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.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Commerce Committee Approves AV START Act – Earlier this week the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The bipartisan legislation will help advance the testing and development of self-driving vehicles that have the potential to improve mobility, reduce accidents, save thousands of lives lost on American roads each year, and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of advanced technologies and innovation. The AV START Act will take steps to modernize existing federal motor vehicle safety standards and rules, which were written before the development of self-driving vehicle technologies and have not been updated to address these rapidly developing technologies. The legislation will also strengthen cybersecurity protections for self-driving vehicles, improve mobility for Americans with disabilities, promote consumer education on the capabilities and limitations of self-driving.

House Passes FY 2018 Budget Resolution While Senate Budget Committee Approves its Own Budget Plan for FY 2018 – This week the House of Representatives approved H. Con. Res 71, the FY 2018 Budget Resolution.  The Senate Budget Committee also approved its own version of a budget resolution for FY 2018 and beyond.  The budget resolution sets a framework for spending by broad categories as well as revenue and deficit targets for FY 2018 and beyond.  The budget resolution also contains spending target for total discretionary spending for both defense and non-defense programs and while these target spending levels are important, for them to become binding the Budget Control Act (BCA) has to be amended and signed into law.  The budget resolution is not legislation that goes to the President and thus does not get signed into law.

The House budget resolution exceeds the defense BCA cap by providing $621.5 billion, and sets nondefense discretionary spending at $511 billion, $5 billion below the FY18 cap. The Senate budget adheres to BCA spending caps of $549 billion in defense and $516 billion for nondefense discretionary spending.  Both House and Senate budget resolutions contain tax reconciliation instructions setting the stage for tax reform. However, the House and Senate budgets approach tax reconciliation instructions differently. The Senate version allows up to a $1.5 trillion deficit increase over 10 years, but the House version does not allow any deficit increases. Before tax-writing committees in either chamber can begin drafting legislation, the House and Senate will need to resolve differences on the terms, conditions and budget levels in the budget resolution.

NSF Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Infrastructure Funding Opportunity -- The CISE Research Infrastructure (CRI) program drives discovery and learning in the core CISE disciplines of the three participating CISE divisions by supporting the creation and enhancement of world-class research infrastructure that will support focused research agendas in computer and information science and engineering. This infrastructure will enable CISE researchers to advance the frontiers of CISE research. Further, through the CRI program, CISE seeks to ensure that individuals from a diverse range of academic institutions, including minority-serving and predominantly undergraduate institutions, have access to such infrastructure. The CRI program supports two classes of awards: Institutional Infrastructure (II) awards support the creation of new (II-NEW) CISE research infrastructure or the enhancement (II-EN) of existing CISE research infrastructure to enable world-class CISE research opportunities at the awardee and collaborating institutions; and Community Infrastructure (CI) awards support the planning (CI-P) for new CISE community research infrastructure, the creation of new (CI-NEW) CISE research infrastructure, the enhancement (CI-EN) of existing CISE infrastructure, or the sustainment (CI-SUSTAIN) of existing CISE community infrastructure to enable world-class CISE research opportunities for broad-based communities of CISE researchers that extend well beyond the awardee institutions. Each CI award may support the operation of such infrastructure, ensuring that the awardee institution(s) is (are) well positioned to provide a high quality of service to CISE community researchers expected to use the infrastructure to realize their research goals. More information can be found here.  

NOAA Releases FY 2018-2020 Board Agency Announcement (BAA) – On October 2, NOAA released its multi-year Broad Agency Announcement to encourage research, education and outreach, innovative projects, or sponsorships that are not specifically addressed through NOAA’s competitive discretionary programs. Funding for activities described in the BAA is contingent upon the availability of Fiscal Year 2018, Fiscal Year 2019, and Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations. As an agency with responsibilities for maintaining and improving the viability of marine and coastal ecosystems, for delivering valuable weather, climate, and water information and services, for understanding the science and consequences of climate change, and for supporting the global commerce and transportation upon which we all depend, NOAA uses these BAAs as part of its efforts to remain current and responsive in an ever-changing world. More information on this BAA can be found here

Federal Science Partners Briefs Michigan Tech Faculty on the Public Policy Landscape Facing Research and Education – Mr. Joel Widder and Ms. Meg Thompson, founders of Federal Science Partners, this week traveled to Houghton, Michigan to brief Michigan Tech faculty and administrators on the current state of affairs with respect to federal funding and related policy issues associated with higher education and related research issues.  The presentation highlighted the current and projected declining trend in federal support for non-defense discretionary spending and its impact on research and education.  The presentation also included various comparisons with trends being observed by our international competitors.  A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Dr. Neil Jacobs Nominated for Senior NOAA Position -- ccording to SpacepolicyOnLine.com , President Trump has nominated Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.  The post would also put him in the second tier of NOAA’s leadership reporting directly to the Administrator.  Dr. Steven Volz, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Services, is currently filling that spot on an acting basis. Dr. Jacobs is the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation.  The White House statement explains that he directs R&D for the aviation weather observing program and numerical weather forecasts, and chairs the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group. He has dual B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina, and an M.S. in air-sea interaction and a Ph.D. in numerical modeling from the University of North Carolina. The Administration has yet to nominate anyone to be Administrator of NOAA, but has nominated RADM Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of NOAA.  The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote on his nomination on October 4, then it must be voted on by the full Senate.

President Extends Charters of Key Advisory Committees via Executive Order – On September 29, the President Issued an Executive Order extending the terms of a number of advisory committees including the Presidential Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (which advises the President’s Science Advisor for which no nomination has yet been announced.  Other committees whose terms were extended until September 30, 2019 include: The National Medal of Science, the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee which reports to the Department of Commerce; and the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Announces Reorganization – CMMI’s Infrastructure Management and Extreme Events (IMEE) program has changed to Humans, Disasters and the Built Environment (HDBE). IMEE will no longer accept proposals; active awards in IMEE will be managed by the HDBE Program Director and will remain eligible for supplements and extensions. The HDBE program supports fundamental, multidisciplinary research on the interactions between humans and the built environment within and among communities exposed to natural, technological and other types of hazards and disasters. The program seeks proposals that enrich understanding and explore implications of these interactions, whether through theoretical, methodological or empirical advances, thereby contributing to society's capabilities to learn from, prepare for and respond to hazards and disasters.

President Announces $200 Million STEM Education Initiative to be Managed by the Education Department – On September 25, the President released a Memorandum addressed to the Secretary of Education describing STEM education as a key priority of the Administration. “With the growing role of technology in driving the American economy, many jobs increasingly require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – including, in particular, Computer Science…As part of my Administration’s commitment to supporting American workers and increasing economic growth and prosperity, it is critical that we educate and train our future workforce to compete and excel in lucrative and important STEM fields…”  The President calls on the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million in grant funds per year for the promotion of high-quality STEM education, particularly Computer Science.

GAO Issues Report on NSF Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Indirect Costs -- For National Science Foundation (NSF) awards during fiscal years 2000 through 2016, budgeted indirect costs varied from 16 to 24 percent of the total annual amounts the agency awarded. The variation from year-to-year was based on various factors such as by the types of activities supported by the awards and the types of awardee organizations receiving the awards.  NSF has developed internal guidance for setting indirect cost rates (ICR) but has not consistently implemented this guidance and has not included certain details and procedures.  For example, NSF has not consistently implemented its guidance because it has not yet required NSF staff to follow aspects of its guidance, such as using a documentation checklist that NSF developed to verify that an awardee’s ICR proposal package is complete.  NSF did not include details on supervisory activities, such as the criteria to be used by the supervisor of the ICR process for assessing an ICR proposal’s risk level and mitigating risks at each level. And NSF did not include certain procedures, such as for implementing new provisions of federal guidance on setting ICRs. NSF officials described ways that staff implement procedures even though the procedures are not fully detailed or included in guidance. Nevertheless, with complete guidance that includes the missing details and procedures and that is consistently followed, NSF could better ensure that ICRs are set consistently and in accordance with federal guidance on indirect costs and with federal internal control standards.  The GAO report is available here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Navy Task Force Ocean Meeting October 3 -- Task Force Ocean’s (TFO) Executive Steering Committee will convene its third meeting 10 a.m. on October 3 at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. Welcoming remarks will be made by COL President and CEO Rear Adm. (ret.) John White and keynote remarks will be provided by Oceanographer of the Navy Rear Adm. John Okon and Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn. The meeting agenda includes a review of summer workshop reports, discussion on how the TFO vision can be brought to reality and a thorough assessment of current and future action items. Task Force Ocean is a cooperative effort to advance ocean science in the U.S. to ensure the U.S. Navy maintains a competitive advantage in its ability to exploit the ocean environment. It is a Navy-led task force with an Executive Steering Committee co-chaired by RDML Okon, the Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy and RADM Hahn, the Chief of Naval Research. TFO is focused on five lines of effort: 1) sensing and observation, 2) understanding, modeling and prediction, 3) Naval applications and decision-aids, 4) human capital and technical workforce and 5) strategic communications. More information about TFO and the October 3 meeting can be found here.

Senate Passes Sea Grant Reauthorization Bill by Unanimous Consent -- On September 14, 2017, the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, S. 129, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017 (the Sea Grant Reauthorization Act). The bill would reauthorize the Sea Grant from 2017 through 2022. The bill also would make a number of program adjustments, including: creating a more equitable placement of Sea Grant Fellows in congressional offices; giving the head of any Federal agency direct hiring authority to hire a Knauss fellow who successfully fulfilled the requirements of their fellowship for up to 2 years after completion of their fellowship; adding aquaculture as a priority activity; an increase of 0.5 percent for funding the national office; and encouragement to use the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) to assist in meeting critical staffing needs.

This bill would authorize appropriations of $75.6 million for FY 2017, $79.38 million for FY 2018, $83.35 million for FY 2019, $87.52 million for FY 2020, $91.9 million for FY 2021, and $96.5 million for FY 2022. An additional $6 million would be authorized for competitive grants for specific priority activities, including non-native species, oyster restoration and research, harmful algal blooms, regional or national priority issues including resiliency, aquaculture, and fisheries. The major difference between the bill passed in the Senate on September 14, 2017 and the bill as reported from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation in March of this year, is the addition of a new, “good government” section requiring the Secretary of Commerce to notify Congress 30 days in advance of NOAA’s intent to designate any new Sea Grant Colleges or Sea Grant Institutions. House action, at this point, remains unscheduled as the issue of the distribution of Knauss fellows among Congressional offices remains unresolved.

NSF Ocean Sciences Dear Colleague Letter on Seafloor Science and Engineering Research – NSF is interested in supporting efforts to advancing the technology related to marine sensors for use in the deep sea environment. Future sensing technology needs to be intelligent, autonomous, agile, and have the capability of communicating with other sensors in real time. Future sensors will also need the capability of being deployed for long durations; perhaps extracting energy from the ambient environment. Engineering advances are required to explore Earth in the least-invasive manner and with a minimal environmental footprint. New methods for sub-seafloor imaging are also envisioned. Such new technology could be applicable to sensing in other settings with extreme conditions. NSF is interested in proposals to support conferences or workshops that focus on the engineering and marine science challenges for such technology.  More information on these workshops is available in the NSF Dear Colleague Letter.

House Committee to Hold Hearing on the Great American Eclipse -- The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Space of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing titled The Great American Eclipse: To Totality and Beyond on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The purpose of the hearing is to review what scientific knowledge was gained from studying the eclipse, how U.S. telescopes and other scientific instruments were used to capture the eclipse, lessons learned from engaging the public and students in grades K-12 in STEM education and activities surrounding the event, and future preparations for eclipses in 2019 and 2024. Witnesses will include: Dr. James Ulvestad, Assistant Director (Acting), Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, National Science Foundation; Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Dr. Heidi Hammel, Executive Vice President, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy; Dr. Matthew Penn, Astronomer, National Solar Observatory; and Ms. Michelle Nichols-Yehling, Director of Public Observing, Adler Planetarium.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Nomination Hearing for New Leaders of NOAA and NIST – On September 27 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee chaired by Senator John Thune (R-SD) will hold a hearing on several recent nominations including the one for Rear Admiral (RET) Tim Gallaudent to be the Deputy Administrator of NOAA and Dr. Walter Copan to be the next Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology.  The hearing will take place at 10:30 in the morning in Room 253 Russell Senate Office Building. The hearing will be streamed from the Committee’s web site.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2018 – On September 14, 2017, after several long days of debate, the House gave final approval to HR 3354.  This bill contains all twelve individual appropriations bills marked up and reported out the House Appropriations Committee earlier this summer.  Four of the twelve were passed prior to the start of the August recess (Defense, Military Construction/VA, Energy and Water, Legislative Branch).  These four served as the so-called security appropriations bill.  The remaining eight, which are primarily non-defense discretionary bills (Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Labor-HHS-Education, Financial Services, Interior/EPA, Transportation and Housing, State and Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security), were brought to the floor as a single bill and during the debate, the House considered 342 amendments to the bill.  The following is the disposition of some of the amendments adopted that are of interest to our readership:

·      Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Science Committee successfully offered an amendment to increase by .5% the amount of funding within the NSF research account for physical and biological sciences;

·      Rep. Flores from Texas and others passed an amendment prohibiting the use of funds to implement the National Ocean Policy Executive Order in the CJS title of the omnibus appropriations act. Yet, Rep Cicilline and others were successful in their amendment that deleted language restricting funding in the Agriculture title of the bill for the National Ocean Policy Executive Office;

·      Reps. Lipinski and LoBiondo were successful in their amendment to restore $10.1 million for on-site information technology officers in each National Weather Service Forecast office.  These members also successfully restored $1.2 million in funding to eliminate staff reductions at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction;

·      Led by Rep. Bonamici, the House voted to increase funding for ocean acidification and decrease by the same amount to highlight the importance of ocean acidification to coastal communities;

·      Reps Buchanan and Mast from Florida successfully increased $8 million the funding within the National Ocean Service to address harmful algal bloom issues while reducing the Department of Commerce’s management account by the same amount; and

·      Rep Soto successfully increased funding for EPA’s National Estuary Program by nearly $500,000.

The bill was adopted largely along party lines by the vote of 211 to 198.  It is considered very unlikely the Senate will take up this bill anytime soon.

DARPA Young Faculty Award Program -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award (YFA) program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and equivalent positions at non-profit research institutions and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) and National Security challenges and needs. In particular, this YFA will provide high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative DoD capabilities. The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on DoD and National Security issues. DARPA is particularly interested in identifying outstanding researchers who have previously not been performers on DARPA programs, but the program is open to all qualified applicants with innovative research ideas.  Final proposals are due by December 4, 2017.  Get more information here.

President to Nominate Walter Copan as Next NIST Director -- Walter Copan of Colorado is to be nominated by the President to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, according to a September 12th announcement from the White House. Dr. Copan is President and CEO of IP Engineering Group Corporation and Board member of Rocky Mountain Innovation Partners, supporting Federal labs, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial businesses. He was Managing Director—Technology Commercialization and Partnerships at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Technology Transfer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Among his entrepreneurial ventures was Clean Diesel Technologies, Inc. (CDTi) which he led as CTO and Executive VP onto NASDAQ. During his 28 years with Lubrizol Corporation, he held top leadership positions including research, development, and business unit management. Dr. Copan earned dual undergraduate degrees, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. He has served as board member and advisor to many organizations, including the Federal Laboratory Consortium.  Mr. Copan’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Senator Pete Domenici Dead at 85 – Senator Pete Domenici from New Mexico has died according to his son’s law firm.  The Senator was, among other things, an incredibly strong advocate for scientific research and STEM education.  As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and his positions on the Senate Appropriations Committee positioned him to successfully protect and strengthen the Nation’s investment in science and technology.  For more information on the Senator’s career and accomplishments read the story in Roll Call available here.

Business R&D in the U.S. Reaches $356 Billion in 2015 – According to a new report from the National Science Foundation, businesses spent $356 billion on research and development (R&D) performed in the United States in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the $341 billion spent in 2014. Of the total R&D expenditures in 2015, companies spent $22 billion (6 percent) on basic research, $56 billion (16 percent) on applied research, and $278 billion (78 percent) on development. The spending shares did not change from 2014. Those data points come from the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), developed and cosponsored by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Funding from companies' own sources was $297 billion in 2015, a 5 percent increase from the $283 billion spent in 2014. Funding from other sources was $59 billion in 2015 and $58 billion in 2014. In 2015, companies in manufacturing industries performed 66 percent of domestic R&D. Most of the funding (83 percent) was from the companies' own funds. Companies in nonmanufacturing industries performed 34 percent of total domestic R&D, 84 percent of which was paid from the companies' own funds.  A copy of the report is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

White House and Congressional Leadership Agree to Pass Disaster Relief, 3 Month CR, and Raise the Debt Ceiling – This week the President met with the leadership of the House and Senate and agreed to pass a bill that would provide some $8 billion in disaster relief related to Hurricane Harvey.  To that emergency supplemental appropriations bill, the Senate will add in a three-month continuing resolution to keep the government operating until early December.  Press reports also indicate an extension of the debt ceiling will also be included.  Should all of this come to pass, we will avoid the drama of a government shutdown and/or a U.S. Government default on its obligations.  Under the continuing resolution programs will operate at a level very close to the current (FY 2017) level through the first part of December.  Congress will have to enact additional legislation in December to keep the government operating as well as once again adjust the debt ceiling.

Administration “Concerned” About “Increases” to NSF in H.R. 3354 – On September 5 the Administration issued a formal Statement of Administration Position (SAP) for the FY 2018 omnibus (the so-called Octobus) appropriations bill that includes funding for NOAA, NASA, NSF, NIH, the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, and many other non-defense agencies and programs.  The SAP says that if this bill was presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.  However, as the SAP discusses various components of this mega-appropriations bill, with respect to the funding included for the National Science Foundation, the SAP says,

The Administration is concerned that the bill provides $7.3 billion for NSF, which is $687 million above the FY 2018 Budget request. The [Administration’s] request focuses funding on NSF’s core research programs and undoes some of the large increases to programs that occurred during the previous administration. 

The funding included in this appropriations bill funds NSF at a level nearly identical to the FY 2017 level rather than the Administration’s plan to reduce NSF by over 10%. Elsewhere in the SAP, the Administration notes its appreciation for the House’s support for NASA Science, is critical that the bill only provides NOAA with $50 million instead of the $180 million requested for NOAA’s Polar Follow On weather satellite, and on the House recommendation to dismiss the Administration’s proposed 20% cut to NIH and replace it with a $1.1 billion increase over FY 2017, the Administration is only critical of Congressional language that prohibits changes to the method NIH uses to pay for administrative and facilities costs.  

Prospects for this bill moving in the Senate, in its current form, are not promising.

Administration Nominates new NASA Administrator and NOAA Deputy Administrator – On September 5 the Administration nominated Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA Administrator.  At the same time, the Administration nominated Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet to be the next Deputy Administrator for NOAA.  The Administration is expected to announce its nominee to be the NOAA Administrator within the coming days.

Mr. Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Mr. Bridenstine began his Naval aviation career flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While on active duty, he transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. After leaving active duty, Mr. Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve. He holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. Mr. Bridenstine is currently a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

Dr. Gallaudet was, until his recent retirement, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy whose most recent assignment was Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. During his 32 years of service, Dr. Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change. Dr. Gallaudet has led teams of Navy Sailors and civilians performing such diverse functions as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, assisting Navy SEAL Teams during high visibility counter-terrorism operations, and developing the Navy's annual $52 billion information technology, cyber security, and intelligence budget. Dr. Gallaudet holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and master’s and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, all in oceanography.

Funding Opportunities in the DOD The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) – SERDP will be releasing three solicitations in the coming months for environmental research and development proposals. Projects will be selected through a competitive process.  A Supplemental FY 2018 Solicitation will be released on or about September 14, 2017. Proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms will be requested.  Proposals submitting to this solicitation will be limited to no more than $200,000 and projects of approximately one year in duration. Proposals will be due October 19, 2017 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 Core Solicitation will be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration consistent with the scope of the work proposed. The Statements of Need (SON) referenced by this solicitation will request pre-proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Munitions Response, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms. All Core pre-proposals will be due January 4, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) Solicitation will also be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for work that will investigate innovative environmental approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept. Funding is limited to not more than $200,000 and projects are approximately one year in duration. SEED proposals will be due March 6, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  Details on each of these solicitations will be available on the SERDP website under Funding Opportunities as soon as the solicitations have been released.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Reauthorization of Magnuson Stevens Act -- U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the third in a series of hearings related to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The hearing will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 and will focus on the perspectives of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen on the state of our nation’s fishery laws.  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 here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Reports Out FY18 Funding Recommendations for NSF, NOAA and NASA — On July 27, 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill with a total of $56.4 billion to support national security, law enforcement, and American scientific innovation.  The FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is $3.2 billion below the FY2017 enacted level and $4.4 billion above the budget request, funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. 

The Committee’s report says, “For the science agencies, the administration proposes a reduction of 3 percent below the fiscal year 2017 spending level to NASA, and 11 percent to NSF.  This budget request attempts to navigate a challenging fiscal environment, but the deep cuts to these science agencies would dramatically curtail ongoing missions and research, for NASA, delay future exploration for years to come.  While leveraging some strategic reductions, this bill makes it possible for NASA and NSF to achieve balanced and cost-effective operations.  NASA in particular will have sufficient financial resources to achieve its management plans and launch schedules for the agency’s science and exploration missions, many of which will reach critical states of development during fiscal year 2018.”

National Science Foundation (NSF) – $7.3 billion for NSF, $161 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $658 million above the request.  Funding is provided for basic research across all scientific and engineering disciplines.  NSF Research is funded at $5.9 billion, down $116 million from FY 2017 but $556 million above the request. Within the MREFC account, $105 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV).  For the NSF EPSCOR program, $160 million is provided which is the same as the FY2017 enacted level and $60 million above the request.

As in the past, the Committee encourages NSF to fully fund its U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in sustained cutting edge research.  The Committee expressed its support for NSF funding for Mathematical Sciences Institutes; the VORTEX-SE tornado research program in conjunction with NOAA; research on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; high performance computing; advanced manufacturing; cybersecurity; fire research; sustainable chemistry research; and the Innovation Corps program.

NSF Education and Human Resources is funded at $862.4 million.  This is $102 million more than the request but $18 million below the FY 2017 enacted level.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – $5.6 billion for NOAA, an $85.1 million decrease below the FY2017 enacted level, for core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; and severe weather forecasting.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, and their planned successors, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to save lives and protect property.  Funding for NOAA continues to target new areas of investment for fisheries management, including new monitoring technologies and support for state-led management schemes to ensure greater access to the nation’s abundant fishery resources.

The Senate bill provides $419 million to continue construction of two new polar ‘follow-on’ satellites, an increase of $90 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $239 million above the President’s request.  The bill provides $1.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) legacy JPSS and GOES weather satellites.

The Senate bill rejects the administration’s request to reduce funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 32 percent, and instead funds NOAA research at the fiscal year 2017 level of $478 million.  The bill rejects the proposal to eliminate successful NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grant (RCRG) program.  

The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee funded the Sea Grant program at a total of $76.5 million of which $65 million is for the Sea Grant base program and $11.5 million is for Sea Grant aquaculture. There is report language that Sea Grant should continue to support research and develop alternative approaches to data collection and analyses at up to the FY 2017 level.  There is also language to encourage Sea Grant support for American Lobster Research, language on the importance of managing the Sea Grant Fellowship program in a bipartisan manner, and language regarding supporting the current funding model that ensures annual base funding of no less than $1 million per year or $4 million over four years is maintained for each Sea Grant program with Institutional or College Program status.

Within the National Ocean Service (NOS), the Committee is recommending a total of $533.2 million for NOS operations compared to a FY18 budget request of $414.8 million.  Within NOS, $217.6 million is provided as the total for the Navigation, Observations and Positioning program which is $20 million more than the budget request.  Within the subprogram (also called) Navigation, Observations and Positioning which provides support for coastal mapping, the Committee is recommending $154 million or $14 million more than the request. The Integrated Ocean Observing System program is funded at $33.7 million which is an increase of $4.3 million over the request.  NERRS is funded at $26.9 million, which includes $1.9 million for NERRS construction.  National Marine Sanctuaries receives $51 million for program activities and $2 million for construction and acquisition.  CZM grants and resilience grants are funded at their respective fiscal year 2017 funding levels of $70 million and $15 million, and will support coastal and Great Lakes communities across the country.  An additional $500K was also provided for the Marine Debris program.

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Prescott program is not terminated but instead funded at the FY 2017 level.  NMFS support for red snapper stock assessment is funded at the same level provided in FY 2017 -- $5 million.  The Committee directs NOAA to maintain its support for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing at no less than the FY 2017 level. The Committee expressed its support for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and its efforts to combat IUU fishing.  The Bycatch program is maintained at its FY 2017 level while the NMFS Aquaculture program is funded at $15 million.  In FY 2017 aquaculture was funded at $6.3 million in NMFS.

For the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) operations, the Committee is recommending $477.7 million which is $157 million more than the budget request and $17 million over the FY 2017 estimate.  A total of $158 million is provided for climate research -- $30 million more than the request or the House’s recommendation.  Within the $158 million for climate research: $60 million is to support climate laboratories and cooperative institutes; $38 million for Regional Climate Data and Information; and $60 million for Climate Competitive Research.  Arctic research, which had been proposed for elimination is funded at no less than the FY 2017 level.  The Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR) within the U.S. Weather Research Program is funded at no less than $2.6 million.  

For the National Weather Service, the Committee is recommending a total of $987.5 million for operations.  The Administration’s request was for $936.1 million and in FY 2017, NWS operations were funded at an estimated $986 million.  The Committee provided about $9 million more in FY18 for observations than they did in FY 2017.  The National Mesonet program is funded at $19 million rather than terminated as proposed by the Administration.  The Committee provides no less than the FY 2017 level for mid-range weather outlooks, including seasonal to sub-seasonal forecasting and Investments in Numerical Weather Prediction Modeling.  The National Water Center (NWC) is maintained at the FY 2017 level.  

The Senate Committee bill rejects the proposal to terminate NOAA education programs and instead funds the Office of Education at $27 million – a level close to the FY 2017 program. Within the funding provided, $14.5 million is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions, $5 million is for Environmental Literacy grants, and $7.5 million is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs.

The Senate bill provides $75 million to begin building a new NOAA survey vessel.  NOAA currently has 16 ships in its aging fleet, but that number will dwindle to 8 vessels by 2028.  The Committee recently funded one additional vessel, but to maintain its current oceanographic capacity, NOAA needs to build not one but eight additional vessels in the next several years, as construction takes eight to ten years per ship.  These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management. 

The Senate bill also includes $6.1 million for COSMIC-2 radio occultation satellite project and $2 million for a commercial weather data pilot program.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $19.5 billion for NASA, $124 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $437 million above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. The bill rejects the proposed elimination of NASA education programs.  It supports key priorities in Earth Science and satellite servicing.  Specifically, the bill includes:

• $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $212 million above the request.  The funding continues the development schedule for SLS, and provides $300 million in critical funding for upper stage engine work for future crewed missions.

• $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $164 million above the request, to continue development of NASA’s next deep-space crewed capsule.

• $5.6 billion for Science, $193 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $140 million below the request.  Within Science, the Committee provides $1.9 billion for Earth Science and $1.6 billion for Planetary Science.  In response to the NAS Decadal Survey, the Committee is providing $10 million for establishing a space weather research program within NASA.

• $732 million, the same as the request, to further develop a domestic crew launch capability.

• $700 million for Space Technology, $14 million above the FY2017 enacted level and $21 million above the request.  Funding is included to advance projects in early stages of development that are expected to eventually demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration.

• $100 million is provided for the Education programs proposed to be eliminated in the budget request.  NASA EPSCoR is funded at $18 million, Space Grant is funded at $40 million, the Minority University Research and Education Project is funded at $32 million, and STEM Education and Accountability projects is funded at $10 million.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill -- The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out an energy and water bill on July 20th that differs from the priorities of House lawmakers and President Trump.  Approved by a 30-1 vote, the $38.4 billion measure would provide record levels of funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which the Administration and the House Appropriations Committee would eliminate.  The measure would provide ARPA-E a record budget of $330 million, and increase of $24 million over the FY 2017 level.  The bill would provide record levels for DOE's Office of Science ($5.55 billion) and provide higher funding for applied energy programs than called for by the administration.  

Within the Office of Science, the Senate bill recommends $2 billion for basic energy sciences compared to the $1.55 billion requested by the President.  Within Biological and Environmental Research (BER) $633 million is provided including report language the encourages DOE to increase funding for academia to perform climate model studies that include the collection and evaluation of atmospheric data sets from satellite observations.

DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs — which the Administration sought to reduce by 70 percent — would receive $1.9 billion, lower than the $2.1 billion provided last year but far above the $636 million called for in the President's proposal.  The manager's amendment, which passed via a voice vote, includes an amendment from Senators Alexander and Feinstein to expend appropriated funds for critical research on environmental science. An amendment from Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) calls on DOE to utilize investments through existing "regional capabilities" such as universities.  

Funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers national coastal mapping program was funded at $6.3 million which is equal to the Administration’s request and the House’s recommendation.  Finally, the Senate bill notably differs from its House counterpart in that it does not include a provision to exempt the Administration's repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedure Act.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science Scheduled to Mark Up – On Tuesday July 25th the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its version of the FY18 CJS Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for NSF, NOAA, NASA, OSTP, and NIST.  It is worth noting the Senate CJS Subcommittee is working with an allocation of $53.4 billion, which is $500 million below the House allocation for this same bill and $3.2 billion below the FY 2017 level for this subcommittee. The decrease in the Senate CJS allocation is justified by maintaining disbursements from the Crime Victims Fund at the three-year average. Overall, the full Senate Appropriations Committee is working with a total full allocation of $1.07 trillion ($551 billion for defense and $518 billion for non-defense – the same levels enacted for FY 2017).  The total allocation the Committee is using is about $5 billion more than the current statutorily set spending caps – meaning the Committee is advocating for the Congress to enact legislation at some point to raise the FY18 spending cap to something closer to the FY17 level.