Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would prohibit funds in this bill from being used for the Illinois Technology Transition Center, which receives $2.5 million in this legislation.
The Illinois Technology Transition Center's objective is to stimulate enterprise growth by helping technology companies realize their commercial potential. The center offers entrepreneurial services, technology transition support, and commercialization support.
Again, this is a defense bill, yet we are offering this funding.
I support the technology center. I encourage growth in it. I think all of us do. It is a great source of entrepreneurship and innovation.
The United States has the largest and most technologically powerful [Page: H4302]
economy in the world. Technological progress is responsible for one-half of the growth of the U.S. economy.
Competition is a driving force in this innovation. We all know that free markets flourish when there is less government involvement.
I am all for seeing the technology sector in Illinois grow, just as I do hope that it grows in Arizona or any other State.
However, in this defense bill the American taxpayers are being asked to pay for support services for the private sector. I don't think that that is appropriate in a defense bill.
Our troops are fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. We ought to be spending money in the defense bill on equipment, on helmets, on body armor, on other things, rather than subsidizing the technological center in one particular State.
I should note I believe the Illinois Technology Transition Center was established by a contract with the Department of the Navy, the Office of Naval Research, in 2005. But it is also my understanding that the Office of Naval Research did not request this earmark for $2.5 million in funding.
With that, I request support for the amendment.
Mr. FLAKE. I was told by a reporter this morning who it might be. That was the first time I learned it after I had already agreed to offer it.
Mr. LaHOOD. And so when you were told that, did you think that maybe you might look into the earmark to see if it had merit and to see if it was a set-aside that might merit further consideration?
Mr. FLAKE. Well, seeing that I had already agreed to offer it, I thought that had I agreed to pull back now, I would be looked to favoring one particularly powerful Member of my party.
Mr. LaHOOD. The Illinois Technology Transition Center is a public-private collaboration between academia, industry, and government. It collaborates with the Department of Defense, and it has identified innovative technology applications that meet DOD mission requirements and strives to take technology from the laboratory to use by DOD within 12 to 18 months.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for the public and the private to come together. The lion's share of the money that funds this is private dollars. It is not Federal dollars. It comes from people who have businesses and people who want to invest in smart people and smart ideas.
And the answer to your question about Iraq is that one of the technologies that is being developed is being developed in my hometown of Peoria by a company called Firefly. And they are developing a revolutionary battery that will have the opportunity to withstand huge amounts of heat and not become the kind of traditional batteries that are currently used.
Now, this would not have been able to come about if it hadn't been the collaboration of a private business and the Federal Government coming together in a collaboration.
So are some of the technologies that are being developed in this center being used in Iraq? The answer is yes, they are.
So the point is that there are many innovative approaches that are being taken here. And this kind of collaboration really takes the smart ideas that people in the private sector are using and trying to develop them with the public sector. And some revolutionary things have really come about. And I could name at least six or eight of them, but this is an opportunity for the private sector to take the lion's share of the money and collaborate with the public sector.
Many of these innovative approaches are being requested by the Defense Department. Try them out, test them out, see if they work, and then send them out to the private sector to be funded. And some of these could not come about without this center. They would not come about without this center.
So I wish the gentleman would have looked into this a little bit further, and I wish he would appreciate the idea that what is being developed here could not be developed without the opportunity for the public and private sector to work together.
This is an appropriate appropriation for the defense bill. That is why it is not in any other bill. And it is appropriate, because many of the things that are being tested, many of the innovative approaches will be used by the Defense Department.
Now, I don't know if the Department of the Navy requested this or not. I don't know the answer to that. But I know that some of the innovative approaches have been requested.
The company that I mentioned, Firefly, is in direct collaboration with the Defense Department on a regular basis. And they did ask for Firefly to help them develop this. Eventually Firefly will be spending all of the money, and hopefully, what will happen is that once the battery is in full development, it will create jobs in central Illinois, in my district.
And when people say to me, Congressman, what are you going to do about the erosion of the industrial base? It is to think outside the box. It is to take smart people to get them to think outside the box to create opportunities that eventually will create jobs that no one ever thought could exist in central Illinois because in my district people worked at Caterpillar for years and worked in other industries for years. This is the kind of thing that creates opportunities and jobs and could not
come about without a collaboration between the Defense Department and this company that exists in my district.
Mr. LaHOOD. This kind of collaboration could not come about, and these jobs, very few at this point, but an opportunity for expansion.
And the truth is, the reason that the Speaker asked for this kind of set-aside is because it helps all of us in Illinois. It creates not only opportunities in central Illinois but all over the State, and it does give hope and opportunity to people that there are going to be innovative approaches and people can think outside the box and they can collaborate.
I yield to the gentleman if he has a question; or if he would like to withdraw the amendment, I would certainly entertain that.
Mr. FLAKE. I would not like to withdraw the amendment. I would simply say, and I thank the gentleman for yielding, this is the private sector. I would submit that companies in Phoenix and in St. Louis and in a number of cities and centers around the country are facing difficulties and are having drawdowns, or technology is shifting. The world economy is shifting.
But we can't simply at any time like this say, all right, we are going to give an earmark to that industry or to that region. If we do that, there is simply not enough money in the Federal budget. There is not enough money in the Federal budget to do what we are doing. We are in a deficit.
Mr. LaHOOD. I agree with that, Mr. Flake. And that is the reason that this opportunity exists.
It is not a significant amount of money. When you look at the overall defense budget, this is an insignificant amount of money in terms of what it does in terms of the expansion of jobs, the expansion of ideas, the expansion of technology, and it does create hope and opportunity for people who really want to do business with the Federal Government and have opportunities for creating new opportunities for people.
And listen to me, this is a no-brainer. And I hope that we can get the House, when we come back in to vote on this amendment, to vote down this amendment. This is a very, very good technology center and it has created lots of opportunities for many, many people. And I urge the House to vote against the Flake amendment.