While August is traditionally a quiet time in Washington, this year saw Congress pass two major pieces of legislation immediately prior to its annual summer break that will directly impact our industry. These bills, which President Biden signed into law in August, have created significant opportunities for composites manufacturers to grow their markets and partner with federal agencies.
The first bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, was originally aimed at incentivizing the reshoring of semiconductor manufacturing into the United States. As trade and foreign policy tensions with China continue to remain a focal point, the Biden Administration had hoped to expand this bill to include several trade provisions, including the renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill. Both programs are used by U.S. manufacturers to source components and raw materials but are not without controversy.
While inclusion of trade programs failed, the final bill did include a NASA authorization section, which directs the space agency’s budget priorities. Thanks to outreach from ACMA, language specific to the development of composite materials, their manufacturing and non-invasive testing is included in the authorization. The bill directs NASA to look at these aspects of composites as part of its research and development in experimental aircraft, with an aim to push this technology toward commercialization. The bill also specifically calls on the agency to partner with industry and universities on research and development related to aerospace applications for composites materials.
We achieved this victory through a two-part strategy, ACMA joined several other aviation and space-related associations to support quick passage of this NASA language in letters and contacts with Congress. ACMA also fought for the composites’ specific language, which the House did not include in its initial draft of the NASA bill.
The final bill calls on NASA to establish an advanced materials and manufacturing technology program to develop “new materials including composite and high temperature materials [emphasis added], from base material formulation through full-scale structural validation and manufacturing.”
Second, this program should develop “advanced materials and manufacturing processes, including additive manufacturing, to reduce the cost of manufacturing scale-up and certification for use in aeronautics.”