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.  
 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Bill – On July 13th the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.  The CJS Appropriations Subcommittee marked up this bill back on June 28th.  This bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”. 

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The Committee directs NSF to allocate no less than fiscal year 2017 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, the astronomy centers, the current academic fleet including global class vessels with unique seismic capabilities, FFRDCs and the national high performance computing centers so they may provide the support needed for cutting edge research. NSF is encouraged to expand support for the National Deep Submergence Facility's remotely-operated vehicle operations for open sourced telepresence discovery based research and education expeditions.

The Committee includes language calling out the importance of neuroscience research, fire research, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, astronomy assets, the International Ocean Discovery Program, and marine seismic research.  The Committee has eliminated funding for NSF’s proposed Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.  The Committee fully funds the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science Program, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.  The leadership of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership weighed in with the House Appropriations Subcommittee is support of both the RCRVs and marine seismology infrastructure.  A copy of the COL letter is available here 

During the full committee mark up, Rep. David Price offered, and then withdrew, an amendment to increase NSF’s research account above the Committee’s mark.  Chairman Culberson, in response to Rep. Price’s proposal, said that he hoped to revisit NSF funding and address support for the RCRVs as appropriations process moves forward.

The Committee includes language encouraging the National Science Board to consider policy changes that would bridge the gap between the Major Research Instrumentation program and the MREFC account projects while also developing processes appropriate for mid-scale infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, and instrument upgrades to be funded through the MREFC account.  The Board, in collaboration with the National Academies is directed to examine these issues and provide a report to the Committee within 180 days after enactment of this appropriations bill.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  The Committee includes language encouraging NOAA to collaborate, via extramural research, with academia and the private sector while also encouraging NOAA, to the extent possible and practicable, purchase services from the private sector when such services are cost effective, reliable, and available.  Within the funds provided to NOAA for aquaculture, up to $5 million is available for shellfish survival research to be conducted with research institutes across the U.S.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), instead of being cut by 32% as proposed by the Administration, the Committee limited the OAR reduction to 6% by providing a total of $448.8 million for OAR operations and research.  The Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a total of $70 million with $63 million for the Sea Grant base program and $7 million for Sea Grant aquaculture initiative. 

The Joint Technology Transfer Initiative grows to $20 million.  The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the VORTEX-SE serve storms research program as well as the proposal to terminate the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles testbed program and tornadoes in the southeast of the U.S.  Climate research is reduced by 19% or $30 million with most of the reduction coming from the climate competitive research program.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, also slated for elimination, was funded at the FY 2017 of $23.5 million.  Coastal Zone Management grants, instead of being zeroed out as proposed by the Administration, the Committee is providing $45 million, down $40 million from the $85 million provided in FY 2017. 

Navigation, Observations and Positioning is funded at $145.5 million with report language directing NOAA to prioritize its mission-critical responsibilities including mapping and charting.  The Integrated Ocean Observation System program is funded at $31 million, a level similar to FY 2017. 

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) $10 million is provided to continue Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock assessment research.  The Prescott marine mammal stranding program will continue in contrast to the Administration’s proposal to terminate the program. The Committee encourages NOAA to make competitive awards for studies of highly migratory fish species in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  The bill provides the request for implementation of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing program

The National Weather Service (NWS) operations is funded at $973 million which is very close to the FY 2017 level.  The Committee rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate Tsunami warning centers and the Mesonet program.  The Committee also rejected the Administration’s proposal to reduce support for mid-range weather outlooks and numerical weather prediction.

Instead of elimination as proposed by the Administration, NOAA education programs are funded at a total of $19.1 million which is a 29% reduction from the FY 2017 level.

Within the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) support is provided for the Space Weather Follow On program, the purchase of commercial satellite weather data, and $6.1 million for COSMIC 2 microsatellite program.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science (up 15%) and astrophysics (10%), while reducing funding for earth sciences research by 11.3%.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill — On July 13th the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, the Department of Education, the Center for Disease Control, and other domestic agencies, marked their version of an FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill includes $156 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $5 billion below the FY 2017 level.  The bill emphasizes investments in medical research, public health, biodefense activities, and fundamental education programs.  The bill allocates a significant funding increase of $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health bringing the proposed budget up to $35.2 billion instead of the 18% reduction proposed by the Administration.  The bill provides strong support for several specific research initiatives including:  $1.8 billion, a $400 million increase, for Alzheimer’s research; $336 million, a $76 million increase for the BRAIN initiative; and $400 million, a $80 million increase, for then All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative and $300 million for the Cancer Moonshot research program.  The bill also includes increases for special education funding; TRIO, GEAR UP, and early childhood education programs.  The subcommittee’s recommendations also push back on and does not include the Administration’s proposal to cap indirect cost rates on NIH grants.

OMB Provides Guidance to Agencies for FY 2019 Budget Development – On July 7th, the Office of Management and Budget released a memorandum sent to all agencies providing guidance on the development of the FY 2019 budget – a budget proposal due to OMB by September 11, 2017.  OMB directs agencies to draft FY 2019 budgets that “should reflect a level no higher than the net total provided…in the FY 2019 column of the FY 2018 Budget.” It is worth noting that in the details of the Administration’s FY 2018 budget, an out year table (Table S-7, Proposed Discretionary Spending Caps for 2018 Budget, p.40) for discretionary spending (divided between Defense and Non-defense) was included.  For FY 2019, OMB is proposing to reduce Non-defense Discretionary spending by an additional $16 billion, on top of the proposed $54 billion reduction proposed for FY 2018. 

OMB does invite the agencies “…to identify additional investments in effective programs that further support their mission and fill a clear Federal role.”  These additional investments should be no more than a 5% increase over the “submission level” for FY 2019.  In this guidance document, OMB also advises the agencies to submit Agency Reform Plans drawn from the reorganization guidance issued by Executive Order 13781, when they submit their FY 2019 budget plans.  OMB emphasizes “…the FY 2019 budget process will give special consideration to bold reform or reorganization proposals that have the potential to dramatically improve effectiveness and efficiency of government operations…”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Interior/Environment Appropriations Act – The House Appropriations Committee has released a summary of the fiscal year 2018 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.  In total, the bill provides $31.4 billion, $824 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $4.3 billion above the President’s budget request. These funds are targeted to investments in the nation’s natural resources, including $3.4 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat wildfires. The legislation also contains several policy provisions targeted at EPA regulations.  The bill funds the EPA at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $528 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.9 billion above the Administration’s request.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a $38 million decrease below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Core responsibilities and grant programs are level funded. The legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and refuge maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries.

The bill also continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rule makings for greater sage-grouse. 

For the U.S.  Geological Survey (USGS) the bill includes $1 billion, $46 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Funding is targeted to programs dealing with natural hazards, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. The bill includes $10.2 million for an earthquake early warning system to help save lives during natural disasters, and provides the $8.3 million increase necessary for support of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements that are important to local communities for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions. 

The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $885 million in the bill, $22 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. For the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the bill includes $145 million for each of the endowments, $5 million below the fiscal year 2017 level for each endowment.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Transportation Appropriations Act – The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the FY 2018 Transportation-Housing Appropriations bill on July 11th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies.  In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $56.5 billion in discretionary spending – $1.1 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $8.6 billion above the request. This funding is targeted to essential investments in transportation infrastructure investments, as well as fundamental community development and housing programs.

The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability, and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments are designed to help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.

The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal­-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system. The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.

The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill – On July 12th, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  The bill totals $37.6 billion which is $209 million below the FY 2017 level and $3.65 billion above the President’s budget request.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.

Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request to a level of $1.1 billion. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.  Within the Office of Science, the Biological and Environmental Research program is funded at $582 million, a reduction of $30 million from the FY 2017 level.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Operation and Maintenance program is funded at $3.5 billion, $370 million more than the FY 2017 level.  The O&M program includes the National Coastal Mapping Program which is funded at $6.3 million, an amount equal to the budget request and the FY 2017 level.

House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill – The Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Bill for FY 2018 was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  This bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the U.S. southern border.  For the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the bill provides $6.8 billion for disaster relief and emergency response activities.  To respond to both natural and man-made disasters, the bill funds FEMA's disaster relief account (DRF) at $7.3 billion.  The legislation also includes $2.7 billion for FEMA grant programs. This includes: $467 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program; $630 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, including an increase of $25 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; $690 million for firefighter assistance grants; and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

President Announces Intent to Nominate Paul Dabbar to be DOE Undersecretary for Science– On July 11th the President announced his intent to nominate Paul Dabbar to the post of Undersecretary for Science at the Department of Energy.  Mr. Dabbar is Managing Director for Mergers & Acquisitions for J.P. Morgan, and has over $400 billion in investment experience across many energy sectors including solar, wind, geothermal, distributed-generation, utility, LNG, pipeline, oil & gas, trading, energy technology, and has also led the majority of all nuclear transactions.  Before joining J.P. Morgan, Mr. Dabbar served as a nuclear submarine officer in Mare Island, California, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, including deploying to the North Pole where he conducted environmental research.  He also currently serves on the Department of Energy Environmental Management Advisory Board.  He has been a lecturer at the U.S. Naval Academy Economics Department, and conducted research at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.  Mr. Dabbar received a B.S. degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, and an M.B.A. degree from Columbia University.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations — On June 29, 2017 the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked up and reported out their FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  At this time, only a brief summary of the bill is available.  More details will be released once the bill moves to full Committee mark up in mid-July.

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  It appears that the Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a level close to the FY 2017 level.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The reduction of $133 million appears to eliminate the 3 Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science and astrophysics, while reducing funding for lower-priority research.

FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations — On June 28, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee marked up their recommendations for their FY 2018 Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.  Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.

Additional details on DOE funding will be available once the bill moves to full Committee in mid-July.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Expresses Opposition to Administration’s Proposed 22% Reduction to NIH – On June 22, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education on the FY 2018 NIH budget.  The Administration has proposed to reduce the NIH budget by 22% as well as cap indirect cost rates.  Neither of these proposals were met with support by the Republican and Democratic Senators present. Chairman Roy Blunt who has increased NIH funding by 13% over the past two years, assured the NIH Director that the Subcommittee will not be implementing the President’s FY 2018 proposals.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Periodic Federal Science Upate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Periodic Federal Science Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Periodic Federal Science Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Periodic Federal Science Update

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

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

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

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

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

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