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Conference Committee report on H.R. 13247, National Defense Education Act, August 21, 1958

Senator Lister Hill of Alabama chaired the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, which oversaw education legislation. After the Sputnik launch, committee clerk Stewart McClure suggested promoting an education bill as a defense measure to enhance its chances of passage. Hill and the bill’s coauthor, Representative Carl Elliott of Alabama, renamed it the National Defense Education Act.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Conference Committee report on H.R. 13247, National Defense Education Act, August 21, 1958 Conference Committee report on H.R. 13247, National Defense Education Act, August 21, 1958

The National Defense Education Act

The Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, spurred Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. Perceiving an urgent need to train Americans in science, technology, languages, and other essential skills for Cold War defense, Congress committed the federal government to an active role in education by providing seed money to states for curriculum development and student loans. The NDEA included a mandatory loyalty oath that evoked widespread protest; Congress renewed the act without the oath in 1964.