," said one Republican official, speaking only on background.
A second senior congressional aide said it is "disappointing that Republican lawmakers are helping them" push this agenda by allowing the bill to go to conference, where it can be debated. Republicans, the source said, should unite in opposition to any form of the bill that is used by Democrats to forward far-left priorities, such as the diversity office.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) have been spearheading efforts to see USICA passed and sent to the White House for approval. Democrats attempted on Monday evening to add the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense spending bill, but Senate Republicans blocked this effort due to lingering concerns about the USICA bill. The bill will be taken up by House and Senate leaders in a reconciliation process known as a conference committee, in which the two separate versions of the bill are merged into one bipartisan measure.
The National Science Foundation has long been seen as a bastion for what critics call "woke science."
The Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology stated in a November report on politicization in scientific funding that the National Science Foundation—which has an annual budget of around $8 billion dollars—routinely employs "highly politicized terms" in its documents.
"As of 2020, 30.4 percent of all grants had one of the following politicized terms: ‘equity,' ‘diversity,' ‘inclusion,' ‘gender,' ‘marginalize,' ‘underrepresented,' or ‘disparity,'" the report stated. "This is up from 2.9 percent in 1990."
"The results imply that there has been a politicization of scientific funding in the U.S. in recent years and a decrease in the diversity of ideas supported, indicating a possible decline in the quality of research and the potential for decreased trust towards scientific institutions among the general public," the report concludes.