A Periodic Federal Science Update

NOAA Appoints New Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, with concurrence from the White House, named Chris Oliver Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. Mr. Oliver assumed his new position on June 19, taking the helm from Acting Assistant Administrator Samuel Rauch who will return to his position as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs.  As the agency’s new Assistant Administrator, Oliver will oversee the management and conservation of recreational and commercial fisheries including some aspects of marine aquaculture, the preservation and maintenance of safe sources of seafood, and the protection of marine mammals, marine protected species, and coastal fisheries habitat within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. He will also manage an agency with a strong presence nationally with 3,200 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and 24 labs and fish stations in 15 states and U.S. territories.

Mr. Oliver most recently served as Executive Director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a position he held for the past 16 years. He has been with the Council since 1990, also serving as a fisheries biologist and then deputy director. During his tenure as executive director he led the way on several management initiatives, including development of limited access privilege programs and fishery cooperatives and catch share programs, the North Pacific’s comprehensive onboard observer program, numerous bycatch reduction programs, extensive habitat protection measures, commercial and recreational allocation programs, and coastal community development programs. He was also responsible for all administrative and operational aspects of the Council process, and lead staff member for legislative and international issues.

House Science Subcommittee Urges NOAA to Consider Increasing Privatization – On June 21, the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing to highlight private sector advancement in various environmental technologies – including innovative monitoring, observing, and modelling technologies that support great understanding of the oceans and atmosphere.  Witnesses from the private sector, namely Dr. Neil Jacobs from Panasonic Avionics and Mr. Sebastien De Halleux from Salidrone, Inc., discussed various modelling and observing advancements made by their respective companies and how NOAA could take better advantage of the data and observing capabilities that could be provided by the private sector.  The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and some of his other Members expressed concern that NOAA has been reluctant to engage with the private sector on such issues.  Chairman Biggs referenced he recently enacted Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act as a key step in encouraging NOAA to maximize the strengths of the private sector in terms of data, observing capabilities, and modelling.  Subcommittee Democrats noted that federal spending often provided the foundation upon which the private sector builds its products and services in terms of weather forecasting. More information on this hearing, including a video archive of the hearing can be found here.

National Science Foundation’s Move to Alexandria, VA Begins -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) is moving its headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia.  Email addresses and phone numbers for NSF employees and NSF offices will not change. Due to the move of NSF's Data Center, NSF.gov, FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable from Friday, June 30 at 8:00 PM until Tuesday, July 4 at 6:00 PM EDT. During this outage period, proposals cannot be submitted in FastLane, and project reports and cash requests cannot be submitted in Research.gov. However, previously saved information and uploaded documents in FastLane and Research.gov, including in-process proposals and reports, will be accessible after the Data Center moves. The physical move to NSF's new headquarters will be phased over a six-week period, beginning Thursday, August 24 through Sunday, October 1.

Administration Asks for Comments on National Marine Sanctuaries System – The Administration has published in the Federal Register a request for comments on the designations and expansions that have taken place via Executive Order since 2007.  The public is being asked to comment on specific criteria related to these expansions and designations including: an analysis of the acreage affected and an analysis of the budgetary impacts of the costs of managing each National Marine Sanctuary or Marine National Monument designation or expansion; an analysis of the adequacy of any required Federal, State and tribal consultations conducted before the designations or expansions; and the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to any impacts on production in the adjacent region.  Following up on this request for comments, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the marine sanctuaries system on June 27th at 10AM Eastern.  The hearing will be livestreamed here.

Food and Drug Administration Seeks Nominations to Public Advisory Committees – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting nominations for voting members to serve on the Device Good Manufacturing Practice Advisory Committee and device panels of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  Nominations received by August 22, 2017 will be given first consideration for membership on the committee and panels.  More information on this can be found here.

NOAA Seeks New Members for U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Advisory Committee -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is soliciting applications for membership on the United States Integrated Ocean Observing System Advisory Committee. The Committee provides advice to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and to the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee on the planning, integrated design, operation, maintenance, enhancement, and expansion of the United States Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS).  U.S. IOOS promotes research to develop, test, and deploy innovations and improvements in coastal and ocean observation technologies and modeling systems, addresses regional and national needs for ocean information, gathers data on key coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes variables and ensures timely and sustained dissemination and availability of these data for societal benefits. U.S. IOOS benefits national safety, the economy, and the environment through support for national defense, marine commerce and forecasting, navigation safety, weather, climate, energy siting and production, economic development, ecosystem-based management of marine and coastal areas, conservation of ocean and coastal resources and public safety. For more information on submitting an application for membership is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Upate

Norman Sharpless of North Carolina To Be Nominated by President Trump as Next Director of the National Cancer Institute at NIH – On June 9 the President Announced his intent to nominate Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine to be the next Director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sharpless earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and his hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care. A practicing oncologist caring for patients with leukemia, Dr. Sharpless also leads a research group studying the cell cycle and its role in cancer and aging. He has authored more than 150 original scientific papers, reviews and book chapters. He holds 10 patents that form the core intellectual property of two NC-based biotechnology startup companies. Dr. Sharpless is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He serves on the Association of American Cancer Institutes’ board of directors, and on the National Institute of Aging’s National Advisory Council on Aging.

DARPA Releases Funding Announcement for High-Risk, High-Payoff Research Opportunities -- The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is to identify and pursue high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines and to transform these initiatives into disruptive technologies for U.S. national security. In support of this mission, the DSO Office-wide BAA invites proposers to submit innovative basic or applied research concepts that explore Physical and Natural Systems, Human-Machine and Social Systems, and/or Math and Computational Systems through the lens of one or more of the following technical domains: Complexity Engineering, Science of Design, Noosphere, Fundamental Limits, and New Foundations. Proposals must investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances. DSO is explicitly not interested in approaches or technologies that primarily result in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.  More information on this funding opportunity is here.

DHS Announces $35 Million Funding Opportunity for New Center of Excellence in Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS). Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities. These two related funding opportunities are posted here. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 4, 2017. DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $35 million through a cooperative agreement.

ARPA-E Announces $32 Million in Awards for Advanced Technologies -- The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week up to $32 million in funding for 16 projects as part of two new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programs: ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters (ENLITENED) and Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES (PNDIODES).

ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters – $25 Million -- The growth of the internet has led to an increase in energy consumption by the Information Communications Technology sector, particularly by datacenters that store and process information in the “cloud.” Datacenters currently consume 2.5 percent of U.S. electricity – a figure that is projected to double in just eight years. Efforts to improve their energy efficiency will ultimately be limited by metal interconnects currently used to transmit information between the devices within a datacenter.  ENLITENED seeks to overcome these limitations by advancing high density, energy-efficient photonic interconnects and related novel network designs that take advantage of integrated photonics technologies. Because photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information, instead relying on light, it is possible to transmit information with far greater speed and bandwidth using significantly less energy. If successful, ENLITENED projects could result in an overall doubling in datacenter energy efficiency.  Details on the nine ENLITENED projects can be found here.

PNDIODES: Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES – $6.9 Million -- Power electronics devices convert one form of electricity to another so that it can be used in a specific device. Most power electronics are silicon based, which becomes much less efficient as power demands increase due to the physical limitations of the material. Power converters based on wide-bandgap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and its alloys offer improved efficiencies over silicon, particularly for higher voltage devices – while also dramatically reducing size and weight. However, fabrication of these specialized materials is difficult and expensive.  With PNDIODES, ARPA-E is tackling a specific challenge in wide-bandgap semiconductor production – focusing on a process called selective area doping to allow for the fabrication of devices at a cost competitive to their traditional, silicon-based relatives. The doping process consists of adding a specific impurity to a semiconductor to change its electrical properties, altering its physical makeup to achieve performance characteristics that are useful for electronics. Developing a reliable and usable doping process that can be applied to specific regions of GaN and its alloys is an important obstacle in the fabrication of GaN-based power electronics devices that PNDIODES seeks to overcome. Ultimately, the PNDIODES project teams will develop new ways to build semiconductors for high performance, high-powered applications like aerospace, electric vehicles and the grid.  Details on the seven PNDIODES projects can be found here.

Six Major Higher Education Organizations Submit Letter to Congress on Indirect Costs – Following up from the May 24th hearing by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) with five other higher education organizations released a letter discussing the long standing partnership where the Federal Government provides resources so that universities will conduct research on behalf of the government.  The letter puts into perspective the role of F&A cost reimbursement regarding their calculation and application in the research grant process.  A copy of this letter is available here.

AAAS Releases FY 2018 R&D Budget Dashboard to Track Federal R&D -- As Congress considers President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the American Association for the Advancement Science has launched an interactive resource to help keep track of congressional appropriations decisions and their impact on research and development spending levels.  The R&D Appropriations Dashboard, created by AAAS’ R&D Budget and Policy Program, provides an accessible way to monitor a vital process.  The appropriations process involves a dozen separate House and dozen separate Senate measures that impact 12 departments and agencies and multiple offices responsible for carrying out leading science programs. Since the White House released its budget proposal, the R&D Budget and Policy Program has analyzed the impact of the budget blueprint on science programs throughout federal agencies. The latest budget analysis, for instance, reports that while the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal calls for 9.4% increase in defense spending, very little of that increase would benefit the Pentagon’s science and technology programs. Indeed, the Defense Department’s S&T programs would decline by about 5.4% below current fiscal 2017 funding levels. Still, the proposed funding level, while a decline, would represent a 3.5% spending increase above FY 2016 levels.  The dashboard – launched on June 5 – displays the president’s requests and will track changes made by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees and the full committees as they move through each chamber and the final version sent to the president to sign into law. Observers will be able to follow bills through each step of the decision making process. The tool currently presents data from the White House’s May 23 budget proposal. The R&D Budget team will update the dashboard as the House and Senate appropriations panels work through the appropriations system.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

NSF Testifies on FY 2018 Budget Before House Appropriations Subcommittee – On June 7, Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) testified before the House Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Representative John Culberson (R-TX).  NSF’s budget request for FY 2018 is about 11% below the level appropriated for FY 2017.  During the hearing, Dr. Cordova and Chairman Culberson discussed extensively the importance of sustained funding for basic research using the sustained support provided over the last four decades in gravitational wave detection as a specific example.  Dr. Cordova, in response to issues raised by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the subcommittee, discussed the impact of the FY 2018 budget request noting a 10% reduction in the number of new proposals funded and an expected decline in the success rate from 21% to 19%. 

Rep. Kilmer (D-WA) asked about the importance of support for the geosciences, particularly as it relates to public safety.  He noted the additional reductions proposed for the geosciences in NASA and NOAA.  He stressed his concern that the reduction in resources will result in the loss of information important for earthquakes and tsunami preparations that impact the west coast. 

Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) expressed concern that the U.S. will lose vital scientific talent as a result of the Administration’s proposed reductions.  Dr. Cordova stressed that NSF will do the best it can to support the very best science with the resources available.  Rep. Cartwright also expressed his support for balanced support for all scientific and engineering disciplines while expressing concern for proposals that would have Congress making disciplinary funding decisions.

Chairman Culberson stressed the constraints and composition of the federal budget, emphasizing that 70% of the total goes for entitlement and debt financing, 15% for defense, and 15% for non-defense spending – the component in which the NSF is funded.  He encouraged the scientific community to communicate with decision makers and recognize the need to get entitlement spending and overall federal spending under control. 

Chairman Culberson also asked questions about how the developing Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), formerly the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, (ATST), could contribute to space weather research important to NOAA and NASA.

Rep. Kilmer, as part of his second round of questioning, discussed the need for investment in new scientific instrumentation and asked if NSF was involved in the Administration’s infrastructure initiative.  Dr. Cordova discussed NSF willingness to work with the Administration and the Congress in support of research infrastructure investments. Rep. Kilmer also cited numerous reports and findings that expressed significant concerns about the reduction in U.S. investment in science and technology.  Dr. Cordova talked about her concern about the potential loss of U.S. leadership in science and technology given the pace upon which our international competitors are increasing their own investments.  Rep. Cartwright expressed concern with the proposed reductions in research support for risk and resilience activities.

Dr. Cordova’s testimony and an archived audio recording of the hearing is available here.

NIH Announces Information on Next Generation Researchers Initiative -- NIH and its stakeholder community have for many years been concerned about the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise. Too many researchers vying for limited resources has led to a hypercompetitive environment. Many highly meritorious applications go unfunded. This has often resulted in misaligned incentives and unintended consequences for talented researchers at all career stages who are trying to succeed and stay in science.  The current environment is particularly challenging for many new- and mid-career investigators. To that end NIH is announcing a series of actions to increase the number of NIH-funded early-stage and mid-career investigators by extending the payline for early stage investigators aiming to fund those proposals that score in the top 25 percent.  For more information on this initiative and its impact on NIH awardees click here.  The NIH Director’s statement on this matter can be found here.

Air Force Announces Funding Opportunity in Corrosion Research – the U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Aircraft Structural Life Extension (CAStLE) performs a range of structural integrity research tasks in support of Air Force, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other government, academic and commercial sponsors. CAStLE pursues a range of engineering mechanics, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, corrosion engineering and material science research efforts, with more emphasis on applied research, and that part of development not related to a specific system or hardware procurement. The interaction between corrosion and cracking damage mechanisms and their effect on the structural integrity has been a long standing interest of CAStLE. There is DoD level interest in material degradation in structures—to include corrosion, cracking and other service-related damage mechanisms. This solicitation is focused on fundamental research that can lead to the future development of capabilities to prevent and control corrosion and degradation of materials and structures of systems and facilities, with the ultimate goal of reducing costs, improving availability of systems, and increasing the safety of military assets, which also serve interest and use to the general public. Projects must be new research efforts. Proposals for the continuation of existing research projects funded under previous grant or cooperative agreement awards are not desired. Collaboration among proposing institutions is strongly encouraged.  More information is available in the solicitation which can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hearings on FY 18 Budgets for NOAA, NSF and NASA – Last week Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appeared before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (House CJS) to discuss, among other things, the NOAA budget proposal for FY 2018. The Secretary was pressed on the deep cuts to NOAA’s budget in the area of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research, including the proposed termination of the Sea Grant program and climate research.  Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member for the full House Appropriations Committee was highly critical of the Administration’s proposals to eliminate Sea Grant, coastal zone management grants, and climate research.  Rep. Lowey invited the Secretary to join her at some future date to visit the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University to gain a greater appreciation for the importance of investing in earth and geosciences.  The Secretary expressed a willingness to make such a visit. 

The Secretary talked about his interest in working on aquaculture given the estimated $13 billion trade deficit in fish and fish products.  The Secretary defended the proposed reductions in NOAA ocean and coastal programs and specifically when questioned about the Sea Grant program he said, “The sea grant program is a successful program, but it is one that primarily benefits industry, state and local stakeholders.”  He went on to stress the need to support NOAA’s core functions of survey, charting and fisheries management.  Rep. Lowey criticized the sea grant cuts as "misguided," stating that the program is "absolutely key" for job creation.  "If the sea grant program is eliminated as President Trump proposes, these states will lose this very valuable program. An archived video of this hearing can be found here.  NSF will appear before the Subcommittee on June 7 and NASA is scheduled to appear on June 8. 

Senator Wicker and Senator Murkowski Sponsor Sea Grant Briefing on Aquaculture – On June 13, the Sea Grant Association will support a briefing, sponsored by Senators Wicker from Mississippi and Murkowski from Alaska that seeks to educate and inform Congressional and other public policy decision makers on the importance of aquaculture to a healthy economy.  Aquaculture entrepreneurs from New England, South Carolina, Mississippi, the Great Lakes, and Alaska will discuss the challenges and opportunities they face as a coastal industry.  The Sea Grant program provides valuable technical assistance through research that assists communities in these economic challenges.  The briefing will take place in the Capitol Visitor Center on the Hill at 11:30AM.  More information on this briefing can be found here

Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out a Number of Marine-Related Measures – On May 18 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up and reported out – in a bipartisan fashion – the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2017 (S. 793), a bill to amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 (S. 1057), and legislation to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (S. 1096).  More information on the Committee’s mark up  of these and other bills can be found here

Department of Energy Announces Dr. Thomas Zacharia as Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- On Wednesday, May 31st, United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the appointment of Dr. Thomas Zacharia as the new Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  He was unanimously selected by the UT-Battelle Board of Governors to succeed Dr. Thom Mason as ORNL’s Director.  Dr. Zacharia has accepted this position and will transition to Laboratory Director at ORNL effective July 1, 2017.  Dr. Zacharia’s career at ORNL dates back to 1987, where he started as a postdoctoral researcher, and has since advanced through a variety of roles that make him well versed ORNL, its programs, and the DOE National Laboratories system.  He served most recently as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology at ORNL. In this role, he provided strategic direction for the ORNL budget and research, and collaboration with the physical, energy, engineering, computational, neutron, and nuclear science fields, as well as ORNL’s leadership in global security.    More information on Dr. Zacharia can be found here

The Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council to Meet June 5 -- The Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) will meet in Washington on June 5 for their 12th meeting as an advisory committee, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center (Wilson Center) for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW., 6th Floor, Moynihan Board Room, Washington, DC.  The HSAAC provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary and Department leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community.  During the meeting, HSAAC members will be briefed on developments with the Department’s Countering Violent Extremism efforts and present a number of recommendations for Department consideration on the matter.  DHS staff will also outline the 2017 National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise series event (NTTX), which will take place on October 10 – 11 in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. The two-day event will include workshop sessions, a tabletop exercise and an after-action review session on preparing participants to respond to a campus emergency. This year’s tabletop event will focus on a failure in campus infrastructure caused by cyber-attack. 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Administration Releases FY 2018 Budget Request -- On May 23rd, the Administration released the details of its FY 2018 Budget.  Recall that in March, the Administration released a summary of its forthcoming budget with “top line” numbers.  This summary was called a “Budget Blueprint”.  With the details in hand, it is clear the Administration is moving to reduce non-defense discretionary funding by an estimated $54 billion or 11% from the FY 2017 level.  With a reduction of that magnitude, most non-defense discretionary agencies and programs are impacted.  As many Members of Congress have said, however, the President’s budget is a proposal and it will be up to the Congress via the appropriations process to determine actual funding levels.  The Administration’s budget proposes to spend $117.7 billion on research and development which represents an estimated 21% reduction from the FY 2017 level.  While basic research at the Department of Defense would grow by 6% and NASA basic research would grow by 3%, the overall support for basic research would decline by 13% with some of the largest reductions (on a percentage basis) taking place with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Commerce.  Overall Federal support for applied research would decline by an estimated 9%.  Missing from the FY 2018 Budget is the usual interagency cross-cuts of various research initiatives such as; the U.S. Global Change Research Program; nanotechnology; and Networking and Information Technology and Research.  A summary of the Administration’s FY 2108 budget request for selected R&D agencies is available here.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Re-opens Members’ Programmatic Request Database for a Limited Amount of Time – To accommodate Members of Congress who would like to respond to the President’s FY 2018 Request that was released this past week, the Chairman has informed House Members that the Committee will re-open its internal programmatic request process available only to Members of Congress.  The deadline for submissions to the subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, and Science; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Legislative Branch; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs will be open until close of business on May 30.  The remaining subcommittees will receive new programmatic requests until close of business June 6, 2017.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Questions Secretary of Commerce on NOAA Funding Reductions – On May 25th the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science held a hearing to examine the Department of Commerce budget request for FY 2018.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented the Department’s budget to the Subcommittee.  Full Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Nita Lowey, pressed Secretary Ross on the Administration’s proposal to scale back funding for climate and ocean/coastal research activities.  Secretary Ross responded by saying that in the current budget environment, the Administration decided to invest in NOAA’s core or primary programs related to weather, charting, mapping, and fisheries management.  Rep. Lowey called on Secretary Ross to join her in New York to see first-hand the value of such research.

Forty-one Members of the House Call for the Removal of NIH Director Francis Collins – On May 22, 41 Members of the House of Representatives wrote to the President urging him to appoint an NIH Director who aligns with the President’s priorities with respect to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.  The signatories to this letter are concerned that Dr. Collins “will continue to pursue unethical human embryonic research priorities leftover from the previous Administration.” A copy of the letter can be found here.

NSF Releases Information on the Relocation of its Headquarters this Summer – NSF is moving to its new location in Alexandria, VA this summer.  Due to the move FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable from June 30 to July 4.  Other information regarding the move and possible disruptions in proposal processing, submittal of project reports, cash requests, etc. can be found in NSF Important Notice 139.  NSF expects to be in its new location, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA, effective October 2, 2017.

House Science Subcommittees Hold Joint Hearing on NSF Indirect Rates — The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing titled Examining the Overhead Cost of Research on Wednesday, May 24, 2017  The purpose of the hearing was to examine the overhead costs for conducting federal taxpayer-funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including how the National Science Foundation and other federal research agencies negotiate and monitor indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs), and hear recommendations for improving efficiency and transparency.  Witnesses from NSF, GAO, Duke University and Ohio University testified at this hearing.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

President’s Detailed FY 2018 Budget to be Released May 22 – In March the Administration released a Budget Blueprint for FY 2018 which outlined in summary fashion program and budget priorities of the Administration.  On May 22, the Administration is scheduled to release the details of the summary they put out in March.  The budget plan is expected to propose the transfer of $54 billion from non-defense programs to defense programs.  As a result, the Administration’s detailed budget is expected to propose large and unpopular reductions in many non-defense discretionary programs including NIH, NASA, NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and other R&D agencies.  More specifics on the programs impacted by the Administration’s FY 2018 budget plan will be provided upon its release.  Most agencies will hold public briefings and press conferences during the week of May 22 to present their FY 2018 budget proposals.

DOE to Honor All Funding Commitments – After information was released suggesting the Department of Energy (DOE) had stopped processing funding awards for its various energy research programs, DOE issued a memorandum to DOE program offices on May 4 stating that the agency “will honor all commitments for funds previously obligated for grants and cooperative agreements.”  A DOE spokeswoman said that included funding agreements for the entire agency, not just the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The Administration’s FY 2018 budget blueprint calls for eliminating funding for ARPA-E and cutting funding for the agency’s fossil energy, renewable and efficiency programs.  Appropriators largely rejected most proposed DOE cuts for fiscal 2017. Funding levels for fiscal 2018 will be set by the Congress as part of the FY 2018 Appropriations process. The FY 2017 omnibus package that was signed into law on May 5, included increased funding for ARPA-E and the Office of Science.

Economic Development Administration Offers Grants for its Innovation Strategies Program -- On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, EDA began accepting applications under the 2017 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). In 2017, $17 million in Federal funding is available for the creation and expansion of cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization program and of early-stage seed capital funds through the i6 Challenge and the 2017 Seed Fund Support Grant competition, respectively. The deadline for submitting applications under the 2017 RIS Program NOFA is June 23, 2017.  Under Section 27 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, EDA currently awards grants that build regional capacity to translate innovations into jobs (1) through proof-of-concept and commercialization assistance to innovators and entrepreneurs and (2) through operational support for organizations that provide essential early-stage risk capital to innovators and entrepreneurs. The RIS Program consists of two separate competitions: the i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants competition. The i6 Challenge is a leading national initiative designed to support the creation of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs. Through the SFS Grants competition, EDA provides funding for technical assistance to support the creation, launch, or expansion of equity-based, cluster-focused seed funds that invest regionally-managed risk capital in regionally-based startups with a potential for high growth.

National Science Foundation Offers Grants for Innovation Corps Teams – NSF seeks to nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output to facilitate the application of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. To maintain, strengthen and grow a national innovation ecosystem, NSF has established the Innovation Corps - National Innovation Network Teams Program (I-Corps Teams). The NSF I-Corps Teams Program purpose is to identify NSF-funded researchers who will receive additional support in the form of entrepreneurial education, mentoring and funding to accelerate innovation that can attract subsequent third-party funding. The purpose of the NSF I-Corps Teams grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently funded NSF projects. The outcomes of I-Corps Teams projects will be threefold: 1) a clear go /or no go decision regarding viability of products and services, 2) should the decision be to move the effort forward, a transition plan for those projects to move forward, and 3) a definition of a compelling technology demonstration for potential partners. Download a copy of this solicitation here.

DOD Offers STEM Scholarships for Service -- The SMART Scholarship Program was established by Congress to strengthen the DoD science and technology workforce with highly skilled science and engineering professionals. This unique and prestigious program provides scholarships, which include tuition and stipend support to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in the technical fields listed in the overview of the funding opportunity. While in school, participants perform research as summer interns at DoD laboratories and return to those laboratories after graduation to complete a period of obligated employment service. This provides scholars with a unique opportunity to perform research in their respective area of interest that they would not have otherwise been able to do. The post-graduation employment commitment is equal to or greater than the amount of time the student received scholarship funding under this program. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OASD(R&E))/Research Directorate (RD) manages the SMART Scholarship Program.

Administration Issues Executive Order on Cybersecurity – The President issued a long awaited Executive Order on Cybersecurity on May 11.  The EO is designed to put in place a guiding strategy for cyber defense. Agencies will follow the National Institute for Standards and Technology framework - a set of guidelines developed by NIST to be adaptable to any organization. The executive order tasks the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Defense, Labor and Education and the Office of Personnel Management with developing a plan to bolster the cybersecurity workforce. Homeland Security is also instructed to do wide audits of critical infrastructure for security.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Last week, the Congress reached agreement and President signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the Federal Government for the balance of FY 2017.  Overall the bill meets the FY 2017 spending caps in law appropriating $1.070 trillion in discretionary budget authority.  In March of this year, the Administration proposed the reduction of non-defense programs by $18 billion to partially pay for supplemental increases of $33 billion for defense and border security activities including initial construction of a southern border wall.  Some of those proposed reductions would have come from NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, etc.  The Congress largely rejected those reductions to non-defense programs in their final version of the FY17 omnibus.  The Congress has provided half of the Administration’s supplemental request for the Department of Defense, adding $15 billion in overseas contingency operations funding.  The Congress did not support the Administration’s request to begin construction on the wall, but instead provides $1.1 billion for border security technologies and infrastructure. 

National Science Foundation (NSF) – NSF is provided with $7.5 billion that is $8.7 million more than FY 2016 and $66 million above the House bill. The funding is provided for basic research across all scientific disciplines and to support the development of effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] programs, and grow the next generation of scientists. In addition, the funding will support programs that foster innovation, including funding for advanced manufacturing research, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity and neuroscience.

For Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, $209 million, an increase of $9 million is included of which $122 million in funding is provided to facilitate planning and construction of 3 regional class research vessels.  NSF Education and Human Resources programs are primarily level funded, and $15 million is included to establish a Hispanic Serving Institution program that will build capacity at institutions that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) -- $19.65 billion for NASA, which is $1.4 billion above the FY 2017 discretionary request; $368.3 million more than the FY2016 enacted level and $145.3 million more than the House bill.  These funds are to support the human and robotic exploration of space; fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, solar system, and the universe; and support fundamental aeronautics research.  Nearly all the increase in NASA science would go to planetary sciences with funding specifically provided for a mission to Europa and a Mars 2020 mission.  Earth sciences would remain level with last year’s mark avoiding a 12% reduction initially proposed by the House. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- $5.68 billion for NOAA, which is $90.2 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $94.9 million more than the House bill. $517.4 million for National Ocean Service operating expenses, which is $17.3 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $42.3 million more than the House bill. Increases above both FY 2016 and the House bill are provided for Coastal Science and Assessment, and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas. Coastal Zone Management grants are $10 million above FY16 and in line with the Senate’s FY17 mark at $85 million. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Observations receives a $1.2 million increase over the FY16 level, coming in at $30.7 million. Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas see slight growth to $51 million -- $2 million more than FY16. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is funded at $23.5 million and Prescott grants were restored to their FY16 level.  Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement received an increase of $1 million over FY 16 to combat IUU fishing. Marine debris received an increase of $500K. NOAA Education was restored to $26.9 million; the Administration had proposed reducing NOAA education to $16.5 million.

NOAA Research (OAR) received $477.7 million for operations, research, and facilities, which is $15.8 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $40.1 million more than the House bill. Within OAR a total of $72.5 million is provided for the Sea Grant program of which $9.5 million is for marine aquaculture. An additional $9.3 million is provided in NOAA Fisheries for aquaculture.  Within OAR, ocean acidification is funded at $10.5 million; cooperative institutes for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes Research is funded at a total of $32 million. NOAA climate research is restored to its FY 16 level of $158 million. Regional climate data and information is funded at $38 million.  For climate-related cooperative institutes $60.0 million is provided.  The original House mark for these climate research activities was $128 million.  Weather and Air chemistry cooperative institutes are funded at a total of $80 million.  Increases are provided for Weather and Air Chemistry Research and Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research.  Within Weather and Air Chemistry Research strong funding is provided for the U.S. Weather Research Program and the Joint Technology Transfer program while $1 million is provided for the Research Transition Acceleration program.

The National Weather Service received $979.8 million for operating expenses, which is $9.1 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $9.1 million less than the House bill.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to protect lives and property. The bill maintains funding investments for fisheries management, including the testing and implementation of new technologies to expand opportunities for American commercial and recreational fishermen. Funding is also included to allow NOAA to execute its fleet recapitalization plan, which is a strategic plan to replace the agency’s oldest research vessels. Funding for NWS observations ($216 million) is level with FY16.  Funding for NWS Science and Technology is $136.5 millio - about $2 million less than FY 16.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $952 million -- $12 million below the FY 2016 level.  Core research activities are funded at $690 million.  Funding for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership would remain level with FY 2016.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – NIH received a $2 billion increase with funding targeted to Alzheimer's disease, the brain, antibiotic resistance, and the Precision Medicine Initiative. The bill also provides a general increase to all NIH Institutes and Centers to continue progress in developing new treatments and cures, including increases for Clinical and Translational Science Awards and Institutional Development Awards. The legislation continues support for the Gabriella Miller Kids First pediatric research initiative.

As a result of the focus on Alzheimer’s, the National Institute on Aging received a 28% increase.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH’s second largest institute received a 6% increase. General Medical Sciences, which supports and conducts basic research on biological processes and living systems received a 5.5% increase.  Most other institutes would receive at least inflationary increases. The omnibus funds the Precision Medicine Initiative at $120 million; the BRAIN Initiative at $110 million; and antibiotic resistance research at $50 million. An extra $300 million was also transferred to the National Cancer Institute in accord with 21st Century Cures and its support of the Cancer Moonshot, resulting in a 9.1 percent increase for NCI overall. 

DOD Science and Technology - DOD science and technology spending would see a general increase across most military branches and agencies concentrated on applied research and advanced technology in sensors, materials, and other areas. Basic science funded via the Navy would be cut by 16.2 percent, which is offset by increases for basic research in the other branches. DOD’s medical research account, which funds intramural and extramural research on an array of health-related topics, would be subject to a small 0.9 percent cut. Congress added over $900 million for research on cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other areas.  DOD also received its request to continue its manufacturing innovation institutes

DOE Science and Technology - The bill provides $5.392 billion, $42 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level, for the Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences, and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories and more than 300 universities.

The bill prioritizes materials research, high performance computing and biology to maintain U.S. scientific leadership. The bill also provides $4.311 billion for applied energy programs, $123 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level. This funding supports research, development, demonstration and deployment of an extensive range of clean energy technologies, including for nuclear, fossil and renewable energy applications. This amount includes $306 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop next-generation, innovative energy technologies.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill trimmed the EPA budget by $81 million, or about 1%, to $8.06 billion.  Congress rejected the Administration’s requests for significant further reductions to select research and ecosystem protection programs, and dropped many policy riders.  The agency’s science and technology programs, however, did take a $28 million, 3.8% cut, to $707 million.  The White House had identified some $230 million in EPA cuts it wanted Congress to make this year, including a $48 million cut to climate-related research, a $49 million cut to EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and $30 million cut to efforts to clean up contaminated superfund sites. Instead, Congress rejected those requests, keeping air and climate research flat at about $117 million, and the Great Lakes program flat at $300 million, while adding $7.5 million to superfund cleanups.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – USGS received a 2.2% increase.  There are additional resources for arctic research and land remote sensing activities.  The Natural Hazards program within USGS would receive additional funding for continued development of an earthquake early warning system and volcano detection.

Administration Position on Omnibus -- On May 2, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Position (SAP) regarding the FY17 omnibus saying that if the bill was presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he sign it into law.

More information on the details of the FY17 omnibus appropriations act can be found here, here, here, and here.


A Periodic Federal Science Upate

Federal Government Shutdown Averted for a Week While Members Ready Omnibus for FY 2017 for a Vote Next Week – On Friday, April 28 the House and Senate quickly approved a one week extension of the current FY 2017 continuing resolution (CR), keeping the Federal Government operating until May 5.  This CR has kept most Federal agencies and programs operating at the FY 2016 level since the start of fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016).  The House and Senate have been working to complete an omnibus appropriations act for FY 2017, that if passed and signed into law, would fund the Federal Government for the remaining five months of the fiscal year.  Negotiators insist they are very close to completing their discussions on the FY 2017 spending measure.  A couple of potential “show stopping” issues were dropped from inclusion in the omnibus including funding for the border security wall, however several other troublesome policy issues still remain on the table including: protections for endangered species and public lands; the Labor Department’s “fiduciary rule” on financial advice for retirees; several Securities and Exchange Commission rules on pay ratios; and financial relief for Puerto Rico.  Congressional negotiators hope to complete and file the omnibus by Monday night setting up a final vote in both chambers by the end of next week.

One Hundred and Thirty Different Organizations Submit Testimony on the Importance of Geosciences Research to National Security Economic Development, and Public Safety – Last week 130 different organizations including major research universities, commercial interests, marine laboratories, and various societies and associations signed onto a piece of testimony that was submitted to both House and Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittees.  The testimony focused on the importance of the research conducted by NOAA and NASA and the support provided by those agencies and the NSF to the academic community for research and training activities.  A copy of that testimony can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Testimony Regarding Fiscal Year 2018 Funding for


Submitted to the

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations,

House of Representatives

April 28, 2017

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony from the organizations and institutions listed below recommending strong and balanced funding for the research programs of NSF, NASA, and NOAA.  A strong and balanced research portfolio should include support for the geosciences – by which we mean the earth sciences, the ocean sciences, and the atmospheric sciences. 

These disciplines are vital contributors to this Nation’s national security, economic competitiveness, and public safety.

While an estimated $60 billion in losses were attributed to Superstorm Sandy, the accurate forecast enabled evacuations and other actions that saved an enormous number of lives. Hundreds of thousands of people lived on land flooded catastrophically by the storm, but the total number of deaths was less than 150, due to timely warnings and evacuations. The impact would have been much worse if Sandy had hit just fifteen years ago, when hurricane forecasts extended only three days into the future, as opposed to five days in 2012. Over the last several decades, forecasts have improved steadily in accuracy, due to continuous improvements in both observations from satellites and aircraft, in the weather prediction models, and in the data assimilation methods used to combine models and observations to produce forecasts. Without these advances – all built on the foundation of broad and deep research programs at NOAA, NASA, and NSF - forecasters would never have seen Sandy’s last minute westward turn into New Jersey, but with them they were able to see it five days ahead of time. The resulting accurate and timely forecasts by our academic-government-commercial weather enterprise allowed nearly a week of preparations by governments (local, state, and federal), businesses, institutions, and families, and undoubtedly made a life or death difference for many thousands of people?

How did we acquire this life-saving weather forecasting system?  The short answer is that consistent funding for research, observations, infrastructure, and training by the Federal research agencies, thanks to this Subcommittee, the Congress, and ultimately the taxpayers – in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and education – produced that capability. These investments supported everything from basic research in mathematics and the physical sciences, the computer sciences, and the geosciences to the development of sophisticated models, satellites, radar, and parachute-borne instrument packages that could make the key observations.  Those investments also allowed us to develop an understanding of how the Earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere collectively impact our weather and the environmental conditions that ensued. They enabled us to develop and run forecast models on advanced computing systems that turned huge amounts of raw observations into “actionable advice” for businesses, local and state governments, and our citizens. These advances were coupled with investments in education and training that created the talented and dedicated workforce needed to put it all together.  Finally, a host of innovative technologies and the application of social science-informed best practices in communications allowed all this information to be presented in a manner that people could understand and on which they could act.

The Geosciences and National Security

In September 2016, the Center for Climate and Security released a report entitled, Military Expert Panel Report – Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission. The panel included retired flag officers from all the Armed Services: General Ronald Keys, USAF (ret); Lieutenant General John Castellaw, USMC (ret); Vice Admiral Robert Parker, USCG (ret); Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (ret); and Brigadier General Gerald Galloway, USA (ret). The expert panel concluded that risks of sea level rise to coastal military installations and supporting civil infrastructure will present serious threats to military readiness, operations, and strategy. The panel concluded that policies and plans for addressing climate change risks must go beyond infrastructure resilience, and into the realm of operations and strategy.

The authors recommend that policy-makers support comprehensive and preventive measures to address increasing risks from sea level rise. Recommendations included: building capacity to address infrastructural, operational, and strategic risks; gaming out catastrophic climate scenarios in planning; tracking trends in climate impacts; and collaborating with adjacent civilian communities. To get ahead of the risks, policy makers will need the research and the educated and trained workforce that comes from the geosciences community. They will need the basic research, computing, and modeling that comes from the support NSF provides the academic research community. They will also need the data, observational capabilities, computing, and modeling that NASA and NOAA can provide.

The Geosciences – Producing a Workforce for U.S. Industry

The geosciences research that NSF, NASA, and NOAA fund helps educate and train the next generation of geoscientists. Using data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Geosciences Institute calculated a total of 324,411 geoscience jobs in 2014, and this number is expected to increase by 10% by 2024 to a total of 355,862 jobs. Approximately 156,000 geoscientists are expected to retire by 2024, but over the next decade, approximately 58,000 students will be graduating with their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in the geosciences. According to the American Geosciences Institute’s (AGI) Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2016, given minimal non-retirement attrition from the geoscience workforce, there is expected to be a deficit of approximately 90,000 geoscientists by 2024.

Industry hiring of geoscience graduates fluctuates between sectors, with the oil and gas sector taking on some 60 percent of recent Master’s graduates who gained employment in the geosciences, and the environmental services sector hiring the largest share (31 percent) of recent Bachelors graduates who stayed in the geosciences, according to the American Geosciences Institute’s Status of Recent Geoscience Graduates 2016 report. Other industries hiring geoscientists include mining, construction, agriculture, transportation, and information technology services, all of which contribute to our national infrastructure. NSF, NASA, and NOAA support for the geosciences contributes significantly to the education and training of these individuals via programs in research, graduate and undergraduate student support.

The Geosciences and Economic Competitiveness – Research Yielding Economic Benefits

The Federal investment in the geosciences provided the fundamental understanding of geologic structures and processes necessary to utilize hydraulic fracturing (fracking) processes to release oil from shale formations. The ability of U.S. companies to develop these natural resources is built upon decades of fundamental research and technology development in the earth sciences. According to a 2013 report from U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Century Energy Institute, fracking has created a job boom even in states that don’t have shale deposits, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035.

Research on hot-spring-dwelling microbes in Yellowstone National Park resulted in development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technology that made the molecular biology revolution possible. Scientists discovered that hot spring microbes utilize enzymes that are resistant to the high temperatures required for PCR. PCR is the process by which scientists can generate copies of a single strand or piece of DNA and is indispensable for the multi-billion-dollar biotechnology industry.

Moreover, private enterprise – ranging from insurance companies and large engineering firms to the marine and overland shipping sectors and to small farmers – increasingly relies on the results of the long-term weather, climate, and other natural hazards research enabled by government and university scientists to make strategic management decisions. The Nation’s private sector needs to incorporate weather and climate risks into its risk-management portfolios to remain globally competitive. Industries that rely on global supply chains and distribution centers, such as the major overnight shipping companies, are beginning to use the results of fundamental geoscience research in their day-to-day decision making as well as long-term strategic planning.

The Geosciences and Public Safety

The benefit of the investment in public weather forecasts and warnings is substantial: the estimated annualized benefit is about $31.5 billion, compared with the $5.1 billion cost of generating the information (Lazo et al., 2009). In 2016, there were 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included a drought event, four flooding events, eight severe storm events, a tropical cyclone event, and a wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 138 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We continue to experience extreme weather events in nearly every region of the country.  Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri; floods in Louisiana; droughts in Texas; and blizzards in New England. According to the NAS Report, When Weather Matters, the annual impacts of adverse weather on the national highway system and roads are staggering: 1.5 million weather-related crashes with 7,400 deaths, more than 700,000 injuries, and $42 billion in economic losses (BTS, 2007) and $4.2 billion is lost each year because of weather-related air traffic delays (NOAA, 2010). The death, destruction, and economic harm communities and businesses experience from these and other weather events could be further reduced with continued research and training in the geosciences.

Technologies and observing systems developed to examine the fundamental earth structure have also provided data and enabled models necessary for forecasting and estimating the impact resulting from major earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. Understanding of disaster events enables business and government to engage in informed risk management and mitigation and to develop response strategies. When an event does occur, early warnings for evacuation based on timely forecasts and characterization of these disasters has the potential to save billions of dollars and countless lives.  For example, EarthScope is a NSF program that has deployed thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical techniques to explore the structure and evolution of the North American continent and to understand the processes controlling earthquakes and volcanoes. Thousands of geophysical instruments create a dense grid covering the continental United States. Scientists from multiple disciplines have joined together to conduct research using the large influx of freely accessible data being produced.  The data collected through EarthScope and other NSF research investments are critical for the development of an earthquake early warning system.  As the data is collected and disseminated in real-time, computers, communications technology, and alarms are devised to notify the public when an earthquake is in progress.  Just ten seconds of warning that an earthquake is occurring is enough to halt trains, shut off gas lines, and open emergency bay doors for first responders.

Concluding Thoughts

We appreciate the difficult decisions Congress must make within the constraints of the budget environment.  We have provided several examples where the geosciences contribute to the Nation’s national security, economic competitiveness, and public safety.  We believe that the future of this Nation is well served by a strong and sustained investment in the full scope of our research enterprise – including the geosciences programs sponsored by NSF, NASA, and NOAA.  This Subcommittee has consistently been a strong champion for the Nation’s research enterprise and, despite the budget challenges that it must confront, we urge you to maintain the high priority the Subcommittee has long placed on research and training in all fields of science and engineering.

  1. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  2. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  3. National Association of Marine Laboratories
  4. Consortium for Ocean Leadership
  5. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology
  6. American Geophysical Union
  7. American Meteorological Society
  8. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  9. Aerospace Industries Association
  10. The Weather Company, an IBM Business
  11. Vaisala, Inc.
  12. Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.
  13. Cleantech San Diego
  14. Aquaai Corporation
  15. Highwave Ocean Energy
  16. MRV SYSTEMS LLC (Marine Robotic Vehicles)
  17. Ocean Innovations
  18. RBR USA
  19. American Wave Machines, Inc.
  20. Reinsurance Association of America
  21. American Energy Society
  22. Catalina Offshore Products Inc.
  23. Analytics Ventures
  24. Grassy Bar Oyster Company, Inc.
  25. Teledyne RDI Instruments 
  26. Assure Controls, Inc.
  27. BMT Group
  28. Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc
  29. OceanGate, Inc.
  30. FlyWire Cameras
  31. National Instruments
  32. Ocean Aero, Inc.
  33. Del Mar Oceanographic
  34. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  35. UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  36. The Geological Society of America
  37. American Geosciences Institute
  38. University of California System
  39. Penn State University
  40. University of Oklahoma
  41. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  42. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  43. University of California, Irvine
  44. University of Georgia
  45. University of Arizona
  46. University of Washington
  47. The University of Texas at Austin
  48. Texas A&M University
  49. University of Colorado Boulder
  50. Oregon State University
  51. University of New Hampshire
  52. University of Delaware
  53. Colorado School of Mines
  54. University of California, Davis
  55. Iowa State University
  56. Michigan Technological University
  57. School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  58. Rutgers University–New Brunswick
  59. Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
  60. Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University
  61. The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute
  62. Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University
  63. National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado
  64. The School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  65. Sitka Sound Science Center, Alaska
  66. Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota Duluth
  67. Savannah State University
  68. Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston
  69. Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences, University of South Carolina
  70. Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory, Morgan State University
  71. National Ground Water Association
  72. National Estuarine Research Reserve Association
  73. North Carolina A&T State University Division of Research and Economic Development
  74. Metropolitan State University of Denver
  75. Earth & Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University
  76. Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, San Francisco State University
  77. National Weather Service Employees Organization
  78. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
  79. School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of South Carolina, Columbia
  80. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (Bermuda and New York)
  81. The Oceanography Society
  82. Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute
  83. The Ocean Foundation
  84. Council on Undergraduate Research
  85. UNAVCO, Inc.
  86. The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
  87. Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve
  88. Department of Marine Outreach, Rutgers University
  89. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
  90. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Georgia
  91. School of Freshwater Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  92. National Association of Geoscience Teachers
  93. American Association of Geographers
  94. Soil Science Society of America
  95. Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport Oregon
  96. University of California Santa Cruz
  97. College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
  98. North Carolina State University, Center for Marine Sciences & Technology
  99. Institute for Water and Environment, Florida International University 
  100. Association of Ecosystem Research Centers 
  101. Stony Brook University
  102. Desert Research Institute
  103. George Mason University
  104. University of South Florida – College of Marine Science
  105. Utah State University
  106. The Weather Coalition
  107. Boston University
  108. Florida State University
  109. San Francisco State University
  110. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences
  111. University of Miami
  112. Washington State University
  113. University of Denver
  114. St. Cloud State University
  115. Earth2Ocean, Inc.
  116. Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  117. School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University
  118. Lyndon State College
  119. Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah
  120. University of Oregon
  121. Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
  122. University of Connecticut
  123. The University of Alaska Fairbanks
  124. University of Maine Darling Marine Center
  125. University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise
  126. University of Pittsburgh
  127. FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
  128. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
  129. Duke University Marine Laboratory
  130. California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology

A Periodic Federal Science Update

April 28 Deadline Looms for FY 2017 USG Funding –House and Senate Appropriators are trying to finish up negotiations on the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations measure that would fund the Federal Government for the remaining five months of this fiscal year. Still to be resolved are questions related to supplemental funding for defense programs and border security including startup funding for The Wall.  The Administration had asked for $18 billion in reductions to nondefense programs in FY 2017 to partially pay for additional defense costs and border security activities.  These reductions are proposed to come from many nondefense programs including NSF research, NOAA ocean and coastal programs including Sea Grant, and NIH.  Many Members of Congress have dismissed these proposed reductions coming so late in the FY 2017 process.  At the same time, the White House is said to be pushing hard for startup funding for the wall in FY 2017 and the Appropriators may have to find a way to accommodate that issue.  The current Continuing Resolution funds the Federal Government until April 28.  When Congress returns from its current recess it will have only a few days to pass legislation to keep the Federal Government from shutting down.

First Weather Bill Since 1992 Signed into Law – On April 18, President Trump signed into law the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2107.  This is the first piece of weather legislation signed into law since 1992.  This bill authorizes several programs to enhance weather forecasting and alerts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research must conduct a program to improve forecasting of weather events and their effects, with a special focus on high impact weather events. The National Weather Service must collect and utilize information to make reliable and timely foundational forecasts of subseasonal and seasonal temperature and precipitation. Subseasonal forecasting is forecasting weather between two weeks and three months and seasonal forecasting is between three months and two years. The bill provides for technology transfer between the National Weather Service and private sector weather companies and universities to improve forecasting. NOAA must complete and operationalize the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (a weather satellite program which develops observational techniques using global navigation systems). Additionally, NOAA may contract with the private sector to obtain data for weather forecasting. NOAA must continue its Environmental Information Services Working Group, which advises NOAA on weather research and opportunities to improve communications between weather stakeholders.

NSF Announces Support for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative -- This NSF solicitation encourages potentially transformative proposals in any area of CISE research from PIs who are in their first academic position post-PhD. The goal is for the PI to achieve research independence early in his or her career. The CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) is part of CISE's strategy to increase its investments in the development and growth of the research capabilities of future generations of computer and information scientists and engineers, including computational and data scientists and engineers. This solicitation provides the opportunity for early-career researchers to recruit and mentor their first graduate students (or undergraduate students, in the case of faculty at undergraduate and two-year institutions), which is one critical step in a career pathway that is expected to lead to research independence and a subsequent stream of projects, discoveries, students and publications. CRII awards will be given to researchers to undertake exploratory investigations, to acquire and test preliminary data, develop collaborations with other research disciplines, and/or develop new algorithms, approaches, and system designs, which may lead to improved capacity to write successful proposals submitted to other programs in the future. More information on this program can be found here.

Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Arctic Mobile Observing System/Science Initiative -- The "Arctic Mobile Observing System/Science" is an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Departmental Research Initiative, or DRI, which is expected to run from FY17-FY21. Research funded under this effort is expected to result in new sensors, platforms, and techniques that will enable the sustainment of a mobile observing capability that can enhance our scientific understanding of the physical Arctic Ocean environment and lead to improved predictions for this region. The primary focus of the AMOS DRI will be on mobile systems that drift with the sea ice cover and/or operate autonomously within the water column, but all ideas and concepts will be considered. The overall goal of the effort will be to advance new mobile observing methodologies that will enable studies of sea ice dynamics and thermodynamics and improve our understanding of the circulation and evolution of water masses in the Arctic.  The DRI will run for five years, with deployment opportunities and in situ observational studies expected to occur in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Collaborations with international researchers and other observational programs are encouraged. Planning letters for research to be supported under the AMOS DRI should be prepared according to standard guidelines.

Innovation: An American Imperative to Release Progress Report on April 24:  In 2015 several key business, science, and universities released an innovation agenda designed to advise policy makers on actions they should take to help the United States maintain its leadership in in productivity and economic growth.  That agenda, called the Innovation Imperative endorsed by more than 500 leading organizations, included the following recommendations:  renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery; make permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit: improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM); reform U.S. visa policy; take steps to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient regulations; reaffirm merit-based peer review: and stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing.  On April 24, the organizations making up this innovation initiative will release the latest progress report on implementing these recommendations.  Learn more about the Innovation Imperative, and read the latest progress report starting April 24 here.

NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB) to Meet – On April 24 and 25 the NOAA Science Advisory Board will be meeting in open (public) session.  The meeting will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 8727 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.  The meeting will include the following topics: (1) Draft Report on Indigenous and Local Ecological Knowledge and NOAA; (2) Proposal for Creation of a High Performance Computing Standing Working Group; (3) Discussion of the Process to Review SAB Standing Working Groups; (4) Discussion of Short-Term Topics for the SAB; (5) Discussion on SAB Transition Materials; and (6) Updates from the Acting NOAA Administrator and Acting Chief Scientist.  The full agenda for the two day meeting can be found here.  Reports and other documents associated with this meeting can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds Over 70% of U.S. Voters Support Climate Research -- Voters say (72 - 25 percent) that they do not believe funding for scientific research on the environment and climate change should be reduced. A total of 66 percent of American voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that climate change will affect them or a family member personally, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released on April 5, 2017. The U.S. should discourage the use of coal because of environmental concerns, 56 percent of voters say, while 36 percent say the U.S. should encourage coal use, citing jobs and economic benefits, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. A total of 76 percent of American voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about climate change. Other voter attitudes on climate change are:

  • Voters do not believe 76 - 19 percent that climate change is a hoax;
  • Voters believe 65 - 28 percent that climate change is caused by human activity;
  • Voters say 62 - 28 percent President Donald Trump should not remove specific regulations intended to combat climate change;
  • Voters say 72 - 25 percent it's a "bad idea" to cut funding for scientific research on the environment and climate change;
  • The U.S. is doing enough to address climate change, 18 percent say, while 18 percent say the U.S. is doing too much and 59 percent say more needs to be done;
  • 56 percent say there has been more extreme or unusual weather in recent years;
  • 68 percent of voters say the U.S. can fight climate change and protect jobs, while 24 percent say one goal hurts the other.

A total of 92 percent of American voters say it is "very important" or "somewhat important" that the U.S. produces all of its own energy - energy independence. 

Congress Recesses for Two Weeks while April 28 deadline Looms for FY 2017 Funding Resolution – As Congress embarks on a two-week work district recess, House and Senate Appropriators are trying to finish up negotiations on an FY 2017 omnibus appropriations measure that would fund the Federal Government for the remaining five months in FY 2017.  A number of Members of Congress involved in these negotiations are projecting an upbeat “we got this” posture.  However still to be resolved are questions related to funding for border security including startup funding for The Wall.  The Administration had asked for $18 billion in reductions to nondefense programs in FY 2017 in order to pay for additional defense costs and border security activities.  These reductions are proposed to come from many nondefense programs including NSF research, NOAA ocean and coastal programs including Sea Grant, and NIH.  Many Members of Congress have dismissed these proposed reductions coming so late in the FY 2017 process.  At the same time, the White House is said to be pushing hard for startup funding for the wall in FY 2017 and the Appropriators may have to find a way to accommodate that issue.  The current Continuing Resolution funds the Federal Government until April 28.  When Congress returns from its two week recess it will have only a few days to pass legislation to keep the Federal Government from shutting down.

Congress Gives Final Approval to First Weather Forecast Improvement Legislation in Over a Decade – On April 4th, the House of Representatives agreed to suspend the rules and passed via a bipartisan voice vote H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017.  This important legislation prioritizes improving weather forecasting in the near term as well as over sub-seasonal and seasonal time frames. This bill does so by focusing research and computing resources on improved weather forecasting, quantitative observing data planning, next generation modeling, and an emphasis on research-to-operations technology transfer.  The legislation includes provisions to improve interagency coordination through the Office of Science and Technology Policy and collaboration with the private sector via the permanent establishment of the Environmental Information Services Working Group. The President has ten days (not including Sundays) from the date of House passage to sign this bill into law.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) to Sponsor Briefing on Understanding Wildland Fires – On Wednesday, April 12 UCAR will hold the next in its series of Congressional Lunchtime Briefings to brief Congressional staff and others on how new research can help fire-management efforts to protect lives and property.  Many states in the nation have experienced the high cost of lives and property lost due to wildfire events. In an effort to better predict and respond to wildland fires, the UCAR research community works closely with federal and state agencies, emergency managers, and others to enhance understanding of wildfire dynamics. Bringing to bear ecosystem and atmospheric science, remote sensing and modeling capabilities, and high-performance computing, researchers are working closely with emergency responders and decision makers to protect U.S. lives and property. A panel of experts will lead a discussion on the progress underway and next challenges in developing better tools and strategies for understanding wildland fire behavior, enhancing public and firefighter safety, and reducing costs from these extreme events.  Panelists include: Dr. Antonio J. Busalacchi, Jr., University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; Donald A. Falk, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona; Michael Gollner, Department of Fire Protection Engineering, University of Maryland; William Mahoney, Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Todd Richardson, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

White House Supplemental Request for FY 2017 Seeks $18 billion Reduction in Nondefense Spending with Five Months Remaining in the Fiscal Year – As part of the Administration's FY 2018 Budget Blueprint is a supplemental spending request for FY 2017 seeking additional funding for defense ($25 billion) and $3 billion for the initiation of the border wall. These requests are partially offset with a decrease of $18 billion to the non-defense cap. This week the Administration provided a table to House and Senate Appropriations that contained options for how they might reduce nondefense spending for the balance of the fiscal year. Some of the options provided by OMB include: reduce NIH research grants by $1.2 billion; reduce NSF research by $350 million; reduce NASA science by $50 million; reduce Sea Grant by $30 million; $115 million in reductions to CZM grants ($70 million), resilience grants ($15 million) and climate grants ($30 million); weather satellites by $90 million; $150 million from ARPA-E; $516 million from EERE; $37 million from the DOE Office of Science; and $49 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. No reductions to the USGS or NOAA mapping and charting activities were contained in this list of options. A copy of the table OMB provided the Congress can be found here. April 28th is when the current stop-gap funding measure – the Continuing Resolution (CR) – expires. By then Congress will have to enact either a new CR or an omnibus appropriation act to cover nearly all federal agencies for the balance of the fiscal year otherwise we would face another government shut down. How much, if any, of the Administration’s request for $18 billion in budget reductions for the balance of FY 2017, will have to be worked out by that deadline.

Heritage Foundation Releases Latest Budget Reduction Recommendations for FY 2018 – This week the Heritage Foundation released the latest in its series of recommendations calling for the elimination of numerous federal programs related to the environment and energy in both the non-defense and defense sides of the budget ledger. The Heritage Foundation has released similar reports in the past, with perennial proposed budget reductions Congress has ignored. Many observers note, however, that much of what is known about the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Blueprint appears to track with many of the Heritage Foundation’s previous reports.

The new Heritage report, Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2018, calls on the Congress to use four criteria to assess every federal program including: the program’s elimination would increase opportunity or reduce favoritism; the program would better serve the American people if it were administered and financed by the private sector; the program would be getter administered by state or local governments; or the program is wasteful or duplicative. This report, similar to previous ones, is organized by appropriations subcommittee jurisdiction.  

In the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies chapter, none of the recommendations propose reductions to either the NSF, NASA, or NOAA budgets. There are numerous Justice Department programs identified including the elimination of violence against women act grants; grants from the Office of Justice programs; reduce funding for the DOJ civil rights division and environmental and natural resources division; eliminate the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, the International Trade Administration; the Economic Development Administration, and the Minority Business Development Agency.

For the Energy and Water Subcommittee, major reductions are recommended in the energy and environment portion of the Federal Budget including the elimination of ARPA-E, dramatically reduce or eliminate the DOE Biological and Environmental Research program; reduce funding for basic energy sciences, eliminate DOE Energy Innovation Hubs, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  

In the Interior – Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, the report calls for the elimination of numerous EPA climate programs including Regulation of GHG emissions from vehicles; Regulation of CO2 emissions from power plants, factory boilers, and other stationary sources; the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program; the Global Methane Initiative; the Climate Resilience Fund; the Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool; the Green Infrastructure Program; the Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative; and Climate research funding for the Office of Research and Development. The report also calls for the elimination of EPA’s air, climate, and energy research program, and the sustainable and health communities research program, and the national Estuary/Coastal Waterway program. No reductions are recommended for USGS programs.

In the Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee, no reductions are recommended for NIH but there are numerous reductions recommended for various Department of Education programs and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Federal

Agencies Receive OMB Directive to Limit Comments and Testimony on FY 2018 Budget Until Full Budget Is Released -- OMB has sent a notice (OMB Memo M-17-20) to agencies telling them to be restrictive in their public communications on budgetary matters. “In the coming weeks, you may be testifying before congressional committees in support of the administration’s fiscal year 2018 Budget Blueprint and participating in public events focused on budget initiatives. Until OMB releases the full FY 2018 budget, all public comments of any sort should be limited to the information contained in the Budget Blueprint chapter for your agency,” says the OMB memo. “This includes highlights of major administration initiatives and other proposals. Accordingly, it is critically important that you not make commitments about specific programs if they are not expressly mentioned in the Budget Blueprint. Similarly, you should not address account-level details. Comments on such specifics need to wait until the release of the full budget. agency officials appearing as witnesses in authorization, appropriations, or oversight hearings should defer any questions related to the full budget until after the budget is released,” it says. The latest directive adds “it is our strong preference that only heads of executive departments and agencies or the acting head of the department or agency should testify on the FY 2018 Budget Blueprint. However, if you feel it is more appropriate to send another agency official, please work with your OMB representative.”

United States Senate Passes H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 – On March 29 the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, the first weather research and forecasting improvement legislation in over a decade. H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, prioritizes improving weather forecasting in the near term as well as over subseasonal and seasonal time frames. This bill does so by focusing research and computing resources on improved weather forecasting, quantitative observing data planning, next generation modeling, and an emphasis on research-to-operations technology transfer. The legislation includes provisions to improve interagency coordination through the Office of Science and Technology Policy and collaboration with the private sector via the permanent establishment of the Environmental Information Services Working Group. The House is expected to take up this bill in the near future. Should the House pass this bill, it would then go to the White House for the President to consider signing into law.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to Hold Two Full Committee Hearings This Week – On Tuesday March 28 the House Science Committee will hold a full committee hearing on prioritizing basic research at the Department of Energy.  The witnesses will be:  Dr. Steven Koonin Director, Center for Urban Science and Progress, New York University; Dr. Venky Narayanamurti Benjamin Peirce Research Professor of Technology and Public Policy, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University; and Mr. Nicolas Loris Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation.  In the Committee’s recent Views and Estimates for FY 2018 Report to the House Budget Committee, they said: “The Committee seeks to prioritize basic research and science at the DOE national labs consistent with H.R. 589, the "Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act," which has already passed the House this Congress. The Committee seeks to enable researchers in all 50 states to have access to world-class user facilities, including supercomputers and high intensity light sources. Government subsidies that pick winners and losers diminish competition and rarely benefit the American taxpayer. A better role for the government is to support investments in basic scientific research in our universities and national labs…. The Committee will seek to prioritize Basic Energy Sciences, Advanced Scientific Computing Research, and Fusion Energy Sciences offset by reducing Biological and Environmental Research…”

The next day, March 29, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on climate science.  The witnesses for this hearing will be:  Dr. Judith Curry, President, Climate Forecast Applications Network; Professor Emeritus, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. John Christy Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, NSSTC, University of Alabama at Huntsville; State Climatologist, Alabama; Dr. Michael Mann Professor, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University; and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. Professor, Environmental Studies Department, University of Colorado.  In that same Views and Estimates report, the Committee said: “Hundreds of millions of dollars in saving are available by reducing NOAA climate change programs and big, government satellite system costs.” For NASA, the Committee will emphasize the Space Launch System and Orion programs in support of manned space flight. The Committee intends on maintaining “…the overall level of investment in NASA by reducing NASA Earth Science funding to $1.45 billion, the level authorized in Committee­ approved H.R. 2039 last Congress, and reallocate the resulting $471 million to Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, the Orion Space Exploration Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, the Commercial Crew Program, and Exploration R&D.”

Both of these hearings are expected to be streamed live from the Committee’s website

Senate Commerce Committee Majority Submits Views and Estimates to Senate Budget Committee – In a letter dated March 10, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee submitted their Views and Estimates for FY 2018 for the agencies and their programs under their jurisdiction.  For the National Science Foundation, the Committee expressed its support for accelerating the commercialization of university research through the Innovation Corps program, supporting STEM education activities, the BRAIN initiative, increasing resilience to disasters, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity research.

For NOAA, the Committee expressed its pleasure that funding for JPSS and GOES-R satellites had stopped increasing.  They expressed level funding within the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) with particular support for the National Integrated Drought Information System.  The Committee expressed its interest in funding research to operations activities.  For the Sea Grant program, the Committee also expressed its support as it fosters community and stakeholder driven research that is beneficial to the Committee’s members.  The Committee’s letter also focused on the improved distribution of Congressional Knauss fellows among Senators from both parties.

For NASA the Committee emphasized the importance of NASA focusing on the agency’s core mission priorities related to expanding human space exploration, traditional sciences, aeronautics, and related research areas.

 DHS Announces $35M Funding Opportunity for New Center of Excellence in Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS). Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities.  These two related funding opportunities are posted at www.grants.gov. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 4, 2017.  DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $35 million through a cooperative agreement.  The overarching goal of the Center will be to research and develop solutions, protocols, and capabilities to support the identification of potential biological threats within the DHS operational environment that could disrupt critical infrastructure supply chains and the operational activities conducted at ports of entry, land borders, and other critical nodes within the supply chain.

The S&T COEs are university consortia that work closely with DHS operating components to conduct research, develop and transition mission-relevant science and technology, and educate the next generation of homeland security technical experts. This COE will be required to engage with operational components and fully understand the operational environment to help better identify technical and training gaps. Each COE is led by a U.S. college or university and has multiple partners from universities, commercial industry, DHS, Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, and other federal state and local agencies.  The notice of funding opportunities for the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense Lead Institution and Partner Institution are available at grants.gov.

 Funding Opportunity Announced by DOD for MURI Program – The DOD Multidisciplinary Research Program of the University Initiative (MURI) has released a federal funding opportunity (FFO) for FY 2018.  The MURI program supports basic research in science and engineering at U.S. institutions of higher education that is of potential interest to DoD. The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts where more than one traditional discipline interacts to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of interest to the DoD. DoD’s basic research program invests broadly in many specific fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge. The FY 2018 MURI competition is for a wide variety of topics listed in the FFO supported by the Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.  Download the FFO here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

President Releases Budget Blueprint for FY 2018 -- Proposes 10% Increase for Defense Spending at the Expense of Nondefense Spending – On Thursday, March 16, the White House released an overview of the FY 2018 budget plan.  Consistent with prior press reports, the Administration’s budget is proposing to increase defense spending in FY 2018 by $54 billion or 10% above the current estimate for FY 2017.  The $54 billion increase for defense comes from major proposed reductions for non-defense programs such as the State Department, foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, NIH, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.  No information on the National Science Foundation’s FY18 budget was included in the blueprint released by the White House.  Information on NSF is likely to be part of the more detailed budget expected to be released in May.

 [Cautionary Note:  comparisons to prior year spending levels should be “taken with a grain of salt” as FY 17 baselines are still in flux in the absence of a year long appropriations bill or continuing resolution.]

The EPA is reduced by 31%; the State Department by 29%; Department of Agriculture and Labor Department, each by 21%; and the Department of Health and Human Services is reduced by 18% with a nearly $6 billion (19%) reduction to NIH which would take NIH down to a level of $26 billion. 

The Department of Commerce is reduced by 16% with dramatic cuts in climate change and ocean research programs at NOAA including $250 million from coastal research programs and elimination of the $73 million Sea Grant program.  At the same time, it appears that core functions such as surveys, charting, and fisheries management have been maintained.  The National Weather Service will be funded at more than $1 billion – a level similar to the FY17 estimate.  With respect to satellites at NOAA, JPSS and GOES-R are maintained while expanding the use of commercially provided data to improve weather models.

The Department of Education is reduced by 14% with $3.7 billion cut from teacher training, after-school and summer programs.  The Department of Energy is down by 6% with a $900 million reduction in the Office of Science.  ARPA-E is proposed for termination.  Within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs are re-focused on limited, early-stage applied research where the Federal role is stronger. 

NASA is funded at $19.1 billion, a 1% decrease from the estimated FY 2017 level.  A reduction of just over $100 million is taken from NASA Earth Sciences and proposes the termination of four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR earth viewing instruments and CLARREO Pathfinder), and provides an unspecified reduction in Earth Science grants.  The budget eliminates NASA’s office of education.

Research and development at EPA is reduced to $250 million, a reduction of $233 million from the estimated level for FY 2017.  EPA R&D would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants. The EPA budget eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than the 2017 annualized CR levels. The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities. 

The budget provides more than $900 million for DOI’s U.S. Geological Survey to focus investments in essential science programs. This includes funding for the Landsat 9 ground system, as well as research and data collection that informs sustainable energy development, responsible resource management, and natural hazard risk reduction. 

Other programs slated for large proposed reductions and/or elimination include: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the ChemicalSafetyBoard;  theCorporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission;  the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United StatesInteragencyCouncil on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

 In addition to Defense, Homeland Security is up by 7% and Veterans programs increase by 6%.

White House Supplemental Request for FY 2017 Seeks $18 billion Reduction in Nondefense Spending with Five Months Remaining in the Fiscal Year – As part of the Administration's FY 2018 Budget Blueprint, on the last page of the blueprint, is a table that proposes an increase of $25 billion in the existing defense spending cap for 2017 and a $3 billion increase for the "Border wall and implementation of executive orders."  These requests are partially offset with a decrease of $18 billion to the non-defense cap. There is no further detail on the Administration's requested increases, nor on the non-defense accounts recommended for reduction. As you may know, currently the U.S. Government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2017 and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working to complete the FY 2017 spending bills before the CR expires on April 28, seven months into FY 2017.  The table shows that the impact on non-defense spending would be a 3% reduction.  But with just 5 months left in the fiscal year to absorb that $18 billion reduction, an across the board cut may be greater than 3%, if the Appropriations Committee support the FY 2017 supplemental request.

The Appropriations Committees Chairmen have issued brief statements on the overall Budget Blueprint:  Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS), "President Trump's budget request underscores his commitment to make the nation more secure through increased defense and homeland security funding.  I commend his focus on national security.  I look forward to receiving additional details about the request, which will help the Congress in making final funding decisions. The House and Senate are making progress on resolving the outstanding issues with the remaining FY2017 appropriations bills.  I encourage all Senators to work in good faith to complete our work on FY2017 appropriations before April 28."

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), "Our Committee will take a close look at the budget and supplemental requests we received today. As directed under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. While the President may offer proposals, Congress must review both requests to assure the wise investment of taxpayer dollars. Over the next several weeks, our Committee will work quickly to complete the 2017 Appropriations bills, analyze and make decisions on supplemental funding for national and border security, and begin the task of funding the federal government for 2018. I'm optimistic that we can strike a balance that will enable us to fund the federal government responsibly and address emergency needs, while ensuring this legislation will clear the Congress." 

 White House Issues Executive Order on Reorganization of Agencies and Programs – On March 13, the White House issued an Executive Order calling on all agencies within 180 days to submit to the Director of OMB a proposed plan to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.  The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions.  The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.

House Science Committee Transmits Views and Estimates Report to House Budget Committee – In advance of the President’s budget for FY 2018, in a letter dated March 10, 2017, the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology sent a report to the House Budget Committee outlining the Science Committee’s priorities for FY 2018.  The Committee states that it seeks “to increase support for basic research in the physical sciences…” The report goes on to say the Committee intends to enact reauthorizations of appropriations for the agencies under its jurisdiction including NIST, NSF, the DOE Office of Science and NASA.  For NSF, the Committee’s report says “The Committee will require that NSF research funding be appropriated at the Directorate level with 70% of the research funding allocated to the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, the Biological Sciences Directorate, and the Engineering Directorate.”

For the DOE Office of Science, the Committee says, “The Committee seeks to prioritize basic research and science at the DOE national labs consistent with H.R. 589, the "Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act," which has already passed the House this Congress. The Committee seeks to enable researchers in all 50 states to have access to world-class user facilities, including supercomputers and high intensity light sources. Government subsidies that pick winners and losers diminish competition and rarely benefit the American taxpayer. A better role for the government is to support investments in basic scientific research in our universities and national labs…. The Committee will seek to prioritize Basic Energy Sciences, Advanced Scientific Computing Research, and Fusion Energy Sciences offset by reducing Biological and Environmental Research…”

For NOAA, the Committee intends to prioritize weather programs.  The report goes on to say, “Hundreds of millions of dollars in saving are available by reducing NOAA climate change programs and big, government satellite system costs.”

For NASA, the Committee will emphasize the Space Launch System and Orion programs in support of manned space flight. The Committee intends on maintaining “…the overall level of investment in NASA by reducing NASA Earth Science funding to $1.45 billion, the level authorized in Committee­ approved H.R. 2039 last Congress, and reallocate the resulting $471 million to Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, the Orion Space Exploration Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, the Commercial Crew Program, and Exploration R&D.”

Senate Commerce Committee Democrats Release Recommendations for FY 2018 – On March 10, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, along with the rest of his Democratic colleagues, released a letter addressed to the Senate Budget Committee laying out their FY 2018 views and estimates for the agencies under their jurisdiction.  Their recommendations are expressed as changes relative to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) January 2017 baseline.  The Democrats on the committee layout their strong support for science and technology funding for NSF, NIST, NOAA, and NASA.  Download a copy of their letter here.

Joint Ocean Commission Releases Ocean Action Agenda – The Joint Ocean Commission has released a new report this week entitled, Ocean Action Agenda – Supporting Regional Ocean Economies and Ecosystems.  The report is addressed to the new Administration and provides a series of recommendations that will help ensure a vibrant and healthy future for the country, an ocean and a Great Lakes nation.  The key recommendations focus on the following broad areas:  promote healthy and safe ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes communities and economies; promote and support regional ocean collaboration; sustain leadership on international ocean issues; close critical gaps in ocean science to spur economic growth; demonstrate leadership in the Arctic; sustain a healthy economy by supporting healthy ecosystems; promote sustainable fisheries that support healthy ecosystems and coastal communities; encourage sustainable approaches to offshore energy development; and provide consistent financial support for ocean and coastal priorities.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

President to Propose 10% Increase for Defense Spending at the Expense of Non-defense Spending – This week the White House provided a preview of the FY 2018 budget plan they expect to submit to the Congress in mid-March.  According to many press reports, the Administration’s budget will propose to increase defense spending in FY 2018 by $54 billion, about a 10% increase in defense spending.  The $54 billion increase for defense comes from an identical reduction for non-defense programs such as the State Department, foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, NSF, NIH, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. 

Under this plan non-defense spending would be 11% below this year’s level.  Moreover, the reductions in specific non-defense spending would likely be even larger than 11%.  Accounting for the increase in Veterans Administration (VA) funding that Congress has already approved for 2018 and assuming that Congress doesn’t cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security below current levels, the cut to all other non-defense discretionary programs would be 15%. If Congress raises homeland security funding above this year’s level, to boost funding for border security, cuts in other non-defense programs would have to be even deeper.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that under the Administration’s reductions, non-defense spending will be 16% below the 2010 level, adjusted for inflation.

Press reports are suggesting the reduction at the State Department and foreign aid could approach 37% and EPA could see a 25% reduction.  Other programs said to be slated for large proposed reductions and/or elimination include: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Legal Services Corporation; AmeriCorps; the White House Office of National Drug Policy; and the Export-Import Bank.  The shift in spending likely to be proposed by the White House will require Congressional approval to amend the Budget Control Act which sets in law spending levels or caps for defense and non-defense programs.  It will require 60 votes in the Senate to bring up legislation to amend the spending caps as well as to proceed to consideration of appropriations bills that implement the President’s proposed budget changes.  Congressional leaders have given such proposals a lukewarm reception cognizant of the fact that putting such legislation on the floor of the Senate requires more votes than the Republicans currently have.

In about two weeks, the White House is expected to release some “top line” numbers – a so-called “skinny budget” -- summarizing their FY 2018 budget plan and programmatic priorities.  The White House has said that in developing its list of budget reductions their focus is on reducing duplication, eliminating unauthorized programs, and eliminating activities for which a federal role is inappropriate.  Many of the reductions are likely to be drawn from budget blueprints published by the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee. A more complete set of budget details for FY 2018 is expected in late April or May.

Confirmations Move Ahead – On February 27, the United States Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross to the be next Secretary of Commerce by a vote of 72 to 27.  Mr. Ross was quickly sworn in by Vice President Pence and began his tenure as the 39th Secretary of Commerce.  More on Wilbur Ross can be found here.  On Friday, February 17, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be EPA Administrator by the vote of 52 to 46. On March 1, 2017, the Senate confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke from Montana to be the next Secretary of the Interior by a bipartisan vote of 68 to 31.

NSF Hearing Before House Research and Technology Subcommittee – The Director of the National Science Foundation is expected to testify before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology on March 9.  Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) is expected to chair this hearing.  This will NSF’s first opportunity to testify on its programs and activities since the 115th Congress convened in January.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

FY 2017 and FY 2018 Federal Budget Update – It is being reported that the Congressional leadership has asked the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to resume their negotiations on a final year long FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.  Currently the federal government is operating on a stop gap funding measure known as a Continuing Resolution (CR).  The current CR runs until the end of April whereupon it either gets extended, replaced by a year long appropriations bill, or expires and the federal government shuts down.  There are numerous budgetary and political issues that need to be addressed within this appropriations act(s) prior to it being sent to the White House.  Such issues include additional defense spending and funding for the start of the wall President Trump promised during the campaign.

As for FY 2018, it now appears the Trump Administration is planning to release an overview of their FY 2018 budget proposals in mid March.  The new Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Representative Mick Mulvaney, was confirmed by the Senate on February 16, 2017 and was immediately sworn in.  Agencies are due to received their budget guidance from OMB as early as Friday, February 24.  The current statutory funding levels for FY 2018 are approximately $4 billion below the level for FY 2017.  The Trump Administration is expected to propose a budget that seeks to raise defense spending, while scaling back significantly on non-defense discretionary programs.  This budget proposal will be released while many agencies still lack new Presidentially appointed officials to manage the agencies and make policy.

Accomplishments of the U.S. Global Change Research Program -- Established under the Global Research Act of 1990, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has provided strategic planning and coordination to 13 participating federal agencies working to advance the science of global environmental change. This new report highlights accomplishments of the program, both in through its coordinating work and the many synthesis and assessment products it has published to share research findings with decision makers and the public. 

One of the first priorities of the program was to address the need for a global observational system. Today there is a large and growing portfolio of global measurements from space designed to inform global change science. Other demonstrable contributions of USGCRP include significant improvements in Earth-system modeling capabilities and advancement in understanding of carbon-cycle processes. USGCRP has also made considerable strides in making scientific knowledge more useful to decision makers. For example, it has documented substantial increases in heavy downpours in most regions of the United States over the past 50 years, which can cause flooding that overwhelms the existing infrastructure of sewers and roads. Awareness of such trends can help governments, businesses, and citizens respond accordingly in many realms, including agriculture, conservation, and human health. 

In the face of increasing impacts from climate change and other global changes, the report recommends that the USGCRP build on its accomplishments by sustaining, expanding, and coordinating observations of the Earth system and maintaining a balanced program of discovery-driven and use-inspired research to support the needs of the nation at local, regional, national, and global scales. USGCRP will need to make further progress in incorporating the social sciences into its work to provide the information needed to effectively and efficiently manage current and likely consequences of global change.  Download the report here.

Aquaculture Funding Opportunity Announced by Sea Grant - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking research grant funding applications for its national initiative "... designed to foster the expansion of sustainable U.S. marine, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture. Successful applications must outline integrated projects that clearly address major constraints, barriers, or hurdles limiting United States aquaculture production ..." - Eligible applicants include "... any individual; any public or private corporation, partnership, or other association or entity (including any Sea Grant College, Sea Grant Institute or other institution); or any State, political subdivision of a State, Tribal government or agency or officer ..." - NOAA anticipates having approximately $12,000,000 in total available grant funds for the program with an award ceiling of $1,000,000.  Download a copy of the solicitation here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Natural Resources Committee Approves Oversight Plan for New Congress – On February 7, the House Natural Resources Committee approved and released its agenda for the 115th Congress (2017-2018).  This committee has jurisdiction for a wide portfolio of environmental issues such as public or federal lands and national parks, energy and minerals, wildlife, water and power, and oceans.  Under the energy and minerals section the Committee calls out outer continental shelf oil and gas and the coastal zone management act for oversight and review: The committee will examine and conduct oversight of the Coastal Zone Management Act and its implementation and impacts on OCS oil and gas exploration and development. Furthermore, the Committee will review coastal zone management programs with expired authorizations and determine if such programs need to be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

With respect to federal mapping programs the committee’s plan says:  The federal government has spent billions each year on new geospatial data. This spending, including tens of billions in the stimulus act, is frequently wasteful, duplicative, and uncoordinated. During hearings in previous congresses, witnesses were clear that multiple Administrations have had this problem with little control, central oversight, or effective management. Going forward with the new Administration, the Committee intends to reexamine this issue and may consider legislation to simplify the Department’s geospatial programs for greater efficiency. Furthermore, the Committee intends to conduct oversight of federal agencies and how they track and monitor their land management responsibilities and purposes.

On the subject of oceans, the committee’s plan focuses on budget and spending issues, reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act, the National Ocean Council, and ensuring fishing access in light the recent expansion of marine national monuments by the previous Administration.  Below is the “oceans section” of the committee’s plan.  Download a copy of the committee’s entire plan here

Budget and Spending Review - The Committee will conduct oversight of the budgets of the National Marine Fisheries Service and certain “wet” programs of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce. In addition, programs under NOAA that have lapsed authorizations will need to examined to determine if such programs ought to be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Reauthorization – The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-479) is the primary statute regulating commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters. The Act was last reauthorized in the 109th Congress and a number of issues related to the reauthorization were examined by the Committee in the 114th Congress. In the 115th Congress, the Committee will look closely at the Act and how the Executive branch has implemented its authorities. Furthermore, the Committee will review programs with expired authorizations under the statute to determine if such programs should be reauthorized, updated, or terminated.

 National Ocean Council and Ocean Zoning - Through an Executive Order, the previous Administration created a new National Ocean Council (NOC) and a structure for a new Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning initiative, otherwise known as ocean zoning. The Committee will continue to examine the authority used to create this entity and initiative, what sources of funding it has used, and what effect any new policy initiatives from the NOC will have on other departments and agencies.

 Ensuring Access - The Committee focused extensively on legislative and oversight efforts aimed at ensuring fishing access to our oceans’ resources in the 114th Congress. With the recent expansion and designation of marine national monuments, the Committee will focus on the impacts of such Executive branch declarations have on access as well as other actions that have hindered commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters. 

Scientific Integrity Act Introduced in Senate – Earlier this week Senator Bill Nelson, with the co-sponsorship of 25 other Senators, introduced a bill to protect science and scientists from political interference.  The legislation is designed to ensure that federal scientists can communicate their findings with the public, new media, and Congress.  It also requires federal agencies to implement and enforce scientific integrity policies and ensure procedures are in place to report instances when integrity policies are violated.  A copy of the bill, as introduced, can be downloaded here.

Former Astronaut to Serve on the National Science Board -- Ellen Ochoa, Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and a veteran of four space flights, is the National Science Board’s (NSB) final member of the class of 2022.  Dr. Ochoa is Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center based in Houston, Texas. She previously served as Deputy Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Center. From 1990 – 2007, Dr. Ochoa was an Astronaut at the Center and first traveled to space in 1993 when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She flew three additional missions, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Previously, Dr. Ochoa was Branch Chief and Group Lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center and began her career as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories after receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University.  Dr. Ochoa is a co-inventor on three patents and holds NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In October 2016, the White House appointed new members W. Kent Fuchs, President of the University of Florida, Victor R. McCrary, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Morgan State University, Emilio F. Moran, Professor at the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations at Michigan State University, and Julia M. Phillips, Executive Emeritus of Sandia National Laboratories.  President Obama reappointed Arthur Bienenstock, Professor Emeritus of Photon Science at Stanford University, W. Carl Lineberger, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado, and Anneila I. Sargent, Professor of Astronomy at California Institute of Technology to each serve a second six-year term. Together with Ochoa, these eight members will serve on the NSB until May of 2022.

Call for Nominations: Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program -- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). This standing committee provides ongoing and focused advice to the USGCRP. The committee convenes key thought leaders and decision makers at semiannual meetings, provides strategic advice and reviews, and supports climate communication activities across the Academies. The committee is supported by the expertise of many units across the National Academies. Its membership is broadly constituted to bring expertise in all the areas addressed by the USGCRP, spanning the physical, ecological, and social science of global change. Some areas of expertise particularly needed at this time include (but are not limited to): climate dynamics and variability, Earth system modeling and observations, atmospheric composition and circulation, hydrology and hydrological modeling, extreme event risk, and energy technologies.  Members typically serve 3-year terms with an option to reappoint after the first term. Nominations are sought for the next rotation in membership to be conducted in the summer of 2017.  More information can be found here.

Fellowship Opportunity: Gulf Research Program -- The National Academies' Gulf Research Program is accepting applications for its 2017 early-career research fellowships and science policy fellowships. These fellowships offer early-career researchers and professionals in the social and behavioral sciences, health and medicine, engineering and physical sciences, earth and life sciences, and relevant interdisciplinary fields a unique opportunity to focus on leadership development while conducting research or work that is relevant to the mission and goals of the Gulf Research Program. Learn more and apply here.

NSF to Host The Arc of Science: Research to Results on February 15 -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) are hosting The Arc of Science: Research to Results on Wednesday, February 15. The Capitol Hill event will highlight NSF-funded researchers and include remarks from Dr. France Cordova, the Director of NSF and leadership from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. See the invitation for details and to register.

NIH’s All of Us Research Program Releases Funding Opportunity -- The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) All of Us Research Program (formerly the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program) within NIH Office of the Director has issued a new funding opportunity for organizations interested in helping engage volunteers. The funding opportunity is open to national and regional organizations, as well as local community groups. The program is designed to support activities to promote enrollment and retention in the All of Us Research Program across diverse communities. All of Us, unlike the majority of NIH-supported research, is not focused on a particular disease or population. The program is intended to "serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions." The agency plans to launch the All of Us program later this year.

New Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events Accepting Nominations for Steering Committee -- The Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events, a new organization of stakeholders seeking to improve our understanding, prediction of, and response to extreme environmental events, is soliciting applications and nominations for individuals to serve as inaugural members of its steering committee. More details about this emerging alliance as well as nomination procedures can be found here.  Applications are due on February 28, 2017.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Announces Its Top Priorities for This Congress — In a press release, dated February 1, 2017, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced the following issues as the Committee’s top priorities for the 115th Congress.  These issues include:  

Cutting Government Red Tape, Emphasizing Sound Science at EPA: The Science Advisory Board Reform Act and the Secret Science Reform Act, both passed by the House of Representatives last Congress, will be revisited to further highlight the Environmental Protection Agency’s need to use sound science and transparent data to justify its rules and regulations. Additionally, the committee intends to examine the Social Cost of Carbon.

Reforms to Department of Energy Programs: The committee will continue to prioritize basic research at the Department of Energy, and will work to limit spending on late-stage commercialization programs that distort the energy market. Critical reforms are needed to ensure the Department of Energy spends limited federal research dollars on discovery science that the private sector cannot conduct, not loan guarantees and subsidies. DOE is the largest sponsor of federal research in the physical sciences, and provides over 30,000 researchers access to scientific facilities here in the U.S. each year. The committee will also prioritize investments in user facilities and research infrastructure, and will work to enact key reforms for the DOE national labs. These bipartisan efforts may help ensure that labs can effectively partner with privately funded, innovative entrepreneurs to discover the next technology breakthrough.

STEM Education and Reauthorization of NSF and NIST Programs: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education initiatives are a priority for the committee along with initiatives including computer science. The READ Act, STEM, and major facilities reforms will be addressed under the paradigm of the National Science Foundation. Cybersecurity will continue to be of critical importance as our nation moves forward, and reauthorizing the National Institute of Standards and Technology programs is needed to prioritize the labs and protect our country from vulnerable technologies that lead to cyberattacks.

Oversight of FDIC Cybersecurity Failures, FISMA, and Ongoing Investigations: The technology used at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been subject to cybersecurity breaches and has subsequently prompted questions on the FDIC’s mismanaged response to China hacking into their systems. The issue has caused a lengthy investigation which will likely conclude in early 2017. The committee will continue to conduct government-wide cybersecurity oversight under its FISMA jurisdiction.

Constancy of Purpose within NASA: The Committee will continue to ensure that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pursues a balanced portfolio of programs reinvigorated with bold exploration objectives. Building upon the progress made towards development of the Space Launch System, Orion, and the commercial crew and cargo programs, the committee will ensure NASA stays the course and leads the world in not only space exploration, but also space science.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee to Hold EPA Sound Science Hearing — On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on EPA.  The purpose of this hearing is to examine the EPA’s process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision making activities. Witnesses will discuss how EPA can pursue environmental protection and protect public health by relying on sound science. The witnesses include:  Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Partner, Bracewell LLP; Dr. Kimberly White, Senior Director, Chemical Products and Technology, American Chemistry Council; The Honorable Rush Holt, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science; and Mr. Jason Johnston, Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law; Director, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, University of Virginia School of Law.

NSF Solicits Entity to Manage and Operate Geospace Facilities in Alaska and Canada — NSF is soliciting proposals to manage and operate each of the two Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) observatories located at Poker Flat, AK, and at Resolute Bay, Canada. The two AMISR facilities will serve national goals in Geospace science research and education.  The successful applicant would work closely with NSF and the Geospace scientific community to ensure that each AMISR facility supports, sustains, and advances frontier Geospace science. In cooperation with NSF and within available resources.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF to Support New Entity called Tomorrow’s Internet Project Office — To support the ongoing activities and expanding capabilities of CISE mid-scale computing research infrastructure, NSF will support the work of Tomorrow's Internet Project Office (TIPOFF or "Project Office"). Working closely with the U.S. academic and industry research communities in distributed computing and networking, TIPOFF will assume responsibility for the operation and administration of the GENI infrastructure, as well as its future design and development. A key role for TIPOFF is to lead the community in adapting and recasting current platform resources in light of new research community needs and emerging national priorities. Many of these needs and priorities have been discussed among the research community at events such as the "Beyond Today's Internet" series of workshops held in early 2016.

As part of the establishment of IPOFF, NSF anticipates the formation of an independent, community-led advisory entity (the "Steering Group") to represent the views of stakeholders -- including users, experimenters, developers, hosting institutions, industry, and educators -- in future mid-scale networking and distributed computing research infrastructure. TIPOFF and the Steering Group will together develop and participate in a new governance structure guiding the future evolution of the Platform. TIPOFF and the Steering Group will establish research priorities for the Platform jointly with NSF, with the goal of supporting new research directions. It is anticipated that TIPOFF will have considerable flexibility in leveraging the current platform. Depending on the stakeholders' degree of technical ambition, TIPOFF can reshape the existing platform resources into an entirely new and reimagined infrastructure to meet research community needs and national priorities.  Consult the solicitation for additional information here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Secretary of Commerce Nominee on Science at NOAA – As part of the hearing process for the Senate Commerce Committee’s consideration of the nomination of Wilbur Ross to be the next Secretary of Commerce, Senator Nelson asked Mr. Ross about his views regarding the causes and impact of sea level and ocean temperature changes.  Mr. Ross responded by putting aside the question of what is causing these changes and instead suggested focusing focus on the impacts of such changes.  Mr. Ross said, in his January 23, 2017 letter to Senator Nelson that the Department of Commerce should continue to research, monitor, and report on weather and climate information because that information is essential to everyday commerce and the safety of or citizens and communities.  Mr. Ross went on to say, “…one of my first orders of business will be to begin meeting with NOAA scientists to become fully briefed on what they are seeing with respect to weather and climate information and how the Department can ensure that the National Weather Service continues to make advances to improve the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasting. I also look forward to meeting with scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service to learn how changes in ocean temperature patterns are affecting fishery stocks and allocation decisions. In addition, I look forward to learning about NOAA's ongoing efforts to assist coastal communities in coping with changes in sea level rise and storm intensity...As you know from my hearing responses, I believe science should be left to scientists. If confirmed, I intend to see that the Department provides the public with as much factual and accurate data as we have available. It is public tax dollars that support the Department's scientific research, and barring some national security concern, I see no valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public. To be clear, by peer review I mean scientific review and not a political filter…”


National Association of Marine Laboratories to Hold Annual Public Policy Conference – On March 5 and 6, 2017, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will hold its annual public policy conference in Washington, D.C.  March 5 will be limited primarily to association and member business matters.  On March 6, speakers from NOAA, NSF, the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and like-minded non-governmental groups will meet with the NAML membership to provide advice and analysis on the current and future public policy environment for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research and education.  Register for the meeting here.  Register for hotel accommodations here.


Ocean Research Advisory Panel Prepares Recommendations for the New Administration – The Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP) is a non-federal statutorily established committee appointed by the Secretary of Defense.  ORAP provides independent advice and recommendations to the heads of the federal agencies with ocean-related missions.  For several weeks ORAP has been working to develop their own set of recommendations and ocean and coastal research issues for the incoming Trump Administration.  The ORAP report will likely be released in the coming weeks and is expected to include such recommendations as:  calling on the new Administration to sustain U.S. leadership in science and technology by building a workforce that excels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; rebuild the nation’s research infrastructure in the ocean and along the coasts; and sustain the U.S. lead in ocean science and technology and the new blue economy.


Heather Wilson, President of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Nominated as Air Force Secretary -- President Trump intends to nominate Dr. Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico representative and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, to be the next Air Force secretary. Dr. Wilson is now president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, a position she has held since 2013. If confirmed, Dr. Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to ever serve as secretary. She graduated in 1982, as part of the third class to admit women in academy history. She also was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, where she studied international relations and earned masters and doctoral degrees.  She would replace former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who left office on Friday with the Obama administration. Dr. Wilson left the Air Force in 1989 to join the National Security Council as its director for European defense policy and arms control. She represented New Mexico in the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009, and chaired the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. She also served on the House Armed Services Committee and was a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 


NSF Releases Solicitation for the Management of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting proposals to manage and operate the Arecibo Observatory (AO). The AO is a multidisciplinary research and education facility. AO’s cornerstone research instrument is a 305-meter diameter fixed spherical reflector, located on approximately 120 acres of U.S. Federal Government-owned land near Arecibo, Puerto Rico. AO conducts research in passive radio astronomy, solar system radar astronomy, and space and atmospheric sciences.  n cooperation with NSF and within available resources, the proposer will plan and execute a viable program of research and/or education, consistent with the objectives and priorities of the scientific community. The recipient will manage the facilities and equipment provided by NSF, and will provide support and technical personnel to manage AO as a well-integrated research and/or education facility. A significant portion of the AO program should be carried out in collaboration with its stakeholder communities, and other collaborators. NSF anticipates greatly reduced and decreasing funding over the life of this effort, to a total of $2M per year by the end of the five-year project period (and pending availability of funds). A viable proposal must demonstrate a feasible and reasonable approach to managing and operating AO in the face of the projected funding reductions.  A copy of the solicitation, with additional information, is available here.


DARPA to Establish Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research to develop and publish consensus operational safety standards for on-orbit rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) and robotic servicing operations. The awardee will establish and manage a consortium, to include both private sector and government technical experts, and entitled “Consortium For Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations,” or CONFERS. CONFERS will leverage experience and best practices from both the private sector and Government and will make their published standards publicly available. DARPA intends to fund CONFERS through an administrator (performer) described as a “Secretariat” who will oversee the standards research effort and transition CONFERS into a sustained, self-funded organization. Under the contract, the performer is responsible for standing up the consortium, selecting its membership, setting the agenda for the consortium, managing its operations, and leading the standards research process. More information on this funding opportunity is found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Francis Collins Asked by Incoming Administration to Remain as Head of NIHScienceInsider is reporting that President-Elect Trump has asked Francis Collins to remain as the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for the time being.  As is the case with many Federal agency leaders, Dr. Collins serves at the pleasure of the President and unless explicitly requested to remain, it was expected he would be stepping down as the Obama Administration comes to an end.  Press reports indicated that Dr. Collins had expressed interest in remaining at NIH. 

NSF Director has a Term by Statute -- At the National Science Foundation, the Director – Dr. Francis Cordova – has, by law, a six year term.  As such, the NSF Director does not normally offer his or her resignation to an incoming Administration as most other Presidential appointees do.  Dr. Cordova is expected to remain as the head of NSF and has been actively working with the President-Elect’s transition team assigned to cover NSF.

DOE Issues Scientific Integrity Policy Statement – in one of his last acts as Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz has issued a scientific integrity order that establishes a policy intended to (1) ensure a culture of scientific integrity; (2) strengthen the actual and perceived credibility of the Federal Government and Federal Government sponsored research; (3) facilitate the free flow of scientific and technical information consistent with privacy and classification standards and applicable laws, regulations, and DOE Orders and Policies; and (4) establish principles for conveying scientific and technological information to the public.  The cornerstone of the scientific integrity policy at DOE is that all scientists, engineers, or others supported by DOE are free and encouraged to share their scientific findings and views. This includes federal staff, including the heads of departmental elements and heads of field elements, scientists and engineers at DOE laboratories and field sites, other contractors who support the R&D mission, and financial assistance recipients. These personnel are also free to share their personal views and opinions on scientific or technical related policy matters, provided they do not attribute these views to the U.S. Government. A copy of the DOE policy statement and order can be downloaded here.