A Periodic Federal Science Update

Omnibus Appropriations Act Signed, Next Step Agency Spending Plans and FY 2019 Hearings– Now that the President has signed the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations act, agencies are moving to develop their FY18 spending plans.  These are plans the agencies prepare detailing their planning expenditure of the resources provided via the FY18 omnibus appropriations act.  Agencies’ plans will reflect their initial budget plans, guidance provided by the Congress via bill and/or report language, and their subsequent interpretation of the guidance provided by the Congress.  Generally, these spending plans are provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 45 days after the omnibus is signed into law.  The Committees provide comments to the agencies regarding their spending plans.  While the Committees usually don’t formally approve these plans, the agencies pay particular attention to the reaction and comments they receive from the Committees as they finalize their spending plans for the balance of the fiscal year.  Usually program directors await the finalization of the spend plan process before they are able to communicate to their stakeholders any details about resource availability for FY 2018.  As a result, it could take until May or June for agency program directors to be able to discuss the level of detail needed by prospective principal investigators.

NSF Seeking Nominations to Advisory Committees -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) requests recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical Federal advisory committees. Recommendations should consist of the name of the submitting individual, the organization or the affiliation providing the member nomination, the name of the recommended individual, the recommended individual's curriculum vita, and an expression of the individual's interest in serving. Self-recommendations are accepted. Each Directorate and Office has an external advisory committee that typically meets twice a year to review and provide advice on program management; discuss current issues; and review and provide advice on the impact of policies, programs, and activities in the disciplines and fields encompassed by the Directorate or Office. In addition to Directorate and Office advisory committees, NSF has several committees that provide advice and recommendations on specific topics including: Astronomy and astrophysics; environmental research and education; equal opportunities in science and engineering; cyberinfrastructure; international science and engineering; and business and operations. A primary consideration when formulating committee membership is recognized knowledge, expertise, or demonstrated ability. Other factors that may be considered are balance among diverse institutions, regions, and groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Committee members serve for varying term lengths, depending on the nature of the individual committee. More information, including a list of NSF’s advisory committees, can be found here.

NSF Funding Opportunity Related to Ocean Observatories Initiative Facility Board (OOFIB) -- The OOI is a large-scale ocean observing system constructed and deployed under NSF sponsorship and oversight as a Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Project.  The system includes an integrated network of cabled and uncabled arrays of instrumentation, distributed in various coastal and global ocean locations, to facilitate Ocean Science research. The OOI is managed and operated under a Cooperative Agreement that is currently being re-competed.  An Ocean Observatories Initiative Facility Board (OOIFB) has been established by the NSF to provide independent, community-based input and guidance to the NSF and the OOI operator relating to OOI operations and maintenance.  The solicitation invites proposals for an Administrative Support Office to assist the OOIFB in carrying out its responsibilities to the OOI Program.  More information on this opportunity can be found here.

DOD Releases MURI Program Announcement -- 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 fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge. The FY 2019 MURI competition is for the topics listed in Section II. I, entitled, “SPECIFIC MURI TOPICS,” The detailed descriptions are intended to provide the applicant a frame of reference and are not meant to be restrictive to the possible approaches to achieving the goals of the topic and the program. Innovative ideas addressing these research topics are highly encouraged. Proposals from a team of university investigators are warranted when the necessary expertise in addressing the multiple facets of the topics may reside in different universities, or in different departments in the same university. By supporting multidisciplinary teams, the program is complementary to other DoD basic research programs that support university research through single-investigator awards. 

DOD Releases FY 2019 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) -- This announcement seeks proposals from universities to purchase equipment and instrumentation in support of research in areas of interest to the DoD. DoD interests include the areas of research supported by the Army Research Office (ARO), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR. A central purpose of the DURIP is to provide equipment and instrumentation to enhance research-related education in areas of interest and priority to the DoD. DoD areas of research interest are published at the following internet locations: Army Research OfficeOffice of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

USGS Announces Funding Opportunity for Earthquake Hazards Research -- The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program (EHP) issues this annual Announcement for assistance to support research in earthquake hazards, the physics of earthquakes, earthquake occurrence, and earthquake safety policy.  This activity is authorized by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977.  A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

Funding Opportunity at National Geospatial Intelligence Agency -- The NGA mission is to provide timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) in support of national security objectives. GEOINT is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. GEOINT consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information. NGA offers a variety of critical GEOINT products in support of U.S. national security objectives and Federal disaster relief, including aeronautical, geodesy, hydrographic, imagery, geospatial and topographical information. The NGA Academic Research Program (NARP) is focused on innovative, far-reaching basic and applied research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics having the potential to advance the GEOINT mission. The objective of the NARP is to support innovative, high-payoff research that provides the basis for revolutionary progress in areas of science and technology affecting the needs and mission of NGA. This research also supports the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG), which is the combination of technology, systems and organizations that gather, produce, distribute and consume geospatial data and information. This research is aimed at advancing GEOINT capabilities by improving analytical methods, enhancing and expanding systems capabilities, and leveraging resources for common NSG goals. The NARP also seeks to improve education in scientific, mathematics, and engineering skills necessary to advance GEOINT capabilities. It is NGA’s intent to solicit fundamental research under this BAA.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

Army Rapid Capability Office Funding Opportunity Announced -- This Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), W56JSR-18-S-0001, is sponsored by the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO). The RCO serves to expedite critical capabilities to the field to meet Combatant Commanders’ needs. The Office enables the Army to experiment, evolve, and deliver technologies in real time to address both urgent and emerging threats while supporting acquisition reform efforts. The RCO executes rapid prototyping and initial equipping of capabilities, particularly in the areas of cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), as well as other priority projects that will enable Soldiers to operate and win in contested environments decisively. And estimated $50 million is available for this program.

NSF Announces Funding Opportunities for Management and Operation of the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) Facilities -- NSF is soliciting proposals to manage and operate both of the NSF-owned faces of the Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR) observatories that are located at Poker Flat, AK, and at Resolute Bay, Canada. These two observatories are managed and operated as a single facility which serves national goals in Geospace science research and education. These facilities are designated as Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) and Resolute Bay Incoherent Scatter Radar - North Face (RISR-N), respectively. Awardees will work closely with NSF and the Geospace scientific community to ensure that each AMISR observatory supports, sustains, and advances Geospace science. In cooperation with NSF and within available resources, the Awardees will plan and execute a viable, coherent, and inclusive observing program to support Geospace research and education. AMISR activities will be carried out with guidance and oversight from NSF and through a peer review process. A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

Meeting of the DOE/Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee – The Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) will meet in open session on April 25 and April 26, 2018.  The meeting will take place at the Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg, 620 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, Maryland.  The tentative agenda includes the following topics:  News from the Office of Science; News from the Office of Biological and Environmental Research; Updates from the Biological Systems Science and Climate and Environmental Sciences Divisions; and Updates on data science programs.  More information on this meeting can be found here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) to Hold Briefing on Federal Support for Climate and Environmental R&D – On Friday, March 16 at 2PM Eastern the EESI will offer a briefing on the new report released by Novim which discusses the impact of the Administration’s budget for climate and environmental R&D.  Speakers at this forum include:  Michael Ditmore, Executive Director of Novim, Ari Patrinos, Chief Scientist for Novim; and Kei Koizumi, Visiting Scholar from the AAAS.  The briefing will take place in room 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.  A live webcast of the briefing will be streamed at 2PM EST here.  

Important Science Hearings This Week Before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – On Wednesday, March 14, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the current state of the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.  Witnesses for the national lab hearing include:  Dr. Mark Peters, Director, Idaho National Laboratory;  Dr. Susan Seestrom, Advanced Science & Technology Associate Labs Director and Chief Research Officer, Sandia National Laboratory;  Dr. Mary E. Maxon, Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory;  Dr. Chi-Chang Kao, Director, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, National Accelerator Laboratory; and Dr. Paul Kearns, director, Argonne National Laboratory.  On Thursday, March 15, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the NSF’s FY 2019 Budget Request. Testifying for NSF will be NSF Director, Dr. France Cordova, and NSB Chair, Dr. Maria Zuber.

Air Force Announces FY 2019 Funding Opportunity for Young Investigators -- The FY 2019 Air Force Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) provides support for scientists and engineers who have recently received their Ph.D. or equivalent degree.. The program objective is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering. Individual awards are made to U.S. institutions of higher education, industrial laboratories, or non-profit research organizations where the principal investigator is employed on a full-time basis and holds a regular position. YIP primary investigators must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident. Most YIP awards are funded at $150,000 per year for three years, for a total of $450,000.  More information on the YIP program can be found here.

NSF Announces Support for the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Advancing Cognitive and Physical Capabilities (FW-HTF) -- The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) is one of 10 new and far-sighted Big Ideas for Future Investments announced by NSF in 2016. NSF aims to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the changing landscape of jobs and work by supporting convergent research to: understand and develop the human-technology partnership; design new technologies to augment human performance; illuminate the emerging socio-technological landscape and understand the risks and benefits of new technologies; and foster lifelong and pervasive learning with technology. In order to be nimble and responsive to new opportunities and challenges as they are recognized, focus areas for the FW-HTF solicitation, the centerpiece of the FW-HTF Big Idea, may change from year to year. This solicitation focuses on advancing cognitive and physical capabilities in the context of human-technology interactions. The solicitation, which anticipates providing $27 million to support two themes: Theme 1 will focus on Foundations for Augmenting Human Cognition and Theme 2 will focus on Embodied Intelligent Cognitive Assistants. In shaping projects responsive to these two themes, PIs consider the importance of understanding, anticipating, and shaping the larger implications at the individual, institutional, corporate, and national levels, including issues arising from the needs or consequences for training and education. In addition, projects should be framed in terms of their focus on the potential contribution toward (a) transforming the frontiers of science and technology for human performance augmentation and workplace skill acquisition; (b) improving both worker quality of life and employer financial metrics; (c) enhancing the economic and social well-being of the country; and (d) addressing societal needs through research on learning and instruction in the context of augmentation.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NSF Announces Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers (ERC) -- In response to a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM study], the ERC program is piloting a planning grant opportunity in advance of the next ERC solicitation.  The ERC program is placing greater emphasis on research that leads to societal impact, including convergent approaches, engaging stakeholder communities, and strengthening team formation, in response to the NASEM study recommendations. The ERC program intends to support planning activities leading to convergent research team formation and capacity-building within the engineering community. To participate in the upcoming ERC competition, one is not required to submit a planning grant proposal nor to receive a planning grant.  More information on ERC planning grants can be found here.

Senator Wicker and Senator Schatz Introduce Legislation Related to Unmanned Maritime Technology – On March 7, Senators Wicker and Schatz introduced the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act.  An identical version of this bill was introduced in the House and is co-sponsored by Reps. Palazzo and Panetta.  The CENOTE bill directs NOAA to coordinate its development of unmanned maritime systems with universities, the private sector, and the Navy. NOAA would be required to use unmanned technologies to address mission requirements. The data collected from these missions will be made accessible to the public, benefiting commercial, academic, and national security interests. 

NIH Solicits Comments on Strategic Plan for Data Science – On March 5, the NIH released a Request for Information (RFI) for comments and suggestions from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community regarding the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science.  The NIH seeks comments on any of the following topics:  the appropriateness of the goals of the plan and of the strategies and implementation tactics proposed to achieve them; opportunities for NIH to partner in achieving these goals; additional concepts that should be included in the plan; performance measures and milestones that could be used to gauge the success of elements of the plan and inform course corrections; and any other topic the respondent feels is relevant for NIH to consider in developing this strategic plan.

NSF Dear Colleague Letter on Space Weather Operations to Research Proposals – The NSF’s Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and Astronomical Sciences Divisions are supporting the National Space Weather Action Plan (SWAP) by calling for proposals as part of a 1-year pilot program that will facilitate operations to research (O2R) activities needed to improve space weather prediction. O2R covers a broad range of activities designed to ultimately improve operational capabilities and fundamental research related to these needs. This can include testing, evaluating, and enhancing operational models.  The National Space Weather Action Plan (SWAP) released by the National Science and Technology Council describes actions that are needed to improve the understanding of, forecasting of, and preparedness for space weather events. An overarching theme of the SWAP is the need for collaboration amongst the research and operational communities. A key aspect of this collaboration is the research to operations (R2O) and operations to research (O2R) pipeline. Recognizing the challenges related to this pipeline, SWAP calls upon agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), to support efforts to facilitate the transition of space weather data and modeling capabilities to the Nation's space weather prediction providers and provide feedback from prediction providers to the research community on new research activities needed to improve the operational models. NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are conducting independent pilot activities to improve forecasts of the background solar wind, solar wind structures, and coronal mass ejections using solar and solar wind data and models, if possible employing data assimilation techniques.  The DCL can be found here.

NSF Calls for Proposals on Replicability and Reproducibility -- The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) encourages submission of proposals that target reproducibility and replicability efforts in data-intensive domains and that specifically rely on analysis of neuroimaging or neuroelectric data, including electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, electrocorticography and functional neuroimaging.  These areas are being emphasized for support across several content domains, given increased cognizance of potential concerns about analytic assumptions and derived workflows and increased community awareness of the need to define and publicize best practices for analyzing, documenting, managing and disseminating large datasets. More information on this initiative can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Negotiators Working to Finalize FY 2018 Omnibus – House and Senate Appropriators are working to resolve their differences and complete a full year omnibus appropriations bill for all non-defense discretionary programs by March 23.  This will include funding for NSF, NOAA, NIH, USGS, NASA, EPA and many other agencies including Transportation, Homeland Security, and Interior.  Earlier this month Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation that raised the statutory spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs.  The statutory spending limits for defense and non-defense programs were increased by 15% and 12% respectively for FY 2018 and by a similar amount for FY 2019 by new two year budget agreement.  This replaced the Administration’s original proposal for FY 2018 which sought to reduce non-defense programs by 10% and increase defense programs by 10%.  With the spending cap on non-defense raised, the Administration offered suggestions as to where to add back spending for FY 2018 should be directed including: $819M to get NSF back to the FY 2017 level; $300M for NASA programs; and $239M for NOAA’s polar satellite program.

NSF Releases Details of its FY 2019 Budget Request – The National Science Foundation (NSF) released more detailed information regarding President Donald J. Trump's Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 NSF budget request to Congress.  The FY2019 budget request would represent a $7.47 billion investment in strengthening the nation's economy, security and global leadership through research in cutting-edge science and engineering. At this proposed level of funding, steady with FY2017 congressional appropriations, NSF would continue its work supporting research that advances national priorities such as growth in manufacturing, defense and cybersecurity.

While continuing to support the programs and offices that help maintain the nation's preeminence in innovation, NSF would accelerate the progress of its "10 Big Ideas for Future Investments" in FY2019, dedicating funding and resources to high-priority areas that integrate multiple fields of science and engineering and create opportunities to partner with industry, private foundations, other federal agencies and the education sector.

Through its Big Ideas Stewardship Funding Model, NSF would commit $30 million to each of six research-focused Big Ideas, for a total of $180 million. Those Big Ideas are: Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR); The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier (FW-HTF); Windows on the Universe (WoU): The Era of Multi-messenger Astrophysics; The Quantum Leap (QL): Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL): Predicting Phenotype; and Navigating the New Arctic (NNA).

In response to questions about how the Big Ideas impact funding levels for existing NSF programs the agency said,

Increasingly, collaboration and convergence are necessary to achieving NSF's mission. The Big Ideas and the Convergence Accelerators NSF would prioritize in FY2019 are prime examples of this. NSF must leverage innovation across all supported fields of research to remain at the frontiers of science and engineering. NSF's investment in the Big Ideas and Convergence Accelerators is not a zero-sum game. The fundamental research underlying the Big Ideas has been supported through many NSF programs for a number of years, and in some cases, for decades. This budget request is a reflection of the changing model of science and engineering research today, which defies existing stovepipe thinking and encourages innovative approaches to research through leveraging resources across all fields of science.  NSF will continue planning budget levels for individual programs when the final FY2019 budget is passed.”

The budget request also calls for NSF to invest $60 million in two Convergence Accelerators -- new vehicles to leverage resources across the agency to support the most innovative science, pursuant to the HDR and FW-HTF Big Ideas. The remaining four Big Ideas, which focus on enhancing processes and practices to improve U.S. science and engineering, are emphasized in the budget request as well. This emphasis includes $20 million for NSF INCLUDES, which focuses on creating networks to broaden participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Other highlights under the budget request:

·       The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science (AIMS) construction project would receive $103.7 million. NSF manages all U.S. activities on the continent as a single, integrated program, making Antarctic research possible for scientists supported by NSF and other U.S. agencies.

·       Cybersecurity research would receive $160.6 million, supporting projects that protect and preserve cyber systems while ensuring preservation of individual privacy and usability.

·       NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™), which works to bridge the gap between discoveries and commercialization of technologies, would receive $30 million.

·       CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service, which supports cybersecurity education and research at higher education institutions, would receive $55 million and engage undergraduate students, with a focus on veterans.

NSF’s annual budget would represent approximately 27 percent of the total federal budget for basic research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities -- 60 percent when medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health is excluded.  In FY2019, NSF would expect to evaluate approximately 50,600 proposals through its competitive merit review process and make approximately 11,100 new competitive awards. NSF expects that over 93 percent of its FY2019 requested budget would be used to fund research and education grants and research infrastructure in the science and education communities.

Senate Confirms Neil Jacobs for Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA – On February 15 the Senate, by a voice vote, confirmed Neil Jacobs to be the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite & Information Services.  Dr. Jacobs was nominated in October 2017.  Before coming to NOAA, Dr. Jacobs was Chief Atmospheric Scientist for Panasonic Avionics Corporation.  During his confirmation process, Dr. Jacobs outlined the top three challenges facing NOAA which include: improve weather forecasting and modeling; increase observational and predictive resource capabilities; and manage satellite costs.  Read Dr. Jacobs’ answers to the Senate Commerce Committee’s questionnaire on his views and experience related to serving at NOAA here.  The nomination of Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator remains pending in the Senate.

Department of Interior Seeks Comments on List of 35 Critical Minerals – The Department of the Interior announced it is seeking public comment by March 19, 2018, on a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the U.S. Executive Order 13817 directed DOI, in coordination with other agencies, to publish a list of critical minerals in the Federal Register for review and comment.  The USGS compiled the list and is seeking comments on its proposed list.  The draft list of minerals includes 35 mineral commodities, such as aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare-earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy. Under the Executive Order, a “critical mineral” is a mineral identified to be a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.  The list of critical minerals and information on commenting on the proposal can be found here

DARPA to Hold Proposers Day for Forthcoming Solicitation -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is sponsoring a Proposers Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of an anticipated Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the SIGMA+ initiative (sensors thrust). The Proposers Day will be held on March 7, 2018 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Executive Conference Center (4075 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22203). The event will be webcast for those who would like to participate remotely. Advance registration is required both for attending the Proposers Day in person and for viewing the webcast. The SIGMA program began in late 2014 as an effort to significantly advance scalable detection capabilities against radiological and nuclear (RN) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats from non-traditional, clandestine attack vectors. SIGMA developed and networked thousands of high-capability, low-cost detectors to demonstrate large-scale, continuously streaming physical sensor networks for the RN interdiction mission. SIGMA capabilities have been tested and operationalized with federal, state, and international partners.  The SIGMA+ initiative will build on SIGMA by developing a persistent, real-time, early detection system for the full spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) WMD threats at the city-to-region scale. Specific targeted capabilities for each threat mode will focus the envisioned sensor, advanced intelligence analytics, and adversary modeling developments under one shared infrastructure and ubiquitous mobile sensing strategy.

NAML, COL, and Sea Grant Association Meetings in Washington Next Week – Numerous organizations concerned with funding for ocean and coastal science and education will be meeting in Washington next week in an effort to inform agency and Congressional decision makers on the importance of strengthening the investment in research and education.  The National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will be meeting on Sunday and Monday (March 4 and 5).  Scheduled to meet with NAML members will be senior officials from NSF and NOAA.  The agenda for the NAML meeting can be found here.  The Sea Grant Association is meeting on Wednesday and Thursday and will also hear from senior NOAA leadership as well as meeting Members and Congressional staff to discuss fully funding the Sea Grant program in FY 2019.  The Consortium for Ocean Leadership will hold its annual Public Policy Forum on Wednesday.  The theme for this day long policy forum is partnership building.  More information on the COL Public Policy forum can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Overview of the Administration's FY2019 Budget Request for
Selected Federal Agencies' Science and Engineering

Prepared by Joel Widder and Meg Thompson
Federal Science Partners LLC
February 14, 2018

On February 12, the administration released its FY2019 Budget Request.  The President's budget features significant increases in DOD and other defense programs, a plan for a $1.5 trillion public-private multi-year infrastructure initiative with a proposed $200 billion in Federal funding, and, once again, dramatic reductions in specific non-defense programs (such as NIH, NSF, NOAA, and EPA).  

OMB Budget Adjustments Due to Bipartisan Budget Agreement for FY2018 and FY2019 -- As OMB finalized the FY 2019 Budget, the Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to significantly raise the defense and non-defense discretionary spending caps in FY2018 and FY2019, and the President has signed these new caps into law. In light of the BBA, the administration also transmitted an "Addendum to the President's FY2019 Budget to Account for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018."  

"As reflected in the FY2019 Budget, the Administration strongly supports the overall defense spending levels included in the bipartisan cap deal. However, given the current fiscal situation, the Administration is not proposing a Budget at the new non-defense caps. The Administration does not believe these non-defense spending levels comport with its vision for the proper role and size of the Federal Government. However, we believe it is prudent to lay out the Administration's roadmap for how to account for these higher non-defense spending levels in a responsible manner. This addendum includes additional funding for a limited set of Administration priorities…"

The administration requests total defense discretionary spending of $716 billion, the same as the newly raised defense cap.  The defense budget is expected to track with the National Defense Strategy which emphasizes strategic competition with China and Russia means which calls for investing in advanced capabilities, rather than solely increasing the size of the force. Similarly, the strategy's language on force employment suggests a recalibration in favor of preserving readiness at the expense of some presence activities that are not focused on improving the military's ability to deter or respond to conflict.

For non-defense spending, the administration requests $540 billion, the addendum adds $75 billion to the FY2019 Budget, but this is still $57 billion below the newly raised non-defense cap agreed to last week that allows non-defense spending of $605 billion. The request for non-defense programs brings total non-defense spending to about the FY2017 level. 

The President's budget also contains workforce reduction plans for many agencies.  These plans rely on hiring freezes, buyouts, and provisions making it easier for agencies to release or terminate the employment of Federal employees.

Similar to the FY2018 request a large number of non-defense discretionary programs are proposed for elimination including:  Sea Grant and other ocean and coastal grant programs, and the NOAA Office of Education, a reduction of some $273 million; the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (a reduction of $305 million); the USAID Global Climate Change Initiative; and five Earth Science Missions at NASA including Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud; ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth-viewing instruments, and Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder (a savings of $133 million).  

Agencies slated for closure in the proposed budget include the Corporation for National and Community Service, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The FY2019 Budget moves the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to within the National Institutes of Health, but reduces the funds currently supporting AHRQ.  With the new spending caps in place for FY2019 and this being an election year, Congress can be expected to oppose many of these reductions.

For the National Science Foundation (NSF), the administration's addendum would provide an additional $2.204 billion to NSF, bringing the FY2019 NSF request to a total of $7.472 billion, the same as the FY 2017 appropriated amount. The Administration's budget shows that without the addendum, it would have requested a reduction of 30% below the FY2017 level.  With the addendum, Research and Related Activities increases by 2%, while NSF Education and Human Resources would remain at the FY2017 level.  Funding for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would decline by 56% or $120 million.  

The increase for the Research & Related Activities account will allow NSF to invest in priority areas centered on accelerating focused, cross-disciplinary efforts around two of the NSF Big Ideas - The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, and Harnessing the Data Revolution.  The requested increase would also support beginning construction on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science project. The reduction for the Major Research Equipment & Facilities Construction account is largely due to the support for two new Regional Class Research Vessels. 

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Administration is requesting $4.6 billion NOAA which is $1.1 billion or 19% below the FY 2017 level.  NOAA is not included as one of the "add backs" in the addendum.  Notable terminations in the NOAA budget include: Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants and Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, the National Estuarine Research Reserve Systems, NOAA Education programs, arctic research, the Prescott grant program, the reef fish stock assessment program, the Big Earth Data project, and the Research Transition Acceleration Program.  Those programs proposed for substantial reductions include: elimination of the climate competitive research activity (this was a $60 million program in FY 2017); the ocean exploration program, reduction in the IOOS program of $11 million; reduction in the tsunami warning system ($11 million); reduction in numerical weather prediction models and the national water model; reduce the ocean acidification research activity by $2.4 million; regional climate centers would be reduced by $2.4 million; and reduce the marine debris program by nearly $500,000.

Areas or programs where NOAA is proposing modest increases despite an overall bottom line that declines by nearly 20% include: restore core capabilities at the National Weather Service; support increased costs for NOAA aircraft facility; improve disaster preparedness; strengthening NOAA's future satellite capabilities; maintenance of core geospatial and oceanographic data and products; and facilitate commercial space marketplace.

With respect to aquaculture, a priority area for the Department of Commerce and NOAA, support for NOAA's Office of Aquaculture is proposed to be $9.3 million, an amount equal to the FY 2017 level.  The aquaculture research component within Sea Grant (approximately $9 million in FY 2017) is eliminated as part of the Administration's proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program.  Also eliminated via the Sea Grant proposal would be the Knauss Fellowship program and other Sea Grant education activities.

NOAA Research (Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research - OAR) would decline in this budget proposal to a level of $321.7 million which is about 37% below the comparable FY 2017 level.  In addition to the proposed termination of Sea Grant and other ocean and coastal grant programs, other notable reductions include:

"    $60 million reduction in various climate research activities;
"    $14 million reduction for weather related cooperative institutes and laboratories;
"    $9 million to eliminate the joint technology transfer initiative;
"    $16 million reduction to ocean exploration;
"    $2.4 million reduction to ocean acidification - dropping from $10.4 million in FY 2017 to $8 million in FY 2019.

The National Ocean Service (NOS), in the FY 2019 budget request would decline by nearly 30% from the FY 2017 level. In the Navigation, Observations, and Positioning program support would decline by $7 million via the elimination of a single-year grant to the joint ocean and coastal mapping center in Mississippi and the elimination of geospatial modeling grants. The IOOS Regional Observations program would decline by about 30% or $11 million to a level of $19.4 million.  The $10 million competitive research program in Coastal Science and Assessment would be eliminated.  The Coastal Science, Assessment, Response and Restoration would increase relative to FY 2017 by $773,00 to a level of $74 million.  Coastal Zone Management Grants and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System programs would be terminated.  Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas would be funded at $49.7 million which is about $1 million below the FY 2017 level.

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) would decline to $837.3 million which is about 15% below the FY 2017 level.  Under this proposal NMFS would terminate the Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding program, Interjurisdictional Fisheries Grants, Cooperative Enforcement Program with coastal states and territories to enforce marine conservation law; and reef fish stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA's Enforcement Program is proposed to decline by $18 million or 26% below the FY 2017 level.  Such a reduction could adversely impact NOAA's efforts to detect and deter Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and enforce restrictions on imports of illegally-harvested and improperly-documented seafood.

The National Weather Service is requesting $1.1 billion which is virtually equal to the FY 2017 level.  Within this budget, NWS would increase its support for the restoration of core capabilities; increase by $5 million its Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) updates; and enhance the resilience and reliability of integrated dissemination program applications.  Areas slated for reduction include $15.5 million to reduce surface and marine observations by reducing the National Mesonet Program; reduce the tsunami warning program by $11 million; reduce the investment in the National Water Model; reduce the NWS information technology workforce by $10 million through consolidation of IT support services; reduce the NWS workforce by nearly 250 positions by implementing the Operations and Workforce Analysis plan; save $2 million by terminating aviation science research to operations efforts; save $1.2 million via the consolidation of the Climate Prediction Center and Weather Prediction Center; reduce investment in numerical weather prediction modeling by $5 million; terminate NWS support for the COASTAL Act which among other things produces detailed post-storm assessments in the aftermath of severe storms; reduce by $3 million support for the National Water Model; 

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget request for FY2019 is $19.9 billion, an increase of about 1.2% over the FY2017 level; these numbers include the addendum that added $300 million to NASA's request.  NASA's Science Account would be funded at $5.9 billion which is 2.3% over the FY2017 level. The addendum specifies that the additional $300 million in the Science account would support lunar science research and technology development of future power systems for solar system exploration.  Within the funding for the Science Account, Earth Science would decline to $1.784 billion which is 7% below the FY2017 level.  Earth Science would see the cancellation of five Earth Science Missions at NASA including Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud; ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth-viewing instruments, and Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder.  

The Department of Defense (DOD)-- The FY 2019 Budget Request for DOD's Base Budget is $647 and an additional $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account for a total budget of $716 billion (Base +OCO).  Total DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation level is $92.4 billion.  Of this amount, $18.6 billion is slated for the Navy which represents an increase of 8.3% over the FY 2017 level.  

Within the Navy, basic research would grow to $597 million, an increase of 6%.  Within the 6.1 program, Defense Research Sciences would increase to $459 million which is an increase of 8.5%.  At the same time, University Research Initiatives would decline by almost 2% (down to $119.4 million).  Navy applied research (6.2) and Navy advanced technology development (6.3) would each decline by 9%.

DARPA would grow by nearly 17% to $3.4 billion.  Basic research within DARPA is proposed to increase to $470 million which is a 12% increase.  DARPA applied research (6.2) grows by 15% and DARPA advanced technology development (6.3) increases by 18%.

For the National Institutes of Health, the Budget requests a total of approximately $34.8 billion, plus supplemental funding to help address the opioid epidemic.  This includes the additional $9 billion included in the addendum. However, the administration's proposal would consolidate the activities of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) into a National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ) under the auspices of NIH. Similarly, programs currently administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are also shifted into the NIH portfolio. Thus, while the overall NIH budget would appear to increase, many programs across the Institutes and Centers could be adversely impacted by those consolidations. 

At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Categorical grants to help fund State environmental program offices and activities for such activities as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. The administration proposes to reduce many of these grants and eliminate others declining by $469 million from the FY2017 level of $1 billion.  In the addendum, the administration adds $724 million to EPA:  an additional $327 million to the Hazardous Substance Superfund account largely for the Superfund Remedial program, and an additional $397 million to the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF). The Administration is proposing to terminate most the Geographic Programs such as the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Puget Sound programs.  For the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding would drop from $300 million to $30 million.  The National Estuary program would be reduced to zero from its FY 2017 level of $27 million.  Beach and fish programs would also be zeroed out.  Water Quality Research Projects, worth a total of $12.6 million that were added in by the Congress in FY 2017 would be terminated.  Overall R&D at EPA would decline by 37% under this budget proposal.

For the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Administration is requesting $860 million, $223 million or 25% below the FY 2017 level.  The 2019 budget provides $92.3 million for Core Science Systems. This is $23 million below the FY 2017 level.  The budget includes $50.9 million for the National Geospatial Program, a reduction of $16 million.  Within that $16 million reduction is a proposed reduction of $7.3 million for 3DEP.  The National Cooperative Geological Mapping Program would be funded at $23 million, a reduction of $2 million from the FY 2017 level. The request provides for continued collection of high-resolution elevation (3DEP) and hydrography data for the Nation, including modernizing maps for Alaska and complete national lidar coverage by 2033. The budget also includes $22.4 million for leveraged geologic mapping activities in coordination with States, which are important for infrastructure, resource development, and mitigation of hazards. Support for Earthquake Hazards would decline by nearly $13 million below the FY 2017 level. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is slated to receive $129 million in appropriations (an increase of $17 million) plus $50 million in offsetting collections from offshore rental receipts and other cost recoveries.  In 2019, BOEM will continue to advance renewable energy through a leasing program and streamlining of its permitting and National Environmental Policy Act processes. The BOEM continues to support renewable energy development spurred by the renewable energy goals of coastal States.

Department of State's Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) program would be funded at a level of $65.9 million, an amount similar to FY 2017.  Funds will be used to support countries to phase out ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol to protect U.S. citizens from skin cancer and cataracts and support global market-leading U.S. companies by promoting global adoption of advanced air conditioning and refrigeration technology. Funds will also be used to meet the annual commitment to Pacific Island partners, which secures access for U.S. vessels to lucrative fishing grounds thus supporting economic opportunities for Americans.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Passes CR Until March 23 While House and Senate Agree on Raising Defense and Non-Defense Spending Caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019 – Facing a deadline of February 8, early this morning the Congress passed and sent to the President the fifth continuing resolution (CR) to keep the Federal Government operating until March 23.  At the same time, Congressional negotiators reached an agreement to increase the statutory spending caps for both Defense and Non-defense programs for FY 2018 and FY 2019.  The agreement would raise the total level of spending by about $300 billion over two years.

Under the spending cap agreement, the FY 2018 statutory Defense cap would be raised by $80 billion or 15%.  The Non-defense cap by $63 billion or 12%. For comparison purposes, the Administration’s FY 2018 budget request released last May proposed to increase Defense by $54 billion or 10% and reduce Non-defense by $54 billion or 10%.  The agreement also includes new spending caps for FY 2019 with an increase of $85 billion for Defense programs and $68 billion for Non-defense spending programs over the current respective spending caps in the Budget Control Act for FY 2019.

The budget agreement includes funding for four more years for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), bringing the previous six-year extension to a full decade. The agreement recommends $2 billion (over two years) for NIH research, and $20 billion for infrastructure spending that will go toward "existing" projects for water and energy infrastructure as well as expanding broadband to rural regions and surface transportation. In addition, the budget agreement recommends:  $6 billion over two years for combating the opioid epidemic and mental health; $5.8 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant Act; $4 billion to rebuild and improve VA Hospitals and Clinics; and $4 billion for programs that aid college affordability. Specific funding levels for these and other programs will be determined by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they work to develop a yearlong appropriations bill for FY 2018 ostensibly by March 23.

The agreement also includes $89.3 billion emergency funding in response to recent natural disasters.  Highlights of the supplemental appropriations package include:

·      $23.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund, the primary funding source for immediate disaster response. The funding will support response and recovery efforts, including assistance to state, territory, possession, and local governments, to cover total estimated needs for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and FY2018 estimated needs for Hurricane Maria 

·      $17.4 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, largely targeted for projects to reduce the risk of future damages from flood and storm events.

·      $22 million for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to repair damages to 14 ARS-owned facilities and equipment resulting from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

·      $18 million for assessments and removal of marine debris from areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

·      $40 million for mapping and charting affected coastlines and navigation channels that are critical for transportation and commerce.

·      $42.1 million to repair or replace federal facilities and observing assets damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which are necessary for forecasting and responding to future hurricanes and storm events.

·      $100 million for improving weather forecasting capabilities and data collection efforts to better protect lives and property in the wake of future hurricanes.

·      $200 million for fishery disasters causing severe economic harm in coastal communities following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as disasters declared in 2017.

·      $81 million to repair facilities damaged at NASA’s Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers.

·      $16 million to repair damaged federally-owned radio telescope facilities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

·      $42.2 million for U.S. Geological Survey to repair and replace damaged stream gages and seismic monitors as well as conduct assessments and collect mapping data in order to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

·      $200 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for health recovery response, including: surveillance and abatement of vector-borne, food-borne, water-borne, and other infectious diseases that arise as the result of hurricanes.

·      $50 million for National Institutes of Health to provide funding to rebuild research efforts and physical infrastructure.

·      $100 million for institutions of higher education, and students at those institutions, in areas affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.

·      $1.374 billion for the FHWA Emergency Relief program to make repairs for highways damaged by disasters.  Removes the annual cap on emergency relief funding for territories, consistent with all states. Puerto Rico is also provided 100 percent federal cost share for damages resulting from Hurricanes Irma, and Maria for FY 2018-2019.

Assuming the CR and these new spending caps are signed into law, appropriators will use these new levels to complete their negotiations on, and enact into law, a yearlong omnibus FY 2018 appropriations bill by the time the new CR expires on March 23.  

On February 8, the Administration issued its Statement of Administration Position (SAP) on the spending agreement.  Overall, the White House supports the agreement, particularly the increased spending for Defense programs.  However, on Non-defense programs the SAP says,

…it is critical that the Congress work to decrease non-defense spending…to reduce America’s growing national debt. The Bipartisan Budget Act provides non- defense discretionary spending levels higher than the Administration deems necessary. Additionally, although the Bipartisan Budget Act does include some spending reductions, the Administration has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending reductions that the Congress should also enact without delay in order to improve our fiscal state...

The President’s FY 2019 Budget Request is scheduled to be released next week on February 12.  Most observers expect, and the SAP reinforces this expectation, that despite the increase in the new spending caps for FY 2019, the White House budget request for FY 2019 Non-defense programs (such as research, education, climate programs, National Parks, health centers, etc.) will be at least as disappointing, if not more so, than it was for the FY 2018 request.  

Congress will have the new higher spending limits for FY 2019 to use when reviewing and ultimately acting on the President’s Budget request for FY 2019.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Federal Government Funded Until February 8 – The Federal Government is operating under the authority of a fourth limited stop-gap funding resolution – a Continuing Resolution (CR) – that runs until February 8.  House and Senate negotiators are continuing discussions regarding either another extension of the CR and/or new spending limits for defense and non-defense spending for FY18 and FY19.  These new spending limits are important pre-requisites for completing the pending FY18 appropriations bills.  Other issues impacting the negotiations on an extension of the current CR include immigration and border security issues. 

NIH Asking for Research Ideas for Use of Data Collected by All of Us Research Program – The NIH All of Us Research Program is working to build one of the largest, most diverse datasets of its kind for health research, with one million or more volunteers nationwide, who will sign up to share their information over time. Researchers will be able to access participants’ de-identified information for a variety of studies to learn more about the biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence health and disease. Their findings may lead to more individualized health care approaches in the future.  NIH is requesting the science community submit research ideas that would make use of the data being collected.  The information provided will be used at an All of Us Research Priorities Workshop on March 21–23, 2018, to identify key research priorities and requirements (such as data types and methods) for future versions of the All of Us protocol. The deadline for submitting a use case for the All of Us Research Priorities Workshop is February 23, 2018.  Suggestions for research topics should be submitted here.

Dr. James Reilly Nominated to be Director of the United States Geological Survey, Department of the Interior -- Dr. Reilly currently serves United States and allied militaries as a subject matter expert on space operations, and he is a technical advisor supporting the National Security Space Institute of the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Dr. Reilly held management positions in academia, as well as at TAEUS Corp., and PhotoStencil, Corp. in Colorado Springs. During his 13-year career at NASA, he flew 3 spaceflight missions conducting 5 spacewalks for a total of over 856 hours in space. Prior to NASA, he was chief geologist at Enserch Exploration, Inc., working projects around the world including in Antarctica and on the continental slope of the Gulf of Mexico. He earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas.  Dr. Reilly’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Natural Hazards -- Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) chaired a full committee hearing on January 31 to discuss natural hazards, including volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and avalanches, and the effectiveness of early warning monitoring systems to minimize risks and protect local communities. The committee received testimony from experts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Forest Service, the Mayor of Kodiak, Alaska, Washington State Geological Survey, the Alaska Earthquake Center, and Colorado Geological Survey. The accuracy and timeliness of early warning alerts for natural hazard events is critically important for local communities. Dr. David Applegate, USGS associate director of natural hazards, highlighted the capabilities of an ongoing project to improve early warning earthquake monitoring systems, particularly on the West Coast. When the magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska last week, many monitoring systems worked well and alerts were issued quickly, but Dr. Mike West from the Alaska Earthquake Center noted that there were also a number of failures, some of which were not caused by the earthquake. Dr. West concluded his testimony by advocating for redundancies to be built into hazards preparedness plans, in order to avoid lapses in monitoring. 

Senator Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She has introduced or cosponsored several bipartisan hazards bills, including the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act and the National Landslide Preparedness Act, in the 115th Congress. Both bills are included in her broad Energy and Natural Resources Act, which currently awaits consideration on the Senate floor. Senator Murkowski is also the lead cosponsor of S. 1768, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s, (D-CA), National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act. An archived video of yesterday’s hearing is available on the committee’s website.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on America COMPETES Legislation – On January 30, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to review the implementation of the America Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA).  The witnesses were Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); and Dr. Walter Copan, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The hearing was chaired by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) who, along with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) worked together to enact AICA into law.  Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ranking Minority Member of the full committee, used his opening statement to express his concerns about how our international competitors – such as China – are beginning to challenge the U.S. leadership in science and technology.  The Committee and the panelists discussed specific programs and research projects that have resulted in either significant scientific breakthroughs, applications that have spurred economic development, advancements in health care and related technologies, and identified the need to attract more women and minorities into science and engineering.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Aquaculture – On January 30, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) convened a full committee hearing entitled, “Growing the Future: Opportunities to Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture.”  Chairman Thune opened the hearing by noting the promise of domestic aquaculture and seafood production but also noted the “confusing regulatory maze” that confronts those in the U.S. seeking to enter or expand their activities in domestic aquaculture. “Permits for an aquaculture farm may be required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration.  This overlapping web of federal jurisdiction and lengthy, sometimes unending permitting process can take ten years or more – scaring many investors away.  Too often, this results in entrepreneurs taking their skills, talents, and ideas overseas to a more business-friendly environment.”

Witnesses for this hearing included: Mr. Donald Kent, President and CEO of Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute; Dr. Kelly Lucas, Director, Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center; Mr. Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO of Prairie AquaTech; and Mr. Barton Seaver, Director for Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative Center for Health and the Global Environment.  To view an archived version of this hearing as well as copies of the witnesses’ testimony, please click here.   Most of the discussion focused on the benefits of aquaculture as way to provide healthy seafood, enhance coastal economic resiliency, and other benefits.  They also mentioned the important role Sea Grant plays in assisting local communities with these matters.  But witnesses and Members also talked about the complex, and often times uncertain, process of obtaining federal permits and working through other regulatory processes that make it difficult to operate economically viable operations.  Witnesses also discussed the need for sound environmental practices for domestic aquaculture operations and taking advantage of best practices and new technologies.  Witnesses also talked about the importance of research, public private partnerships, education, and outreach for both producers and consumers.

House Science Committee Calls for GAO Report on Sexual Harassment in the Scientific Community – On January 18, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a joint bipartisan letter to the General Accountability Office (GAO) to request a report on sexual harassment by federally funded researchers, specifically looking at NIH, NSF, USDA, DOE and NASA. In the letter, Reps. Smith and Johnson specifically ask for information on Title IX compliance programs at federal grant-making agencies and agency policies and processes related to sexual harassment that may fall outside of Title IX requirements. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 put a system in place designed to ensure that institutions receiving federal funding provide all students, regardless of sex, equal access to educational programs and activities.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Federal Government Reopens While FY 2019 Budget is Delayed Until February 12th. – On Monday, January 22, after a weekend shutdown of the Federal Government, Congress passed, and the President signed into law another Continuing Resolution that keeps federal programs and operations going until February 8, 2018 and extends the Children Health Insurance Program for six years.  An agreement was reached in the Senate after Leader McConnell made a commitment on the Senate floor to take up an immigration bill that would include a fix for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program.  The new CR would need to be addressed the week before the President’s FY 2019 budget request which has been re-scheduled for release on February 12.  The President is scheduled to give his first State of the Union Address on January 30.

NOAA and NASA Nominees Approved by Senate Commerce Committee – on January 18 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee re-approved, along party lines, the nomination of Mr. Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator and Rep. James Bridenstine to be the next NASA Administrator.  Both of these nominations were approved during the first session of this Congress (2017) but since their nominations were not acted upon by the full Senate by the end of the session, they needed to be re-submitted to the Committee for their approval.  Floor action on these nominees has not yet been announced.

Aquaculture Hearing Scheduled for January 30 before the Senate Commerce Committee – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing entitled, Growing the Future: Opportunities to Support Domestic Seafood Through Aquaculture.  The hearing will examine the current state of aquaculture in the United States, future opportunities for offshore, coastal, and inland communities, and the potential impact on the economy.  

Witnesses will includeDr. Kelly Lucas, Director of the Marine Aquaculture Center, University of Southern Mississippi; Mr. Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO, Prairie AquaTech: Mr. Donald Kent, President and CEO, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute; and Mr. Barton Seaver, Chef and Author.  The hearing will take place in 253 Russell Senate Office Building with witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing available here.

NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program Funding Opportunity – On January 24, NOAA announced the FY 2018 NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program. The principal objective of the program is to implement projects that build resilience of U.S. coastal communities and ecosystems. In FY 2018, this solicitation is seeking coastal habitat restoration projects that build resilience by conserving and restoring sustainable ecosystem processes and functions and reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities and infrastructure from the impacts of extreme weather events, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions. This program supports activities that restore or create natural infrastructure and natural landscape features to provide valuable ecosystem functions and services, such as habitat for fish, improved water quality and quantity, flood reduction, and erosion protection. Approximately $10 million will be available to support proposals under this solicitation. A copy of the solicitation is available here.

Department of Energy to Host 2018 ARPA-E Summit -- The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will host its ninth annual Energy Innovation Summit from March 13-15, 2018. The Summit draws thousands of participants from across the United States and internationally to convene a forum on the future of energy innovation. The Summit encourages leaders from industry, government, and academia to build partnerships that shape the direction of public-private cooperation in energy technology.

The Summit will include the Technology Showcase which features more than 275 innovative technologies from across all energy sectors, including prototypes and commercial-ready products—many on public display for the first time. In addition, it will also feature panel discussions and mainstage addresses from leading experts on a range of technology issues affecting energy innovation.  The Summit will be held at the Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.  For more information and to register for the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, please visit here.

ARPA-E Seeks New Concept Papers -- Last month, ARPA-E announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of the agency's latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN will support America’s top innovators through dozens of early-stage research and development projects as they build technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.  ARPA-E has issued previous OPEN solicitations in 2009, 2012, and 2015. The projects selected under OPEN in 2018 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation across the full spectrum of energy applications. The agency collaborates across the department’s extensive research enterprise, providing support that complements existing DOE-wide initiatives. The deadline to submit a concept paper is February 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. E.T.  For additional information on the OPEN funding opportunity, please visit here.

NSF Seeks Proposals to Operate Regional Class Research Vessels -- Planning for construction of new RCRVs for the U.S. Academic Research Fleet (ARF) has been ongoing at the National Science Foundation for more than a decade.  In early 2012 a Solicitation (NSF-12-558) was issued for the design and construction of up to three RCRVs.  That solicitation further indicated that selection of operating institutions for any additional vessels would be conducted by means of a separate competition that would be completed prior to delivery of the first RCRV. This solicitation seeks to select qualified institutions to operate the additional RCRV Class vessels. These institutions shall either have current membership in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) or be capable of becoming UNOLS members prior to taking over responsibility for full vessel operations. Separate proposals are required for each vessel. A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

DARPA Announces PREEMPT Funding Opportunity -- DARPA is soliciting innovative proposals to develop novel and scalable approaches to preempt viral spillover and transmission from animals and/or vectors into humans.  The program is also seeking to support proposals that develop and validate new scalable technologies to target potential human-capable viral pathogens in wild reservoirs and/or mosquito vectors to prevent transmission to humans. This Broad Agency Announcement for PREventing EMerging Pathogenic Threats (PREEMPT) is available here.

NOAA Funding Opportunity: Joint Technology Transfer Initiative -- Through the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI) Program, NOAA Research’s Office of Weather and Air Quality (OWAQ) is soliciting proposals to conduct research and development activities related to advancing data assimilation of new observations and data assimilation techniques for convective-scale weather prediction, improving water prediction capabilities through enhancements to National Water Model, improving daily to subseasonal scale prediction of Arctic sea ice, and communicating forecast uncertainty.  Approximately $2 million is available for grant support.  A copy of the solicitation can be found here.

NSF Funding Opportunity for Antarctic Research -- The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) supports scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.  NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP) provides operational research support for these projects. OPP’s Antarctic Sciences Section (ANT) supports research to 1) expand fundamental knowledge of the Antarctic region, 2) improve understanding of interactions between the Antarctic region and global Earth systems, and 3) utilize unique characteristics of the Antarctic continent as an observing platform. Antarctic fieldwork is supported for research that can only be performed, or is best performed, in Antarctica. ANT encourages research, using existing samples, data, and models, that does not require fieldwork. ANT also encourages research that crosses and combines, disciplinary perspectives and approaches.  More information on this program can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Shutdown Begins – Tonight, facing a January 19 deadline to either extend funding for Federal agencies or shutdown the government, the Senate failed to pass the stop-gap funding resolution that would have extended government funding until February 16.  Senate Democrats in sufficient numbers, opposed the bill because it lacked provisions to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue.  With the defeat of this legislation on the eve of the anniversary of President’s first year in office, the Federal Government has begun the process to shut down and suspend all non-essential operations.  Essential operations will continue such as those associated with national security, air traffic control, Medicare and social security payments.  But most other activities, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the national parks, visa and passport processing, the National Weather Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Gallery of Art, and most other non-defense agencies and programs will be put on hiatus until the Congress and the White House can reach an agreement on funding the Federal Government along with other issues such as DACA, childrens’ health insurance, spending caps for defense and nondefense programs, disaster relief, etc.

NSF Releases Latest Science and Engineering Indicators Report – According to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 released this week, the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations -- especially China -- continue to rise.

The 2018 report shows the U.S. invests the most in research and development (R&D), attracts the most venture capital, awards the most advanced degrees, provides the most business, financial and information services, and is the largest producer in high-technology manufacturing sectors. The complete report, which covers data on the domestic and global science and engineering landscape, is available online.

Dr. Maria Zuber, NSB Chair and Vice President for Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “This year's report shows a trend that the U.S. still leads by many S&T measures, but that our lead is decreasing in certain areas that are important to our country," said. That trend raises concerns about impacts on our economy and workforce, and has implications for our national security.”

According to Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, China's growth in S&E continues at an exceptional pace.  R&D expenditures reflect a nation's commitment to expanding capabilities in S&T, which in turn drive innovation. While the U.S. led the world in R&D expenditures at $496 billion (26 percent share of the global total), China was a decisive second at 21 percent ($408 billion). China has grown its R&D spending rapidly since 2000, at an average of 18 percent annually. Its focus is geared primarily toward development rather than basic or applied research. During the same time frame, U.S. R&D spending grew by only 4 percent. Although emerging economies start at a lower base and therefore tend to grow much more rapidly, China's growth rate is exceptional.

Venture capital investment, which supports the commercialization of emerging technologies, totaled more than $130 billion globally in 2016. While the U.S. attracted the most investment (nearly $70 billion), accounting for slightly more than half of the global share, 26 percent of total venture capital funds went to China. Venture capital in China rose from approximately $3 billion in 2013 to $34 billion in 2016, climbing from 5 percent to 27 percent of the global share, the fastest increase of any economy.

Knowledge and technology-intensive industries -- in which S&T advances are key inputs -- are a major part of the global economy, comprising nearly one-third of world gross domestic product (GDP). America leads in providing business, financial and information services, accounting for 31 percent of the global share, followed by the European Union (EU) at 21 percent. China is the third largest producer of these services (17 percent global share) and continues to grow at a far faster rate (19 percent annual growth) than the U.S. and other developed countries. The U.S. is the largest producer of high-technology manufacturing (31 percent global share). This includes production of aircraft and spacecraft, semiconductors, computers, pharmaceuticals, and measuring and control instruments. China is second at 24 percent, more than doubling its share over the last decade.

Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global economy. According to the most recent estimates, the U.S. awarded the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees (40,000) of any country, followed by China (34,000), Russia (19,000), Germany (15,000), the United Kingdom (14,000) and India (13,000). In contrast, the U.S. lags in bachelor's level degrees. India earned 25 percent of the more than 7.5 million awarded S&E bachelor's level degrees in 2014, followed closely by China (22 percent), the EU (12 percent) and the U.S. (10 percent). Nearly half of all degrees awarded in China are in S&E fields. Since 2000, the number of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded in China has gone up by 300 percent.

Over the past twenty years, students have become more mobile and countries increasingly compete for them as potential recruits for the S&E workforce. International student numbers in the U.S. dropped between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017, with the largest declines seen at the graduate level in computer science (13 percent decline) and engineering (8 percent decline). International students account for over 57 percent of graduate enrollments in computer sciences and engineering in the U.S. These students are a critical component of the U.S. workforce in these high demand fields. Seventy-nine percent of foreign doctoral graduate students choose to stay and work in the U.S. upon completion of their degree.

The business sector is by far the largest performer of R&D in the U.S., accounting for 72 percent of the $495 billion total in 2015. For several years, the annual rise in business R&D performance has accounted for most of the growth in overall U.S. R&D. Of the three main types of R&D -- basic research, applied research and experimental development -- businesses lead in both applied research (58 percent of $97 billion total) and experimental development (88 percent of $314 billion total). Higher education institutions continue to perform the largest share of U.S. basic research (49 percent of $83 billion total).  The business sector also leads in R&D investment, providing 67 percent ($333 billion) of the national total in 2015. In contrast, the federal government -- which was once the primary funder of R&D (67 percent in 1964) -- reached a historic low in 2015, funding 24 percent of the U.S. total. This decline has primarily been due to the faster growth in R&D investment by the business sector. In addition, federally funded R&D has been on a declining trend since 2011 (from $127 billion in 2011 to $120 billion in 2015).

The federal government remains the largest funder of basic research ($36.9 billion, 44 percent of total share), and is the primary driver of both innovative research and the training of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The business sector accounted for $22.7 billion (27 percent of total share) in 2015.

Novim Report Analyzes Impact of Budget Reductions Proposed for Federal Environmental and Climate Research Programs -- The administration’s FY 2018 budget contains $7.8 billion for federally funded CE R&D–a roughly $2 billion (21 percent) drop between FY 2017 and 2018–with significant reductions to most of the thirteen Federal agencies in the climate and environment portfolio. According to a new report released this week by Novim, if the proposed cuts become law, they will have profound impacts on U.S. capabilities, including dismantling programs that provide the scientific basis for policies that protect Americans’ health, economic prosperity, and safety; breaking the chain of longstanding observational and research infrastructure needed for climate and environment modeling; constraining the nation’s ability to detect and understand critical climate and environmental trends and influences on natural resources; curbing the training of the next generation of scientists, resource managers, and decision-makers who translate basic science into climate and environmental policies and approaches; degrading the U.S. Global Change Research program; and restricting the nation’s ability to meet legal and international climate and environment commitments. The report includes a summary of the proposed FY 2018 reductions and a detailed agency-by-agency analysis.  The full report, a fact sheet, and a press release can be downloaded here.

DOD Releases Funding Announcement for New Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP) -- The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 established the “Manufacturing Engineering Education Program,” (MEEP) (10 U.S.C. § 2196) which authorizes the Department of Defense to support industry-relevant, manufacturing-focused, engineering training at United States institutions of higher education, industry, nonprofit institutions, and consortia of such institutions or industry. DOD will administer this new program through the Office of Naval Research (ONR).  The purpose of this program is to establish new or to enhance existing programs (or collections of programs) to better position the current and next-generation manufacturing workforce to produce military systems and components that assure technological superiority for DOD. Interested parties should focus programs on manufacturing education to support one or more distinct manufacturing technologies; e.g. manufacturing of lightweight structures, systems and materials; robotics for manufacturing; manufacturing to exploit nanotechnology; manufacturing of components and systems for power generation, storage, or distribution; manufacturing of multi-functional electronics and/or optical devices; or other manufacturing technologies of regional or industrial sector of interest. Proposed efforts should develop and enhance curricula and programs to effectively develop skills sets needed for students to operate in multidisciplinary design and manufacturing environments, including those for which manufacturing schema are informed by computational tools for modeling and simulation. Students also should be prepared to work effectively in environments where multiple engineering disciplines are engaged during design, development and manufacturing, and where the roles of manufacturers and suppliers in businesses of various sizes, from start-ups to major systems integrators, are optimized.  ONR intends to award approximately three (3) awards for an estimated total value of $5,400,000, subject to the availability of funds. Each individual award will be up to a maximum of $600,000 per year for up to three (3) years.

NOAA Announces $3 Million in Great Lakes Restoration Funding -- NOAA is announcing the availability of up to $3 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant funding for restoration projects in 2018. This federal funding opportunity (FFO) is intended for habitat restoration in the Great Lakes region, supporting healthy ecosystems and resilient coastal communities in Great Lakes states. Special focus for this FFO are locations beyond the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) targeted in previous years. The closing date is March 12, 2018. In 2018, approximately $3 million may be available to institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, commercial (for profit) organizations, and governments of U.S. territories, states, and local municipalities, as well as Native American tribal governments. The amount of funding available for this FFO is subject to FY2018 budget appropriations.  Priority will be given to projects that fulfill the following goals: Creating functional habitats for native fish species migration, reproduction, growth, and seasonal refuge, including improvements for fish passage, wetlands, and nearshore habitats; Restoring sites outside of AOCs including delisted AOCs and AOCs in recovery with all management actions complete; and Ensuring the long term protection of the restored site through partner-supported acquisition of land or a conservation easement at the restored site, or land with an ecological relationship to the restored site  (e.g. land in proximity or within the same watershed). Detailed description and requirements can be found at  http://www.grants.gov/, funding number NOAA-NMFS-HCPO-2018-2005487.

Secretary of Energy Appoints Chanette Armstrong as Director of DOE Office of Technology Transfer – On January 8, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the appointment of Chanette Armstrong to head up the Department’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT).  As the Director of the OTT, Ms. Armstrong’s responsibilities will extend across Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) program offices, its 17 national laboratories and its other research and production facilities across the country. She will also oversee DOE’s Energy Investor Center, the Technology Commercialization Fund, and the coordination of technology transfer activities and best practices across the DOE complex.  In addition to serving as the Director of the OTT, she will also serve as the U.S. Department of Energy Technology Transfer Coordinator, an advisor to the Energy Secretary Perry on technology transfer and commercialization activities. OTT was established in 2015 in order to expand the commercial impact of the Department of Energy’s research and development portfolio to advance the economic, energy, and national security interests of the nation. Ms. Armstrong is a registered patent attorney, holding a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, an M.B.A. from Long Island University, and a J.D. from State University of New Jersey-Rutgers Law School. 

Statement by Leaders of the National Academies on the Political Review of Science Grants – On January 16 the Presidents of the National Academies issued the following public statement:

The highest standards of scientific integrity, transparency, and accountability are critical to maintaining public confidence in our nation’s research enterprise and in the wise use of the public investment in research.  The public expects policymakers and agencies to base those investments on independent advice and assessment from unbiased experts without political interference.  For these reasons, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine view any political review of scientific proposals as inappropriate, as it gives the appearance of political interference in science.  At the same time, we recognize the prerogative of federal agencies to align funding programs with their mission priorities in their calls for proposals and in their requests that reviewers assess the relevance of proposals to agency priorities as one of the criteria in proposal evaluation.

House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus Grows to 66 Members -- The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus welcomed four new members to its growing membership: Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01), Congressman Mark Sanford (SC-01), Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), and Congressman Daniel Donovan (NY-11).  Co-Chaired by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) and Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), the Caucus now has 66 members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, representing diverse districts from across the country.  The mission of the Climate Solutions Caucus is to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate. As determined by the Co-Chairs, the Caucus membership will consist of equal representation by Democrats and Republicans.  The full membership of the Climate Solutions Caucus can be accessed here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Hearing: China’s Pursuit of Emerging and Exponential Technologies – On January 9, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities heard sobering testimony from a number of witnesses in which they described the technological threat China poses to the national security of this Nation.  Mr. William Carter, Deputy Director for the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and others, presented a stark picture of the threat China poses in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, space-based capabilities and anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare and quantum computing.  Mr. Carter said, in his prepared remarks:

Since the Cold War, U.S. national security has been built upon the unparalleled strength of American technology. In the 1950s, the Department of Defense successfully “offset” the Soviet Union’s conventional military superiority by strengthening our nuclear deterrent, and in the 1970s we again cemented our military dominance through innovation in precision munitions, stealth, and a new generation of space based ISR and communications technologies, the so-called “second offset.” Today, this offset dynamic is being reversed. China is pursuing an “offset strategy” of its own to overcome our conventional superiority by winning the race to dominate the next generation of technology…China sees offensive cyber capabilities, anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare tools, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies as key to enabling [China] to win wars in future, high-tech conditions and offset the advantages of the U.S. military, and has made significant strides in all of these areas.

Mr. Carter lays out a number of recommendations the U.S. should undertake in recognition of the growing technological prowess of China.  A central tenant to his recommendations:

“…should be government investment in R&D and innovation. China has realized the essential role that both public and private R&D investments play in technologies like AI, but the U.S. increasingly depends on commercial R&D alone. Corporate research has a major role to play in advancing our nation’s technological capacity, but the developers in these groups are often only focused on projects with immediate and guaranteed commercial applications. There is little incentive for most companies to fund sustained work on exploratory projects with long incubation periods and uncertain prospects for returns like fundamental research into quantum computing. The federal government is in a unique position to be able to support basic research which may not pay off for 20-30 years, but, like the internet, may prove revolutionary (emphasis added)

“Unfortunately, U.S. commitment to support public sector R&D is flagging. After the July 2017 announcement of China’s new AI development plan, local and provincial governments announced billions of dollars of support to the industry, with the cities of Xiangtan and Tianjin alone pledging a collective $7 billion to MI projects. In comparison, total U.S. government R&D investment in AI was $1.1 billion in 2015, and the Trump administration’s proposed budget would have cut the NSF’s AI research funding by 10%. The U.S. government should be expanding, not curtailing, R&D funding for technologies like AI, leveraging research vehicles like DARPA, IARPA, and the national labs to advance our nation’s technological capacity and ensure we are investing in the capabilities our defense and intelligence communities will need to manage emerging threats in the future…”

Mr. Carter’s complete statement can be found here.

On January 18, the National Science Board will release Science and Engineering Indicators 2018.  The 2016 report provided information that suggested East and Southeast Asia countries had narrowed the U.S. lead in research and development.  The new Indicators will be available here once it is released on January 18.

Another Continuing Resolution Will Need to Considered by the Congress – The current stop gap funding legislation – a continuing resolution or CR – will run out on January 19.  Since December, Congressional negotiators have been meeting in an effort to reach agreement on increasing the statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense programs for FY 2018 and FY 2019.  One proposal under discussion would raise the defense cap by $72 billion in fiscal 2018 and $80 billion in fiscal 2019, while increasing the nondefense cap by $45 billion in 2018 and $50 billion in 2019.  If an agreement to re-set the spending caps has actually been finalized, this would allow the Appropriations Subcommittees to complete negotiations between the House and Senate on the details for a year-long omnibus appropriations bill.  To that end, another CR will be needed that will possibly run until mid-February.  Such a plan would presumably give the Appropriations Subcommittees the time they need to finalize their bills for funding for the balance of the fiscal year.

Novim to Release New Report Entitled Warning Signs: Effects of Proposed Federal Funding Cuts to Environmental and Climate Research and Development Programs -- Novim is a nonprofit scientific research group based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that specializes in issues of global controversy.  On January 16, Novim will release its latest report – one that analyzes the impact of the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget for climate and environment research and development (CE R&D).  Warning Signs will look at the impact of the proposed reductions on such issues as research, observations, modeling, assessments, workforce development, and international relations in CE R&D. It will assess the impact of the proposed budget reductions on relevant federal agencies. Warning Signs will be released during a briefing to be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Tuesday, 11AM at 1200 New York Ave. NW in their main auditorium. On January 16, Novim’s Warning Signs report will be available here.

DOD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Announces Funding Opportunity – ESTCP is the Department of Defense's (DoD) demonstration and validation program for environmental and installation energy technologies. The ESTCP Office is interested in receiving pre-proposals for innovative technology demonstrations that address DoD environmental and installation energy requirements as candidates for funding.  The topic areas for this solicitation include: Innovative Technology Transfer Approaches; Long Term Management of Contaminated Aquatic Sediments; Management of Contaminated Groundwater; Detection, Classification, and Remediation of Military Munitions in Underwater Environments; Department of Defense (DoD) Installation Infrastructure Risk Exposure and Resilience Decision Support Tools; Demonstration/Validation of Fluorine-Free Aqueous Film Forming Foam; Energy Efficiency Technology Demonstrations Integrated with Utility Energy Services Contracts (UESC); Effective Use of Utility and Facility Data to Improve the Management, Operation and Maintenance of Facilities; and Large Scale Energy Storage and Microgrids. Additional information including submittal instructions can be found here.  The due date for all pre-proposals is March 8, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET. More information about the solicitation, including instructions and deadlines, is available on the ESTCP website under Funding Opportunities.  ESTCP Director Dr. Herb Nelson and Deputy Director Dr. Andrea Leeson will conduct an online seminar “ESTCP Funding Opportunities” on January 18, 2018, from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET. This briefing will offer information for those interested in new ESTCP funding opportunities. During the online seminar, participants may ask questions about the funding process, the current ESTCP solicitation, and the proposal submission process.

Senate Passes Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act – On January 8, the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, legislation to reauthorize the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) program.  IOOS is a network of federal and regional entities that provide information about the nation's coasts and oceans, as well as the Great Lakes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must: (1) serve as the lead federal agency for the implementation of the IOOS, and (2) establish an IOOS Program Office to oversee daily operations and coordination of the IOOS. The bill outlines the requirements for NOAA as the lead agency. The bill establishes a process for regional associations to certify their regional coastal observing systems. The Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology of the National Science and Technology Council must: (1) conduct an Ocean Chemistry Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment on ocean acidification within a year and every five years thereafter; and (2) develop a plan to deploy ocean acidification sensors prioritized by the threat to coastal economies and ecosystems, gaps in data on ocean acidification, and research needs. The National Science Foundation's research on ocean acidification must include research on: (1) impacts of multiple stressors on ecosystems exhibiting hypoxia (a dead zone that is depleted of oxygen), harmful algal blooms (rapid accumulation of algae), or sediment delivery; and (2) the effects of those impacts combined with changes in ocean chemistry.

Barry Myers Nomination for NOAA Administrator Resubmitted by White House – As expected, this week the Administration resubmitted the nomination of Barry Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers had been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in December but had not yet reached the Senate floor when they adjourned for the Christmas/New Year’s break. The committee will not have to hold another hearing but it will need to vote again on his nomination in order for his nomination to reach the Senate floor.  The nomination of Dr. Neil Jacobs to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA also did not reach the Senate floor last year but his nomination was widely supported.  As a result, it was held over in the Senate which means the Administration will not have to re-submit Dr. Jacobs’ nomination in order for the Senate to take up that nomination.  The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) to be NASA Administrator has also been re-submitted in accord with Senate rules.  Approving Mr. Myers and Rep. Bridenstine will be more complicated than last year when the split was 52-48. In cases where all Democrats are anticipated to vote no, Republicans now can afford to lose only one vote. That would yield a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate.  Two Republican Senators — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) — are dealing with health issues and their attendance in the Senate is uncertain.  Rumors are that between one and three Republicans have reservations about the Bridenstine nomination, so who exactly is in the Senate chamber when the vote is taken could determine the outcome.  It is unlikely that a nomination would be brought to the floor for a vote if Senate leadership was not certain it would pass.

NSF Invites Proposals for I-Corps Sites -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.  In order to contribute to a national innovation ecosystem, NSF established the NSF Innovation Corps Sites Program (NSF I-Corps Sites). Sites are funded at academic institutions, having already existing innovation or entrepreneurial units, to enable them to: nurture students and/or faculty who are engaged in projects having the potential to be transitioned into the marketplace; and develop formal, active, local innovation ecosystems that contribute to a larger, national network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors. Networking is an essential component of all of NSF's I-Corps activities - local and national networking activities help advance the goals of I-Corps and contribute to local and national ecosystems for innovation. The purpose of an I-Corps Site is to nurture and support multiple, local teams to transition their ideas, devices, processes or other intellectual activities into the marketplace.  A copy of the NSF solicitation is available here.

Public Comments Requested on Draft of IPCC Report -- The U.S. Department of State seeks expert comment on the second-order draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on “Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C Above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty” (aka the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C).  General information such as the Special Report outline and assessment development timeline/procedures can be found on the USGCRP Open Notices page; more detailed information—i.e., an IPCC guidance note, more background, review instructions, supplementary materials, and the draft report itself (including the first draft of its Summary for Policymakers)—can be found on the USGCRP Review and Comment System. You must first register for the review and agree to the terms before being granted access to the site. Consult the Federal Register Notice for a brief summary of the process.  Comments are solicited from the U.S. scientific community and interested stakeholders. All comments must be input via the USGCRP Review and Comment System by 11:59 p.m. ET, Thursday, 8 February 2018, if they are to be considered by the Federal expert panel tasked with preparing the U.S. transmittal to IPCC.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congressional Leaders Continue to Negotiate on Defense and Nondefense Spending levels for FY 2018 with the Current Stop-gap Funding Measure Set to Expire on January 19 - Negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders will continue after parties outlined starkly different budget priorities yesterday, signaling that a final fiscal 2018 spending deal may not be imminent on Capitol Hill. An hour long bipartisan meeting this week did not yield any clear breakthroughs on an impasse that is now into its fourth month. The session, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short.

Both parties and the White House are aiming for a deal on overall discretionary spending levels for the next two years before current federal funding runs out on Jan. 19 and agencies face their latest threat of a shutdown. Absent an agreement, Congress would have to pass another stopgap funding measure – a CR. Even with something in hand, a brief continuing resolution may be necessary to give appropriators time to write a final fiscal 2018 omnibus.

After the meeting, participants emphasized the need for funding the military and border security and warned Democrats against seeking to include immigration policy riders.  Republicans want a boost in defense spending and to hold the line on domestic funding. Democrats continue to insist military and non-defense accounts should be treated with "parity."  Democrats also said that the budget deal must focus on additional of issues beyond funding levels, including providing a fix for coal miners' benefits teetering on financial insolvency and delivering disaster aid for areas hit by hurricanes and wildfires.  Democrats will also press for protections for young undocumented immigrants (DACA), extending a childrens' health program and addressing the opioid crisis.

NAS Releases Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space --   NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) should implement a coordinated approach for their space-based environmental observations to further advance Earth science and applications for the next decade, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This approach should be based on key scientific questions in areas such as reducing climate uncertainty, improving weather and air quality forecasts, predicting geological hazards, and understanding sea-level rise. The report also recommends building a robust, resilient, and balanced U.S. program of Earth observations from space that will enable the agencies to strategically advance the science and applications with constrained resources.  This is the second National Academies decadal survey for Earth science and applications from space.

Building on the first decadal survey, which was published in 2007, it identifies top science priorities, observational needs, and opportunities for U.S. space-based Earth observations in the coming decade. Over the last decade, the report says space-based Earth observations – which provide a global perspective of Earth – have transformed our scientific understanding of the planet, revealing it to be an integrated system of dynamic interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and human society. These observations also play a critical role in national security. For example, understanding sea-level rise and impacts of ocean warming associated with climate change is important for naval operations.

The committee developed a set of 35 key questions on Earth science and applications spanning the full range of Earth system science. The questions comprehensively address areas in which advances in Earth science and information capabilities are most needed to improve knowledge about the complex Earth system and allow the development of numerous applications that enable a sustainable and thriving society. Some of the top priority questions identified by the committee are:

·      How can environmental predictions of weather and air quality be extended to seamlessly forecast Earth system conditions at lead times of one week to two months?

·      How do anthropogenic changes in climate, land use, water use, and water storage interact and modify the water and energy cycles, and what are the short- and long-term consequences?

·      What processes determine the long-term variations and trends in air pollution and their subsequent long-term recurring and cumulative impacts on human health, agriculture, and ecosystems?

·      What are the structure, function, and biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems, and how and why are they changing in time and space?

·      How much will sea levels rise over the next decade, and what will be the role of ice sheets and ocean heat storage?

·      How can large-scale geological hazards be accurately forecast in a socially relevant time frame?

To address these questions, the committee recommended implementing an innovative observing program that builds on the existing and planned instruments and satellites of the U.S. and the international community. The proposed program reflects new needs associated with eight priority observations, including aerosols, clouds and precipitation, Earth’s bulk mass movements, global land and vegetation characteristics, deformation and changes within the Earth’s surface, and three others to be selected competitively from among seven candidates. Each of these are to be measured through a space-based instrument or suite of instruments, and together are intended to ensure effective exploration of the highest priorities among the survey’s 35 key science and applications questions. Investments in Earth observation capabilities have failed to keep pace with the increasing information needs of businesses and individuals and the overall value of this information to the nation, the report says. Although budget constraints will remain a practical concern during the next decade in terms of progress with new space-based observational capabilities, the committee recommended innovative methods for achieving progress within those constraints.

Research priorities and objectives in this report were developed by a primary steering committee based on input from five interdisciplinary study panels. The panels and committee also received over 300 written white papers from the research community in response to two separate requests for input. In addition, the survey had continual engagement with the community via town halls that were held during annual meetings of a number of professional societies, as well as via webinars, newsletters, and briefings. The study was funded by the NASA, NOAA, and USGS.

Administration’s National Security Strategy Emphasizes Innovation in Selected Areas -- On Dec. 18, President Trump released his National Security Strategy, a document that sets a broad framework for the nation’s military, diplomatic, economic, immigration, and homeland security policy. The document highlights scientific research and technological innovation and specifically identifies a number of priority areas for R&D that federal science agencies are likely to consider as they manage their research portfolios. These include advanced computing, data science, artificial intelligence, autonomous technology, encryption, gene editing, novel materials, and nanotechnology. The strategy identifies nuclear technology, next-generation nuclear reactors, improved batteries, carbon capture technology, and opportunities at the energy–water nexus as means of preserving the nation’s “technological edge” in energy. The strategy also considers the need for training, attracting, and retaining innovators and inventors and for protecting intellectual property.

Confirmation Process for NOAA Nominees -- With the end of the first session of the 115th Congress, the Administration will now have to resubmit the nominations of many of the individuals that had been nominated last year but had not yet reached the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.  Such is the case for Mr. Barry Myers who has nominated to be the NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers’ nomination was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on a party line vote of 15 to 14.  All indications point to the Administration re-submitting Mr. Myers’ nomination.  The committee will not have to hold another hearing but it will need to vote again on his nomination in order for his nomination to reach the Senate floor.  The nomination of Dr. Neil Jacobs to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce at NOAA also did not reach the Senate floor last year but his nomination was widely supported.  As a result it was held over in the Senate which means the Administration will not have to re-submit Dr. Jacobs’ nomination in order for the Senate to take up that nomination.

Air Force Science and Technology Study – The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is soliciting universities and other entities to conduct Technical Forecasting Studies and/or Organizational and Processes Studies to develop recommendations regarding how the Air Force should prepared today for national security requirements in the year 2030 and beyond. These studies need to identify focus areas in basic and applied research for the Air Force to pursue and also identify effective business practices and organizational structures to manage early state research including exploitation of rapidly developing science and technology.  More information on this funding opportunity is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Averts Government Shutdown with Another Continuing Resolution – By a vote of 66-32, the Senate passed HR 1370, a CR that will fund the government through January 19, 2018.  The Senate vote follows this afternoon's 231-188 vote in the House.  The bill contains a provision which suspends the sequestration that would have been required by this CR. The new CR maintains programs at the FY17 level, a level that exceeds the current statutory spending caps for FY18 and without the suspension provision, a sequestration would have been triggered.  By a vote of 251-169, the House also passed HR 4667, an $81B disaster supplemental.   Senate consideration of this third disaster supplemental in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires, could be delayed until January.

This CR will allow negotiations to continue between the Congress and the White House on raising discretionary spending levels for defense and non-defense programs for FY18 and a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Once the parties reach agreement on new defense and non-defense spending levels, the pending individual appropriations bills may be finalized by House and Senate appropriation conferees.

Congress Passes Tax Reform Legislation – This week the House and Senate passed and sent to the President a major legislative initiative that makes sweeping changes in the Nation’s tax code. The final bill includes the following key provisions:

·      37% top income tax rate;

·      21% corporate tax;

·      Up to $10k of state or property taxes can be deducted;

·      Removes the tax on graduate student tuition waivers;

·      Maintains estate tax but raises threshold to qualify to about $11 million from $5.49 million;

·      Pass-throughs get a 20% deduction on their income;

·      Preserves the individual Alternative Minimum Tax;

·      Gets rid of the proposed corporate AMT;

·      Mortgage interest deduction cap would be lowered to $750,000 from the current $1 million; and

·      Individual mandate contained in the Affordable Health Care Act is eliminated.

The agreement sets the top individual tax rate at 37%, which is less than the current rate of 39.6% and lower than the top rate in each of the bills that passed the House and Senate.  With respect to state and local tax deductions, the would cap that deduction at $10,000. The corporate rate would be cut to 21% and would take effect in 2018.

The agreement eliminates the corporate alternative-minimum tax. Keeping that, as the Senate bill did, would have undercut the value of many popular business-tax breaks, including a research-and-development tax credit. The bill would retain the individual alternative minimum tax with exemptions for incomes up to $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples, much higher than current law. 

The final agreement drops some of the more controversial changes in the House plan, including taxes on graduate-student tuition waivers, the repeal of deductions for student-loan interest and medical expenses and the end of tax-free private activity bonds used for projects such as hospitals and affordable housing.  The Tax Policy Center has a detailed summary of the final tax reform bill here.

NOAA Announces Funding Opportunity for Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System – NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) invites applications for the establishment of a Cooperative Institute (CI) for Modeling the Earth System. This new cooperative institute supports the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) as it works toward advancing NOAA’s ability to understand and predict variations and changes in weather, climate, oceans and coastal systems on a spectrum of timescales, through advanced numerical modeling of the Earth System’s physical, dynamical, chemical, biogeochemical, and ecological processes. The scope of the new Cooperative Institute incorporates explicitly the consideration of the unforced variability of the Earth System, natural and anthropogenic forcings that include regional contributions and feedbacks, which together govern the response and temporal evolution of the Earth system (IPCC, 2001, 2013). Current state-of-the-art coupled climate models used to forecast weather-to-climate conditions particularly from subseasonal to seasonal to interannual to decadal and longer timescales must be improved dramatically. Fundamental research is needed to improve the representation of many processes and interactions of importance if these models are to fulfill their promise of advancing the scientific understanding and prediction and addressing NOAA’s goals. Consistent with the National Research Council, “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling” (2012) recommendation of a focus on advancing climate modeling across the continuum of time scales from weather-to-climate, this new Cooperative Institute is expected to conduct research and modeling across the continuum extending from the weather all the way to multidecadal timescales, covering processes, phenomena, variations, changes, and extremes. A copy of the funding announcement is available here.

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Address Coastal Communities and Ocean Acidification-- Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently introduced the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 to identify and assess communities, including island communities, low-population rural communities, and subsistence communities, that are most dependent on coastal and ocean resources that may be impacted by ocean acidification. This bipartisan bill was introduced with Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Collins (R-ME), Peters (D-MI), and Whitehouse (D-RI). The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 would conduct coastal community vulnerability assessments related to Ocean Acidification.  The act strengthens collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders including Indigenous Knowledge groups, IOOS, regional Ocean Acidification Networks, and Sea Grant into the planning and implementation of coastal community vulnerability assessments. The act requires that the assessment identifies: (1) the communities that are most dependent on ocean and coastal resources, (2) the nature of the social and economic vulnerabilities of the communities, and (3) identify the harmful impacts of ocean acidification on those communities.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Announces Summer Student Internship Program -- Virtually all the meteorological data collected over the globe arrives at NCEP, where environmental scientists analyze this information and generate a wide variety of environmental guidance information. NCEP delivers national and global weather, water, climate and space weather guidance, forecasts, warnings and analyses to a broad range of users and partners. These products and services respond to user needs to protect life and property, enhance the nation's economy, and support the nation's growing need for environmental information. NCEP is offering up to 10 paid summer internships targeted towards current undergraduate and graduate students to work in areas that will meet the future needs of the ever-broadening user community and address the strategic climate-water-weather issues. Each student will collaborate with one or more scientists at our five centers located in College Park, MD: Climate Prediction Center, Environmental Modeling Center, NOAA Central Operations, Ocean Prediction Center, and Weather Prediction Center.  More information on NCEP’s internship program is available here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Considers Another Continuing Resolution – The Federal Government is currently operating on a second Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY 2018 until December 22.  The CR allows most federal programs to continue operating at levels close the FY 2017 level.  On December 13, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a third CR that would run until January 19, 2018.  This CR carries provisions that would waive automatic cuts to defense spending and temporarily delays the automatic cuts to non-defense spending.  Without these waivers, the Budget Control Act would trigger automatic budget reductions called a sequester.  This CR would fund national defense for the balance of the fiscal year, extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program and continue short-term government operations.  This CR does not include emergency aid for hurricane and wildfire states and territories.  While this CR will likely pass in the House, most observers expect the Senate to remove the yearlong defense appropriations portion of the CR before they take up this third CR.

This CR surfaces as negotiations continue between the Congress and the White House on raising discretionary spending levels for defense and non-defense programs, emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire states and territories, and a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Once the parties reach agreement on new defense and non-defense spending levels, the pending individual appropriations bills can be finalized by House and Senate appropriation conferees.

Congress Moves to Finalize Tax Reform Legislation – House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement in principle that would reportedly reduce taxes by $1.4 trillion over a decade.  The final bill is expected to include the following provisions:

·      37% top income tax rate;

·      21% corporate tax;

·      Up to $10k of state or property taxes can be deducted;

·      Removes the tax on graduate student tuition waivers;

·      Maintains estate tax but raises threshold to qualify to about $11 million from $5.49 million;

·      Pass-throughs get a 20% deduction on their income;

·      Preserves the individual Alternative Minimum Tax;

·      Gets rid of the proposed corporate AMT;

·      Mortgage interest deduction cap would be lowered to $750,000 from the current $1 million; and

·      Individual mandate contained in the Affordable Health Care Act is eliminated.

The agreement is expected to set the top individual tax rate at 37%, which is less than the current rate of 39.6% and lower than the top rate in each of the bills that passed the House and Senate.  Members are moving to soften the elimination of provisions that allow state and local tax deductions.  Rather than fully repeal the deduction, the compromise would cap it at $10,000.  The corporate rate would be cut to 21% and would take effect in 2018. The Senate bill had delayed that rate cut—from today’s 35%—until 2019. 

The agreement is also expected to eliminate the corporate alternative-minimum tax. Keeping that, as the Senate bill did, would have undercut the value of many popular business-tax breaks, including a research-and-development tax credit. The bill would retain the individual alternative minimum tax with exemptions for incomes up to $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples, much higher than current law. 

The final agreement is expected to drop some of the more controversial changes in the House plan, including taxes on graduate-student tuition waivers, the repeal of deductions for student-loan interest and medical expenses and the end of tax-free private activity bonds used for projects such as hospitals and affordable housing.  More details are expected to be available in time for the compromise agreement to be considered in the House and Senate next week.

DARPA Announces Oceans of Things Program Solicitation -- DARPA has announced its Ocean of Things program, which seeks to enable persistent maritime situational awareness over large ocean areas by deploying thousands of small, low-cost floats that could form a distributed sensor network. Each smart float would contain a suite of commercially available sensors to collect environmental data—such as ocean temperature, sea state, and location—as well as activity data about commercial vessels, aircraft, and even maritime mammals moving through the area. The floats would transmit data periodically via satellite to a cloud network for storage and real-time analysis.  The technical challenge for Ocean of Things lies in two key areas: float development and data analytics. 

Under float development, proposers must design an intelligent float to house a passive sensor suite that can survive in harsh maritime environments. Each float would report information from its surroundings for at least one year before safely scuttling itself in the deep ocean. The floats will be required to be made of environmentally safe materials, pose no danger to vessels, and comply with all federal laws, regulations, and executive orders related to protection of marine life.

The data analytics portion of the Ocean of Things program will require proposers to develop cloud-based software and analytic techniques to process the floats’ reported data. This effort includes dynamic display of float locations, health, and mission performance; processing of environmental data for oceanographic and meteorological models; developing algorithms to automatically detect, track, and identify nearby vessels; and identification of new indicators of maritime activity.

A Proposers Day is scheduled for January 4, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, at the DARPA Conference Center. Registration instructions and further details are available here.  DARPA expects to release a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation soon, which will be available on FedBizOpps.

ARPA-E Announces Solicitation to Fund $100 Million for Transformative Energy Projects -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $100 million in funding for new projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA‑E) latest OPEN funding opportunity. OPEN will support America’s top innovators through dozens of early-stage research and development projects as they build technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.  ARPA-E has issued previous OPEN solicitations in 2009, 2012, and 2015. Open solicitations enable ARPA-E to support transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E focused programs. The projects selected under OPEN in 2018 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation across the full spectrum of energy applications. The agency collaborates across the department’s extensive research enterprise, providing support that complements existing DOE-wide initiatives. The deadline to submit a concept paper is February 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. E.T. For additional information on the OPEN funding opportunity, please visit here.

USAID Announces $70 Million to Build Global Research Network -- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking applications for a five-year, $70 million cooperative agreement with a U.S. university to establish a strong international network to solve pressing development challenges through research. The university-led network will work with USAID to engage academics and stakeholders in identifying and refining critical development research questions. The project will fund research that engages universities, policymakers, and civil society to achieve maximum development impact. Finally, the network aims to increase the human and institutional capacity of higher education institutions in low- and middle-income countries – with the aim of forging stronger ties between U.S. and low- and middle- income country universities.  USAID estimates that approximately 30-40 percent of the yearly core funding will be dedicated to supporting recipient-identified development research questions as well as the subsequent design, solicitation, and execution of research activities. The remainder of the core funds will cover operating, management, and implementation costs of the grant, including the management and support of a broad international network of researchers and higher education institutions responding to key research questions. More information is available here.

NSF Announces James Ulvestad as Chief Officer for Research Facilities -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced this week that James S. Ulvestad will serve as the agency's first Chief Officer for Research Facilities (CORF), a position created in recognition of the critical role research infrastructure plays in science and engineering.  Dr. Ulvestad will advise the NSF director on all aspects of the agency's support for major and mid-scale research facilities throughout their lifecycle. He will also collaborate with NSF employees involved in oversight and assistance of the NSF multiuser research facilities portfolio. Ulvestad will begin his duties as CORF Jan. 2. The need for broad oversight of NSF-supported research facilities was recognized by Congress in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), enacted in 2017, which requires NSF to "appoint a senior agency official whose responsibility is oversight of the development, construction, and operations of major multiuser research facilities across the Foundation."

Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out Nomination of Barry Myers to be Next NOAA Administrator – Along party lines (by a vote of 15-14), the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  The next step in the confirmation process is for the full Senate to consider his nomination.  Senate floor action has not yet been scheduled.  Democrats on the Committee opposed Mr. Myers’ nomination due to their concerns, as yet unresolved, regarding potential for conflicts of interest between his current employer, Accuweather, and serving as the NOAA Administrator.  Senator Bill Nelson's statement summarizing his concerns can be found here.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative -- The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative targets the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem by funding and implementing federal projects that address these problems. One goal is to improve habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. Using appropriations from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) Program anticipates funding wetland (both coastal and interior) and associated upland habitat restoration and enhancement projects for conservation of native Great Lakes fish and wildlife populations, particularly migratory birds and, as appropriate, federally-listed species. Emphasis will be placed on, but not limited to, completing projects within the watersheds of Great Lakes Areas of Concern and in coastal zones. More information can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity available here.

NSF Study Shows State Government R&D Expenditures Increase by 3.1% -- State government agency expenditures for research and development totaled $2.3 billion in FY 2016, an increase of 3.1% from FY 2015. Five state governments (California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Ohio) accounted for 64% of all state government R&D in FY 2016 (table 2). NSF’s latest InfoBriefpresents summary statistics from the FY 2016 Survey of State Government Research and Development, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). The FY 2016 survey presents the most recent NCSES statistics of R&D activities performed and funded by state government agencies in each of the 50 states, as well as the municipal government of the District of Columbia. Survey data are available by state and by individual state agency. Further details are also available on R&D performer (intramural and extramural), source of funding, type of R&D (basic research, applied research, and experimental development), and R&D by government function (agriculture, energy, environment and natural resources, health, transportation, and other).

NSF InfoBrief Shows U.S. R&D Increased by $20 Billion in 2015 to $495 Billion; 2016 to Rise to $510 Billion — New data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicate that research and experimental development (R&D) performed in the United States totaled $495.1 billion in 2015. The estimated total for 2016, based on performer-reported expectations, is $510.0 billion. These numbers compare to U.S. R&D totals of $454.0 billion in 2013 and $475.4 billion in 2014. In 2008—just before the onset of the main economic effects of the national and international financial crisis and the Great Recession—the U.S. total was $404.8 billion. These data reflect sizable increases of $21.5 billion in 2014 and $19.7 billion in 2015. After essentially no change between 2008 and 2010, year-over-year increases in the U.S. total from 2010 to 2015 averaged $17.7 billion. The 2016 increase is estimated to be $14.8 billion. The 2014 and 2015 increases are mainly due to higher levels of business R&D performance. However, as presently estimated, the business sector's role is noticeably less predominant in the 2016 increase.  Adjusted for inflation, growth in U.S. total R&D averaged 1.4% annually over the 7-year period 2008–15, marginally behind the 1.5% the average pace of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) over the same period. By comparison, the average annual rate of growth was notably higher in the prior 10-year period (1998–2008): 3.6% for total R&D, and 2.2% for GDP. In part, the smaller average pace of R&D growth in 2008–15 reflects the inclusion of the Great Recession years (notably, 2009 and 2010). If just the 5-year period of 2010 to 2015 is considered, the average annual pace of growth is 2.3%, compared to 2.2% for GDP. The growth of business R&D over this same 5-year period is 3.3%, well ahead of GDP growth, but it is not strong enough to offset the slower average rates of growth (if not outright declines) in some of the other performing sectors. The estimate for 2016 shows R&D also expanding only a little faster than the pace of GDP (1.7%, compared to 1.5% for GDP).

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Extends Stop Gap Funding for the Federal Government Until December 22 — After much posturing on all sides, late last week, prior to its expiration on December 8, Congress passed an extension to the existing Continuring Resolution (CR).  The new CR, which will allow Federal agencies and programs to continue to operate at levels close to the FY 2017 levels, will provide funding until December 22.  During this time Congress is expected to continue negotiations to revise current statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, complete the ongoing tax reform bill conference, continue work on supplementary disaster relief assistance, DACA legislation, and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  

Senate Commerce Committee Expected to Consider Nomination for Next NOAA Administrator —On December 13, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will take up the nomination of Mr. Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  The Committee held his confirmation hearing on November 29.  More information on the hearing and Mr. Myers’ nomination can be found here. Should Mr. Myers’ nomination be approved by the Committee, the next step would be for the full Senate to vote on his nomination. In addtion to Mr. Myers’ nomination, the Committee will take up legislation to reauthorized the NOAA integrate drought information system program, and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017.

National Ocean Policy Hearing to be Held — On December 12, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene a hearing titled “National Ocean Policy: Stakeholder Perspectives,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. The hearing will examine the state of the National Ocean Policy and the program’s interaction with existing laws and regulations for ocean management. Witnesses will include:  Ms. Bonnie Brady, Executive Director, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association; Mr. Christopher Guith, Senior Vice President, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce;  Mr. Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance; and Ms. Kathy Metcalf, President and CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Tax Reform Legislation Could Have Adverse Impacts on Students and Institutions of Higher Education — House and Senate Are Now in Conference Attempting to Resolve Their Differing Versions — There are number of issues in these bills that are problematic for institutions of higher education and/or students.  For example, the House bill proposes to eliminate a section from the existing tax code which allows colleges and universities to provide their employees and their spouses or dependents with tuition reductions for undergraduate education that are excluded from taxable income. This same section of the current code also allows colleges and universities to lower the cost of graduate education for their students who are serving as teaching or research assistants as part of their academic training without the tuition reductions being treated as taxable income.  The House bill also proposes to eliminate the allowance for employers to provide tuition reimbursement to employees, tax free which encourages the private sector’s investment in the advancement of its employees and encouraging partnerships with colleges and universities. 

The Senate bill is not as problematic to the higher education community as the House bill as it retains the student benefits the House version would eliminate including the House’s provision to tax tuition waivers for graduate students. The Senate bill creates a new excise tax on endowments at certain private institutions. The Senate bill does contain a number of other provisions that would negatively impact students and institutions by reducing charitable giving, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education.  An excellent “side by side” of the House and Senate bills’ provisions impact students and institutions of higher education can be found here.

NSF Releases Latest Science and Engineering State Profiles — State Profiles is an interactive website providing access to state-level data on science and engineering (S&E) personnel and finances and state rankings. State Profiles displays up to 7 state profiles of the user’s choice. Data are available from surveys sponsored by the National Science Foundation on employed science, engineering, or health (SEH) doctorate holders; S&E doctorates awarded, including by major S&E fields; SEH graduate students and postdoctorates; federal research and development obligations by agency and performer; total and business R&D expenditures; and higher education R&D performance, including by major S&E fields. Data available from other sources include population, civilian labor force, per capita personal income, federal expenditures, patents, small business innovation research awards, and gross domestic product. All data are available for download. Data cover 2003 to present.  View the data here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Controversial Tax Reform Legislation Passes in the Senate – Last night, just before 2AM on Saturday, December 2, the Senate passed their version of major tax reform legislation 51-49 with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) the only Republican not voting for the bill.  The House passed a different version of tax reform a few weeks ago.  The Senate bill, which included about $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, would lower the corporate rate to 20% from 35%, reshape international business tax rules and temporarily lower individual taxes. It also contained other provisions, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, which would adversely impact the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But some objectives, such as repealing the alternative minimum tax, fell by the wayside in the last minute amendment process.  The Senate bill can be read here. The House and Senate bills differ and will have to be resolved in conference.  Congressional leadership is hopeful they can resolve their differences, have a final compromise bill passed (again) in identical form by both Houses of Congress, and on the President’s desk for signature by Christmas.

There are number of issues in these bills that are problematic for institutions of higher education and/or students.  For example, the House bill proposes to eliminate a section from the existing tax code which allows colleges and universities to provide their employees and their spouses or dependents with tuition reductions for undergraduate education that are excluded from taxable income. This same section of the current code also allows colleges and universities to lower the cost of graduate education for their students who are serving as teaching or research assistants as part of their academic training without the tuition reductions being treated as taxable income.  The House bill also proposes to eliminate the allowance for employers to provide tuition reimbursement to employees, tax free which encourages the private sector’s investment in the advancement of its employees and encouraging partnerships with colleges and universities.  

The Senate bill is not as problematic to the higher education community as the House bill as it retains the student benefits the House version would eliminate including the House’s provision to tax tuition waivers for graduate students. The Senate bill creates a new excise tax on endowments at certain private institutions. Senator Tomey had included an amendment that provided a special exemption to this excise tax for a single institution — Hillsdale College in Michigan. Towards the end of the debate, with Democrats objecting to this special provision, Senator Merkely offered an amendment to remove this exemption which was adopted by the vote of 52 to 48. The Senate bill does contain a number of provisions that would negatively impact students and institutions by reducing charitable giving, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education. 

To address concerns of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Senate bill will allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes paid and allow lower-income individuals to claim the medical expense deduction.  In an effort to get Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona on board, leaders agreed to work on providing “fair and permanent protections” for the beneficiaries of an Obama-era effort that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The Association of Public & Land Grant Universities (APLU) has highlighted many of these issues in their analysis available here.  The Association of American Universities (AAU) has also identified shortcomings of the House and Senate proposals. The American Council on Education (ACE) also released a letter commenting on the Senate bill representing the interests of 46 different higher education associations.  Additional information will be available in the coming days as the House and Senate prepare to try and reconcile their versions of their tax reform bills.

On November 15, about 40 different scientific societies and associations co-signed a letter expressing concerns about the tax reform legislation.  The lettersigned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Marine Laboratories, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and others said, “…While the goal of the House tax reform plan is to help grow the U.S. economy, the language to repeal the student loan interest deduction, graduate student tuition waivers, the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit and educational assistance programs ultimately will have the opposite effect. By making advanced education less affordable, it is likely to drive some students away from seeking higher education. Because a majority of graduate students are in the key areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), these provisions will have an outsized impact in the sciences…” 

Funding the Federal Government After December 8 -- As for funding the Federal Government past Dec 8 when the current continuing resolution expires, Congress and the White House remain locked in discussions that have centered around increasing the statutory spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs.  The White House and Republicans want to substantially increase defense spending while Democrats are pushing for increases in non-defense spending and a legislative solution to the DACA issue that would allow so-called “dreamers” to remain in the U.S. These negotiations have yet to result in an agreement.  With the December 8 deadline looming, Congress will have to extend the continuing resolution or the Nation faces a Federal Government shutdown.  Currently in the House there are plans to pass an extension to the current continuing resolution until December 22 and then a second one running until mid-January.  This would leave the Congress more time to complete negotiations on adjusting the overall spending caps and resolving differences on the pending appropriations bills.  Democrats may not support the new continuing resolution as they are advocating for a legislative package that increases domestic spending, reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the DACA immigration issue.  While House Republicans can pass the CR with their majority in the House, the CR will need 60 votes to pass in the Senate.  Whether a sufficient number of Senate Democrats would support the CR, and thus provide the necessary 60 votes, remains to be seen.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Barry Myers to be Next NOAA Administrator – On November 29, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing for Mr. Barry Lee Myers to be the next NOAA Administrator.  Mr. Myers, in his opening statement and in subsequent exchanges with Senators on the Committee, affirmed his strong support for NOAA and its missions in weather, climate, research, fisheries, the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, and satellites.  Going into the hearing, there were a number of concerns about Mr. Myers and his views on climate change, scientific research, potential conflicts of interests, and his past support for a controversial bill sponsored by former Senator Santorum from Pennsylvania that sought to limit certain forecasting activities of the National Weather Service.  

Mr. Myers gave strong assurances to the Committee that: he would divest completely his financial relationships with Accuweather and related businesses; climate change was in fact real and he agreed with Senator Markey when asked if such change is precipitated by human actions; he appreciates and supports the conduct of scientific research and the use of the peer review process by the scientific community to validate science; he supports NOAA’s scientific integrity policy developed by the prior Administration and would not limit agency scientists from communicating the results of their research in accord with established scientific review practices.  Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) pressed Mr. Myers on whether or not he agrees that climate change presents a serious challenge for the military, and that the data gathered by NOAA signal that preparation is necessary. Mr. Myers agreed that climate data suggest that the military should prepare for climate change. He cited the work of Defense Secretary James Mattis to address climate change risks.

When asked if he supported the budget reductions proposed by the Administration in NOAA climate research and ocean and coastal programs, Mr. Myers referred to the testimony of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in which the Secretary acknowledged the value of these and other programs but that with limited funds, difficult choices had to be made.  Mr. Myers did pledge to manage the agency and its budget consistent with the resources and direction provided by the Congress.  Mr. Myers’ testimony and an archived video recording of the hearing can be found here

DOE Invites Proposals for new Energy Frontier Research Centers – DOE has released a new funding opportunity for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to accelerate transformative scientific advances for the most challenging topics in materials sciences, chemical sciences, geosciences, and biosciences. Research supported by this initiative will provide fundamental understanding to enable future advances in energy production and use.  The EFRC program began in 2009.  DOE currently funds 36 EFRCs, 32 of which were selected for four-year funding in 2014. With support for those centers set to expire in July 2018, DOE has announced a competition for another round of funding. The competition will be open to proposals both from existing EFRCs seeking renewal of support and from institutions seeking to establish new EFRCs under the program. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form multi-disciplinary research teams that may include partnerships with other institutions. DOE will emphasize emerging science priorities that have been highlighted in recent workshops, including quantum materials, catalysis science, synthesis science, instrumentation science, next-generation energy storage, future nuclear energy, and energy-water issues. Awards for each selected center are expected to range from $2 million to $4 million per year for a total of four fiscal years. Total funding for the EFRC program, pending Congressional appropriations, is expected to be about $99 million per year for the four-year awards. The full Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available here. Additional information about the EFRCs can be found here.

Universities Report Increased Federal R&D Funding after 4-year Decline -- Federal funding of higher education research and development increased in both current and constant dollars for the first time in 5 years, according to data from the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF). When adjusted for inflation, federal funding for higher education R&D increased by 1.4% between FY 2015 and FY 2016.  Overall, universities reported current dollar R&D expenditures of $72.0 billion in FY 2016, a 4.8% increase from the FY 2015 total of $68.6 billion.  Download the NSF’s new report here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Update on FY18 Continuing Resolution and Year Long Omnibus Appropriations – Reports are circulating that Congress is preparing to extend the current FY 2018 continuing resolution beyond its current deadline of December 8.  Members of Congress expect that at some point statutory spending levels for defense and non-defense discretionary spending will be amended.  One press report suggests Congressional leaders are looking at a two-year deal to raise the current defense and non-defense caps by a total of $182 billion.  Under one plan the defense caps would increase by $54 billion and non-defense caps would increase by $37 billion in both FY 2018 and FY 2019.  Agreeing to new spending levels for defense and non-defense spending will allow the appropriators to conference on the various pending appropriations bills for FY 2018.  Some staff members familiar with the appropriations process suggest that it would be possible to complete their negotiations and finalize the FY 2018 appropriations bills by the end of the calendar year if the adjustments in the spending caps were agreed to by Thanksgiving.

Administration Proposes Third Supplemental Emergency Appropriations Package for FY 2018 – This week the Administration sent to the Congress a third supplemental appropriation request in response to the damages caused by recent hurricanes and other severe weather conditions.  The total requested by the Administration is $44 billion for ongoing hurricane recovery efforts including:  $25.2 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief account and the Small Business Administration; $12 billion for flood risk mitigation projects administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; $4.6 billion for repair or replacement of damaged federal property; $1.2 billion for an education recovery fund; and $1 billion for emergency agricultural assistance.  At the same time, the White House asked lawmakers to consider a lengthy list of offsets, noting in its letter outlining the spending request that the Administration believes it is prudent to offset new spending. The proposed offsets total $59 billion, most of which would come from extending the sequester of mandatory programs resulting from the 2011 Budget Control Act for an additional two years, through fiscal 2027.  The proposed offsets cover a wide range of programs, including $3.9 billion from student financial assistance; $1.4 billion from the Agriculture Department's farm security and rural investment program; $800 million from the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children; and $99 million for the State Department's democracy fund.

Tax Reform Legislation Moving in the House and Senate – This week the House took up HR 1, the Tax Cut and Job Act after it was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee last week.  The Senate Finance Committee unveiled its own version of this bill this week as it began the mark up process to produce a Senate bill.  There are a number of issues in these bills that are problematic for institutions of higher education and/or students.  For example, the House bill proposes to eliminate Section 117 (d) which allows colleges and universities to provide their employees and their spouses or dependents with tuition reductions for undergraduate education that are excluded from taxable income.  This section also allows colleges and universities to lower the cost of graduate education for their students who are serving as teaching or research assistants as part of their academic training without the tuition reductions being treated as taxable income.  The House bill also proposes to eliminate the allowance for employers to provide tuition reimbursement to employees, tax free which encourages the private sector’s investment in the advancement of its employees and encouraging partnerships with colleges and universities. 

The Senate bill, while not as problematic to the higher education community as the House bill, nevertheless contains a number of provisions that would negatively impact students and institutions by reducing charitable giving, creating an unprecedented tax on private colleges and universities, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education. The Association of Public & Land Grant Universities (APLU) has highlighted many of these issues in their analysis available here.  The Association of American Universities (AAU) has also identified shortcomings of the House and Senate proposals. The American Council on Education (ACE) also released a letter commenting on the Senate bill representing the interests of 46 different higher education associations.

On November 15, about 40 different scientific societies and associations co-signed a letter expressing concerns about the tax reform legislation.  The lettersigned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Marine Laboratories, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and others said, “…While the goal of the House tax reform plan is to help grow the U.S. economy, the language to repeal the student loan interest deduction, graduate student tuition waivers, the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit and educational assistance programs ultimately will have the opposite effect. By making advanced education less affordable, it is likely to drive some students away from seeking higher education. Because a majority of graduate students are in the key areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), these provisions will have an outsized impact in the sciences…”

Former NOAA Administrator and Recent Directors of the National Weather Service Endorse Barry Myers as Next NOAA Administrator – In letters recently sent to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, former NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, and former directors of the National Weather Service (Jack Hayes, David Johnson, Jack Kelly, and Joe Friday) announced their support for Barry Myers as the next NOAA Administrator.  In the letter from the weather service directors they said: “We have found [Myers] to be open to, and have a keen sense for, the great potential of science and technology to benefit and strengthen their impact on society”.  A copy of the Lautenbacher letter is available here and the weather service directors’ letter is here.

Sea Grant Reauthorization Bill Introduced in the House of Representatives -- Last week, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ) introduced, HR 4306, a bipartisan Sea Grant Reauthorization Bill.  Following up on the introduction of this bill, on November 14, Rep. Huffman and Rep. Lobiondo began circulating a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) to his colleagues inviting them to co-sponsor this legislation.  A copy of DCL is available here. The House bill is similar to the legislation passed in the Senate in September.  With respect to the Knauss placement issue, this bill calls for equitable distribution among Republicans and Democrats to the maximum extent possible.  The wording in the House bill on the placement of Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships in the Congress is an issue among some in the House and it will probably have to be re-worked if the bill is to have a chance of moving forward in the House.  In addition, the House bill does not have a Senate provision that establishes a Congressional notification process when new institutes or colleges are added to the Sea Grant program.  The House bill contains authorization levels identical to the Senate levels with authorized funding rising from $75.6 million in FY 2018 to $96.5 million by FY 2023.  Just as the Senate bill does, the House bill also contains an additional $6 million annual authorization for the same priority initiatives called out in the Senate bill including:  aquatic nonnative species; oyster disease and restoration; harmful algal bloom, aquaculture; coastal resilience; and fishery extension activities.

Michigan Tech’s Director of Great Lakes Research Testifies Before Congress – On November 16, Dr. Guy Meadows, Director of the Great Lakes Research Institute at Michigan Tech, appeared with the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to testify on Coast Guard readiness issues.  The hearing examined the Coast Guard’s role in preparation and response to recent natural disasters that have impacted the U.S. mainland and territories, as well as other challenges facing the Coast Guard including drug enforcement, icebreaking, navigation safety, oil spill response, and non-maritime emergency response.  Dr. Meadows focused on the important role played by science and technology in support of the Coast Guard’s critical missions.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Chairman Lamar Smith Announces Retirement from Congress – Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, announced last week that he would not run for re-election in 2018 after serving 32 years in the Congress.  Rep. Smith’s retirement and House term limits for committee chairmanships, will open up the chairmanship of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee at the start of the new Congress in January 2019.  Possible candidates to be the next Chairman of the House Science Committee include Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA), and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL).

U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) Releases Climate Science Special Report– Last week, the Administration released the fourth National Climate Assessment reportmandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990.  The report concludes: Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales….This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence…

NSF Announces Recruitment for new Assistant Director for Biological Sciences -- The National Science Foundation is initiating a national search for the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences (BIO). NSF seeks assistance in the identification of candidates to lead the Directorate during the coming years. The next Assistant Director will have opportunities to shape future research and education in the biological sciences as well as ensure that BIO is a key participant in NSF’s expanding efforts to support convergence research.  The Assistant Director, BIO, manages a budget of approximately $750.0M and a portfolio comprising the various fields of biology, including the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), the Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI), the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS), the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB), and the Emerging Frontiers Office (EF). Dr. Roger Beachy, National Science Board member and Professor at Washington University in St. Louis will Chair the Search Advisory Committee. NSF is looking for candidates with the following qualifications: outstanding leadership; a deep sense of scholarship; and a grasp of the issues facing the biological sciences, especially in the areas of education and fundamental research.  Recommendations should be submitted to the AD/BIO Screening Committee via e mail (biosrch@nsf.gov) or at the following address: National Science Foundation, Office of the Director, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA, 22314.  NSF requests that recommendations be submitted by November 10, 2017.  Additional information can be found here.

National Academies Releases Report:  Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate -- A recently released report from the National Academies’ Ocean Studies Board, Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate, highlights the need for and challenges in setting up regular, consistent, and long-term collection of ocean observations to determine how Earth’s climate is changing and will change into the future. A public briefing on November 14th featuring the study’s co-chairs, Mary Glackin of The Weather Channel and Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, will be held to discuss the report.  More information on this webinar can be found here.

Nominations for NASA Administrator and DOC/NOAA Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observations and Prediction Move Forward – With a party line vote of 14–13, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Rep. James Bridenstine to the by the next NASA Administrator.  In answers to post-hearing questions, Rep. Bridenstine responded to a question regarding his support for NASA earth sciences posed by Senator Todd Young in the following way:  “I support NASA’s Earth Science mission.  As a Representative from and resident of the state of Oklahoma, I have a keen appreciation for the role space plays in helping us save lives, protect property, and produce energy and food. NASA’s Earth Science mission is critical to facilitating these activities, both through the programs that NASA operates itself as well as acting as the procurement agent for NOAA’s weather satellites. If confirmed, NASA will continue to follow the guidance of the Earth Science decadal surveys and I will advocate within the Administration and with Congress to see that the agency is able to carry out the recommendations of those decadal surveys.” Rep. Bridenstine responded to numerous other post-hearing questions, all of which can be found here.

Dr. Neil Jacobs nomination to be NOAA’s Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observations and Predictions, was favorably reported out of the same committee yesterday on a voice vote.  In a series of additional post-hearing questions and answers, Dr. Jacobs discusses his views on NOAA use of commercial data, use of unmanned systems to improve forecasts, NOAA’s GOES-R and JPSS satellite programs.  Read Dr. Jacobs’ answers to these and other questions here.

Senate floor action on the disposition of these nominations is the next step in their confirmation process.  A date for Senate action has not yet been released.

SECURE Act Approved by House Resources Committee Along Party Lines – Earlier this week the House Resources Committee approved legislation to increase energy development on public lands and waters by reducing federal regulations, streamlining the permitting process and creating a revenue-sharing partnership with coastal states.  This legislation includes a provision that revokes the President’s authority to designate new national marine monuments and prevents the President from blocking areas of the outer continental shelf from oil and gas drilling.  The bill also contains changes to the Marine Mammal Protection Act making it easier to obtain necessary approvals from the Department of Interior with respect to the taking of marine mammals.  Additional details on this legislation can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Contentious Hearing for Nominee for NASA Administrator – On November 1, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing that included the review of the Administration’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bredenstine (R-OK) to be the next Administrator of NASA.  Concerns were expressed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others about his credentials and viewpoints about climate change, sexual harassment and other issues that could affect how he runs the agency and its personnel.  On the subject of climate change and the role of NASA in the earth sciences, Rep. Bridenstine tried to assure the committee that he accepts that humans are a cause of climate change, but would not go as far as to say that it is the primary cause.  He went on to say that NASA is the only agency in the world that can do the kind of science needed to address such issues. 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) challenged Rep. Bridenstine on a provision of the American Space Renaissance Act that he introduced last year that appeared to eliminate earth science from NASA’s statutory goals. Rep. Bridenstine insisted that was not his intent.  In response to several questions about whether he would ensure scientific integrity at NASA and that NASA earth scientists could speak freely without fear of punishment, he assured the committee that no one would be punished for expressing their views on that topic.  

This hearing also served as the nomination for Dr. Neil Jacobs to be NOAA’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.  A hearing for Mr. Barry Myers to be the NOAA Administrator is likely to take place after Thanksgiving.  More information on this hearing can be found here and here.

New NIGMS Funding Opportunity: Collaborative Program Grants for Multidisciplinary Teams-- The National Institute for General Medical Science has released a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support multidisciplinary, collaborative team research in scientific areas within the mission of NIGMS. The Collaborative Program Grant for Multidisciplinary Teams (RM1) seeks to support highly integrated, interdisciplinary teams working toward a common scientific goal. This program replaces NIGMS Program Project Grants (P01) and most of NIGMS’ P50 centers programs (with the exception of the Structural Biology of HIV/AIDS centers). The first receipt date for the new program is January 25, 2018.  RM1 applications should have a unified scientific goal within the NIGMS mission that requires a team with diverse perspectives and expertise in a variety of intellectual or technical areas. NIGMS looks to support projects that are challenging, ambitious, and innovative, with the potential to produce lasting advances in their fields. Unlike many larger programs, NIGMS Collaborative Program Grants require one integrated research plan and a separate management plan that addresses shared leadership, responsibility for decision making and resource allocation, and opportunities for professional development and credit. Optionally, the team can expand to support early stage investigators (ESIs) in pilot projects that enrich program objectives and help the ESIs obtain independent funding. More information about this program can be found here.

NSF Info Brief Shows Rise of Developing Country Output While Developed Countries Dominate Highly Cited Publications -- Publication output in peer-reviewed science and engineering (S&E) journals, books, and conference proceedings serves as an indicator of scientific research activity. New data show that S&E publication output has continued to grow, reaching 2.3 million globally in 2014, with the United States and China being the two largest producers in 2014 (19% and 17% of the world total). When counted together the European Union countries produced more S&E publications than the United States or China. Globally, S&E publications output grew at an average annual rate of 6% between 2004 and 2014, the most recent 10 years for which data are available. The growth rate varied substantially across world regions. For example, in Iran, China, and India, growth rates were 22%, 14%, and 14%, respectively, compared with 3% in the United States.  Download a copy of this NSF InfoBrief here.

EPA Administrator Announces New Policy for Serving on EPA Advisory Committees -- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a new directive this week designed to ensure that any advisors serving on an EPA Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) are independent and free from any real, apparent, or potential interference with their ability to objectively serve as a committee member.  The directive explains that: members shall be independent from EPA, which shall include a requirement that no member of any of EPA’s federal advisory committees be currently in receipt of EPA grants, either as principal investigator or co-investigator, or in a position that otherwise would reap substantial direct benefit from an EPA grant. This principle would not apply to state, tribal or local government agency recipients of EPA grants. An accompanying memorandum issued by EPA Administrator Pruitt explains the directives to improve the independence and integrity of EPA’s FACs in ways that advance the Agency’s mission.  The directive focuses on the importance of the following areas pertaining to EPA FACs:  Strengthen Member Independence:  Members shall be independent from EPA, which shall include a requirement that no member of an EPA federal advisory committee be currently in receipt of EPA grants, either as principal investigator or co-investigator, or in a position that otherwise would reap substantial direct benefit from an EPA grant. This principle shall not apply to state, tribal or local government agency recipients of EPA grants; Increase State, Tribal and Local Government Participation:  In the spirit of cooperative federalism and recognition of the unique experience of state, tribal and local government officials, committee balance should reflect prominent participation from state, tribal and local governments. Such participation should be appropriate for the committee’s purpose and function; Enhance Geographic Diversity:  Given the range of environmental and public health considerations across the country, membership should be balanced with individuals from different states and EPA regions. Emphasis should be given to individuals from historically unrepresented or underrepresented states and regions; and Promote Fresh Perspectives:  To encourage and promote the inclusion of new candidates with fresh perspectives and to avoid prolonged and continuous service, membership should be rotated regularly.

American Association for the Advancement of Science Issues Statement Critical of New EPA Advisory Committee Policy – Dr. Rush Holt, Chief Executive Officer of the AAAS issued the following statement in response to the new EPA policy on membership on EPA science advisory boards:  "The American Association for the Advancement of Science denounces the EPA administrator’s decision to disallow qualified scientific experts from providing evidence-based information as members of its science adviser boards….Federal agencies should recognize and enable input of scientific and technical information that represents the best available evidence. The government must ensure that its science advisers possess the requisite scientific, medical and technical expertise to inform agency policies. At the same time, the government must facilitate transparency and protect against conflict of interest. Federal agencies from NIH to EPA have policies on scientific integrity and financial conflict of interest, allowing agencies to balance transparency and access to expertise. Leading scientific experts who are conducting environmental science research should not be prohibited from participating on EPA science adviser boards and committees if they have met the appropriate financial conflict of interest policy…”  

Read the complete AAAS statement here.

GAO Report on Costs of Climate Change Questioned by House Science Committee Chairman – In September, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the results of a study requested by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that was to review the potential economic effects of climate change and risks to the federal government.  GAO found that methods used to estimate the potential economic effects of climate change in the United States—using linked climate science and economics models—are based on developing research. The methods and the studies that use them produce imprecise results because of modeling and other limitations but can convey insight into potential climate damages across sectors in the United States. The two available national-scale studies that examine the economic effects of climate change across U.S. sectors suggested that potential economic effects could be significant and unevenly distributed across sectors and regions. For example, for 2020 through 2039, one study estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion in annual coastal property damages from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms. Also, under this study, the Southeast likely faces greater effects than other regions because of coastal property damages.  

On October 31, 2017, Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, sent a letter to GAO questioning the use of a report by the Rhodium Group as one of its sources of information for the GAO report.  Chairman Smith’s letter says, “Given that the report utilizes questionable sources and appears to ignore a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific studies, the Committee has concerns about the integrity of the GAO study process as well as its impartiality.”  The Committee has asked GAO to provide information on GAO’s decision making process related to the use of the Rhodium Group study by November 14.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Congress Passes Budget for FY 2018 with Large Reductions in Non-Defense Programs -- Or Did They? — On Thursday, October 26, the House of Representatives agreed with a FY18 budget plan (H.Con.Res.71) developed and passed in the Senate earlier this month.  This budget – which is the FY 2018 Congressional Budget Resolution -- calls for $1.1 trillion in spending in FY 2018.  The plan includes billions of increases in defense spending, cuts to non-defense spending, and billions in mandatory spending cuts over a decade.  The budget resolution also provides instructions to the House and Senate tax writing committees to develop a tax reform bill that overhauls the tax code using a process known as reconciliation which requires only a simple majority in the Senate for passage.

The spending estimates in the budget resolution – the increase for defense and the dramatic reductions suggested for non-defense programs – are in line with the budget plan the Administration submitted to the Congress back in the spring.  The Administration’s proposed draconian reductions to non-defense spending – an estimated $54 billion or 10% decrease from FY 2017 to FY 2018 – when unveiled last spring was met with public comments of condemnation and opposition by many Republicans and Democrats.  Some senior Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee were quoted as saying that the President proposes, and the Congress disposes.  And that proposed reductions – such as the proposed termination of the Sea Grant Program, the 10% cut to the National Science Foundation, and the 20% reduction for the National Institutes of Health – were unlikely to happen.  Yet, this week the press reported the House and Senate passed a budget that called for dramatic reductions in non-defense programs and equally large increases for defense programs.  

Wait – what?  Confused?  What happened and what does this mean?

What the Congress passed was a budget resolution, in effect a non-binding spending plan for FY 2018 that offers suggestions to Congressional appropriators.  As much as the budget resolution may suggest spending adjustments, it does not amend the spending caps contained in the law called the Budget Control Act (BCA) and does not determine the spending level for individual agencies and programs. In addition, the budget resolution calls for a reduction in mandatory spending (i.e. social security and Medicaid).  Some Members of Congress estimate that the budget resolution anticipates cutting almost $2 trillion alone from Medicare and Medicaid.  But without the enactment into law of specific legislation that actually makes these reductions in mandatory safety net programs, the budget resolution spending adjustments should be viewed as advisory or as a suggestion.  

The budget resolution, prominently reported by the press this week, does not appropriate any money, it doesn’t change the spending caps under which the Appropriations Committees operate, it doesn’t amend social security or Medicaid legislation or make the draconian cuts in non-defense discretionary programs envisioned in the budget resolution. All of those issues may or may not be addressed in subsequent legislation (appropriations, tax bills, amendments to the BCA, etc.)

What the budget resolution represents is Congress’ first step towards a tax reform bill that is a key priority of the Administration and many in the Congress.  The House leadership is pushing for legislation that would overhaul the current tax code by Thanksgiving with the hope it can be enacted into law by the end of the calendar year. Overhauling the tax code that provides tax breaks to some, eliminates tax deductions for others, and changes the tax brackets for yet others, is controversial and extremely difficult to do when one has all the time in the world.  To accomplish this within the remaining two months of this year would be one of the heavy lifts of all time.  

Tax reform is not the only major decision Congress wants to address by the end of this year.  So too does the Congress and Administration have to decide what to do about current federal spending for NSF, NOAA, the Defense Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, USGS, the National Park Service, etc. when the current Continuing Resolution expires on December 8.  For months – since the spring when the President submitted a controversial FY 2018 budget request – pundits have suggested the Congress will reject the President’s budget request (particularly its $54 billion reduction in non-defense discretionary spending) and instead raise the statutory spending caps for both defense discretionary spending and non-defense discretionary spending and restore funding to many of the popular programs the President proposed to terminate or severely reduce.  

The current deadline for acting on these spending cap adjustments and the completion of the FY 2018 appropriations process for the fiscal year that is already one month old, coincides with the target date for completion of tax reform.  Reports indicate that quiet, behind the scenes, discussions about raising the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary activities for FY 2018 are proceeding cognizant of the December expiration of the current continuing resolution.  

When one adds in the additional emergency billions in spending Congress is expected to pass in response to the major hurricanes we experienced this year, decisions on DACA and other major public policy issues, it is clear that Congress and the White House have many major, controversial, and far reaching decisions to make in a relatively short period of time.

Stay tuned as the next two months in Congress will be as busy as working in a liquor store at Christmas time.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Hearing on Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act –Tthe Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene a hearing on the Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Fisheries Science, at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. The hearing is the fourth of the series and will focus on the state of our nation’s fisheries and the science that supports sustainable management. Witnesses will include:  Mr. Karl Haflinger, Founder and President, Sea State, Inc; Dr. Ray Hilborn, Professor, University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Dr. Michael Jones, Professor, Michigan State University Quantitative Fisheries Center; Dr. Larry McKinney, Director, Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Hearing on Commercial Satellite Industry -- The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The Commercial Satellite Industry: What’s Up and What’s on the Horizon,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. The hearing will examine commercial satellite services and next-generation satellite services affecting consumers.  Witnesses will include: Ms. Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, SpaceX; Mr. Mark Dankberg, Chief Executive Officer, ViaSat: Mr. Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat; Mr. Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman, OneWeb.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov. 

Neil Jacobs’ Views on Challenges Facing NOAA – Neil Jacobs, who is Chief Atmospheric Scientist for Panasonic Avionics Corporation, has been nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observations and Prediction within NOAA.  In a questionnaire, he has competed and returned to the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee, Dr. Jacobs outlines the top three challenges facing NOAA which, in his view include:  Improve weather forecasting and modeling; increase observational and predictive resource capabilities; and manage satellite costs.  Dr. Jacobs indicated that he intends to work closely with NESDIS, NOS, NWS, and OAR and provide leadership for these line offices to better manage their assets.  

Senate Passes Budget Resolution Increasing Defense Spending But Holding Steady the Non-defense Spending Cap for FY 2018 -- By a 51-49 vote, the Senate passed a $4 trillion budget resolution that will enable Republican congressional leaders to pass tax reform legislation without Democratic support. Though the budget raises defense spending, it keeps intact the constraints on FY18 nondefense discretionary spending. Senators adopted an amendment, crafted by House and Senate leaders, which could obviate the need to reconcile differences in the House and Senate budget resolutions and could allow the House to vote on the Senate-passed budget as early as next week.  Negotiations are expected to take place later this year regarding adjusting the statutory spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending.

Hearing on the Role of Facilities and Administrative Costs in Supporting NIH-Funded Research – On Tuesday, October 24 the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing to examine indirect cost related to biomedical research.  Witnesses expected to testify at this hearing include:  Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Bruce Liang, Dean, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Gary Gilliland, President and Director of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center.  The hearing will take place in Room 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building at 10AM.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Barry Myers, CEO of Accuweather, Nominated as Next NOAA Administrator – As has been long expected, on October 11 the President announced his intent to nominate Mr. Barry Myers as the next NOAA Administrator.  If confirmed, Barry Myers of Pennsylvania will serve as Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce (NOAA Administrator).  Mr. Myers has served as CEO of AccuWeather since 2007.  He is or has been active in the World Meteorological Organization, World Federation of Scientists, American Meteorological Society (AMS), and other organizations.  He served as a member of the nationally recognized Smeal College of Business.  Mr. Myers is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He graduated from the Smeal College of Business at Penn State and received a J.D. from Boston University Law School.  Adm Tim Gallaudet was confirmed last week to be the Deputy NOAA Administrator.

NSF Announces STEM Education Advisory Panel – NSF has announced the establishment of the STEM Education Advisory Panel to provide advice and recommendations to the interagency Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), assess CoSTEM’s progress in carrying out responsibilities related to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, and help identify need or opportunity to update the Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education 5-Year Strategic Plan.  For more information contact the responsible NSF official, Dr. William Lewis, Acting Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation.

Senate Confirms Key Commerce Department Nominations – On October 5, the United States Senate confirmed the President’s nominations of Adm. Timothy Gallaudet to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (Deputy Administrator for NOAA) and Dr. Walter Copan to be Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (NIST Administrator).

National Oceanic Partnership Program (NOPP) 2018 Broad Agency Announcement Deadline Extended -- In July 2017 the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) of the National Science Foundation announced that they are partnering with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), NASA, and NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP), via the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), in a “Broad Agency Announcement” (ONR BAA # N000014-17-S-B016) regarding three ocean research and technology topics of mutual and emerging interest including:  CubeSat Sensors for Investigating Littoral Ocean and Atmospheric Drivers; Improved and Routine Production, Stewardship and Application of the Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature Data; and In-situ Ocean Sensor Research and Technology Development.  The October 16, 2017 deadline for the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) 2018 Broad Agency Announcement has been extended one week until October 23, 2017. This change affects the submission deadline for the Topic 1 and Topic 2 full proposal and Topic 3 Letters of Intent. The Topic 3 full proposal deadline remains on January 29, 2018.

NSF Seeks Information on Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure – On October 6 NSF issued a Request for Information on existing and future needs for mid-scale research infrastructure projects.  The purpose of this RFI is to assess the needs for mid-scale RI from the US-based NSF science and engineering community in order to develop a strategy, in accordance with the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). The AICA requires NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and "develop a strategy to address the needs." This RFI focuses on mid-scale research infrastructure projects with an anticipated NSF contribution of between $20 million and $100 million towards construction and/or acquisition. This range is of primary interest to NSF as it will help us anticipate the potential impact of lowering an existing threshold as well as identifying promising projects that remain difficult to address within program budgets due to the comparatively large investment needed in a relatively short period of time. After the submission period ends, and the information is analyzed, NSF will summarize the high-level insights drawn from this analysis for the science community and internal NSF use. The deadline for submission to this RFI is December 8, 2017. 

Back in January 2012, the National Science Board issued an evaluation of the need for mid-scale instrumentation in response to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (ACRA 2010).  In that report the NSB concluded at that time:  Overall, the Board finds that the current research infrastructure investments across the Foundation are in alignment with the Board’s earlier forecasts and recommendations on funding and prioritization – including for mid-scale research instrumentation. In particular, the Board finds that NSF’s current balance of small, medium and large instrumentation is sound, and that the variety of mechanisms by which NSF prioritizes, solicits, evaluates, and supports mid-scale instrumentation – both directly, and indirectly through large centers and facilities – provides flexibility and vigor to NSF’s efforts. Consequently, although the Board’s evaluation points to the importance of continuing strongly to support mid-scale instrumentation, the Board does not recommend that NSF expand existing Foundation-wide programs or create a new Foundation-wide program for mid-scale instrumentation at this time. (emphasis added).

National Association of Marine Laboratories to Hold Biennial Fall Meeting – On October 24 and 25, at the Cousteau Center in Tuckerton, New Jersey, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will be meeting to discuss and take action on a number of issues important to NAML members including: fisheries research priorities at NOAA and public policy priorities for NAML going forward.  A variety of science presentations related to shellfish research, coastal management user conflict; development of a regional GeoDataBase; Sentinel Site Initiative: A networked approach to early detection of environmental change.  More information on this meeting including registration; the agenda; and lodging can be found here.