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.