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House Passes Asteroid Legislation and Bill to Help Non-Profit Organizations

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 3, 2004 - The House of Representatives approved two Science Committee bills today. The House voted to reward amateur astronomers for discovering near-earth asteroids, and to help non-profits across the country by adding the category of "Non-Profit" to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The bills are described in more detail below.

H.R. 912, the Charles "Pete" Conrad Astronomy Awards Act, named for the third man to walk on the moon, establishes awards to encourage amateur astronomers to discover and track near-earth asteroids. The bill directs the NASA Administrator to make awards, of $3,000 each, based on the recommendations of the Smithsonian Minor Planet Center. Earth has experienced several near misses with asteroids that would have proven catastrophic, and the scientific community relies heavily on amateur astronomers to discover and track these objects.

"Given the vast number of asteroids and comets that inhabit Earth's neighborhood, greater efforts for tracking and monitoring these objects are critical. That is why I introduced H.R. 912, the Charles 'Pete' Conrad Astronomy Awards Act, which is a tribute to Pete Conrad for his tremendous contributions to the aerospace community over the last four decades," said bill sponsor, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) . "Asteroids deserve a lot more attention from the scientific community. The first step is a thorough tracking of all sizeable Near Earth Objects, and H.R. 912 is a modest step towards this goal."

H.R. 3389, To amend the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 to permit Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards to be made to nonprofit organizations Sponsored by Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) and Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA) , H.R. 3389 is designed to help non-profit organizations across the country. H.R. 3389 would add the category of "Non-Profit" to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award - often considered a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for excellence in quality control. The Baldrige Award could help non-profits win additional funding because it is a widely regarded sign of a well-managed organization.

The Baldrige National Quality Award was established in 1987 by Congress, and is named for Malcolm Baldrige, who served as Secretary of Commerce from 1981-1987. The award that bears his name is given to top companies or organizations in a particular field that have excelled in quality control. The award is widely viewed as having played a major role in helping U.S. companies focus on quality control in the 1980s, when U.S. industry was under increasing economic pressure from Japanese companies, famous for their quality control measures.

The establishment of the Baldrige Criteria has provided a means by which companies and other organizations can, on their own, evaluate and improve the quality of their products, services, and management. These criteria have been adopted worldwide as a standard against which to judge performance excellence. In the United States, there are more than 40 state and local quality award programs that are based on the Baldrige Criteria.

Rep. Miller stated, "The Baldrige Awards have been remarkably effective in focusing on criteria for excellence and the best practices in achieving excellence. Government agencies, religious organizations, trade and professional associations and other non-profit organizations will benefit greatly from competing for Baldrige Awards."

"I am pleased that my colleagues in Congress have chosen to recognize the importance of including non-profits in the prestigious Baldrige Award in order to inspire U.S. organizations of a broader spectrum to higher quality standards. I am honored that two of the manufacturing recipients - Medrad, Inc., a leading provider of medical imaging, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation Commercial Nuclear Fuel Division, the first manufacturing recipient of the award - are headquartered in Pennsylvania's Fourth District," added Rep. Hart.

"I'm especially pleased to be able to support this bill because I was among the original authors of the law that crated the Baldrige National Quality Award, and that measure has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," said Science Committee Chairman Boehlert (R-NY) . "The Baldrige National Quality Program is so much more than an award. It is an entire philosophy that has helped - and continues to help make our companies and our nation more productive and competitive. The Baldrige Program has been described by CEOs as 'the most important catalyst for transforming American business,' and the publication containing the Baldrige criteria has been hailed as 'probably the single most influential document in the modern history of American business.'"

"The Malcolm Baldrige Award recognizes doing business at the highest level of quality, and non-profits, like the for-profits before them, will have to spend several years improving their operations to reach the Baldrige Award level. Stoner, Inc., this year's winner in the Small Manufacturer category relied on its local MEP center to help implement the lean manufacturing concepts that led to its award. We can only hope that the 'pound-foolish' decision of the Administration to reduce the MEP program by two-thirds will not preclude other manufacturers from qualifying for this award in the future," said Committee Ranking Democrat Bart Gordon (D-TN).

Kenneth E. Case, President of the American Society for Quality stated, "Passage of H.R. 3389 in the House is a significant milestone for those of us who have always dreamed that the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award would one day become a truly national award - covering all sectors of our nation's economy. Inclusion of a not-for-profit category completes the circle. We're grateful to the House Republican leadership for advancing the bill to the House floor for a vote; to Chairman Boehlert (R-NY) for his leadership in shepherding it through the Science Committee; and to the sponsors - Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) and Melissa Hart (R-PA) - for recognizing the potential impact of this legislation not only in their own districts but across the entire economy. As the focus now shifts to the Senate, we're confident that body will follow the lead of the House in advancing this farsighted legislation."

The five existing categories to which non-profit has been added are: manufacturing, service, small business, education, and health care. The category of non-profit includes federal, state, and local government; private not-for-profit organizations, and quasi-public organizations created by legislative authority such as municipal utilities and credit unions.

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