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.