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.