Libertarian Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky carries a lot of weight on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. He’s got everyone on Capitol Hill upset because he dared to threaten Pentagon money. A lot of it. He’s not going to endorse handing over $3.3 billion or so until the Pentagon can prove it’s not going straight to China.
Rand Paul stands his ground
Rand Paul is single-handedly stonewalling the military industrial complex. The Pentagon can’t wait to get their hands on every dollar they can snag from The Small Business Administration’s Innovation Research and Technology Transfer awards.
Authorization for the federal small business innovation grants is about to expire and the Senator leads a group of like-minded Senators who demand more safeguards on how the money is distributed.
The free money handouts called “grants” are “intended to help companies and research institutions develop promising technologies.” Defense News points out that this “seed funding is prized by the Pentagon as it seeks to compete with China on innovation.”
Over the past 40 years, the program’s budget has “ballooned to nearly $3.3 billion in 2019, with the Department of Defense accounting for the majority of the awards.” Rand Paul has all of it in jeopardy.
Checks get written depending on the proposed project and can range from “tens of thousands of dollars to more than $200,000” on the big ideas. With Rand Paul as the ranking conservative on the committee, Republicans follow his lead.
On this one, he’s strongly opposed to re authorization of the program without changes. Especially “protections against ties between the SBIR program awardees and China.”
Meant to create small business
The whole purpose of the funding, the balky senator points out, is to get new small businesses to “spin-off” from the SBIR-funded research and that’s not happening. China’s hogging it all for themselves. “There are currently severe risks to national security when China continues to steal technology seeded by this program,” an insider leaked.
“Dr. Paul will not reauthorize this program without reforms to strengthen research security and stop abusive behavior by bad actors lining their pockets with taxpayer dollars at the expense of new small businesses with emerging technologies being able to access SBIR awards.”
Chairman of the committee, Democrat Ben Cardin representing Maryland, tried to assure progressives that he’s working on a solution. Negotiations with Senator Paul, he notes, “are ongoing.”
Cardin also explains there is more than one way to push it through. As he put it, “there are several legislative avenues to pass a SBIR/STTR extension.”
Pentagon officials are jumping up and down so hard their brass decorations are ringing like little bells. They threatened Paul not to let the program lapse. If it does, they warn, he will be solely responsible for destroying “America’s technological dominance, military and economy.”
Behind the scenes, Acquisition and Sustainment official William LaPlante and Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu are scrambling to convince the lawmakers they’re closing the loopholes. They “have been fortifying security control to ensure that SBIR/STTR-funded technology is not transferred to adversary nations.” Senator Paul isn’t convinced it’s enough.