WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are again looking to eliminate the Advanced Technology Program, angered by what they say is the Commerce Department's violation of a ``gentleman's agreement'' to limit new spending.
It is not clear, however, if those calls will meet the same fate as last year, when Congress sought to scale back ATP but ultimately bowed to White House pressure and reinstated full funding for the beleaguered program.
ATP has provided about $70 million in polymer composites research funding since 1993, but Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary, told Commerce Department officials at a March 20 hearing that he would cut the program.
``It is my intention to zero out this program because you have botched it and screwed it up,'' he said. ``We can't depend on what you say.''
A committee spokeswoman said the administration violated a gentleman's agreement between Congress and former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta's late September budget talks to limit ATP spending on new programs to $45 million this year, part of a deal to fully fund it at $225 million. Some members of Congress have called ATP ``corporate welfare'' and seek to cut it to help balance the budget.
Commerce officials insist that no such agreement was made, and said ATP has spent about $100 million on new programs this year. The final budget bill did not place restrictions on ATP spending, said Mary Lowe Good, undersecretary for technology in the Commerce Department.
The Clinton administration proposed $275.6 million for ATP in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and $123.4 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which has centers nationwide that aim to improve manufacturing processes.