The House passed all twelve appropriation bills before leaving for its August recess. The Senate will remain in session this week, continuing work on its spending bills before recessing at week's end. Thus far, the Senate has passed three appropriations bills – Energy and Water, Homeland Security, and Legislative Branch – paving the way for the two chambers to begin the conference process, on all bills passed by both, after they return from the August recess.
Under the Defense appropriations bill (H.R.3326) passed by the House on July 30, DOD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) programs would receive $80.2 billion, a small increase of $216.1 million (0.3 percent) over FY 2009 and $1.6 billion or 2.0 percent more than the President's request. Of the four main RDT&E appropriations components (the three services plus defense-wide), the Navy's would receive the largest percentage increase over the President's request, $926.3 million (4.8 percent), putting its total FY 2010 budget at $20.2 billion. Brief summaries of previously reported R&D-relevant appropriations bills passed by the House are available at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/approp/approp10.shtml.
On July 29 the Senate passed the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill (H.R.3183). Under it, the Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive $4.9 billion, $126 million (2.6 percent increase) over FY 2009 and $42 million (0.8 percent) less than the President's request. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill, which includes $30.8 billion for NIH, an increase of $442 million (1.5 percent) over its FY 2009 figure. By comparison, the NIH figure passed by the House is $31.3 billion, which is $942 million (or 3.1 percent) above the FY 2009 level.
This week the Senate is scheduled to take up the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R.2997). The Labor-HHS-Education bill (see above) and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, which was also approved by the full committee last week, may also be voted on by the Senate this week. Updated information on the status of appropriations may be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/approp/approp10.shtml.
Other Congressional News
House Approves Food Safety Bill. On July 30 the House passed a major food safety bill by a 283-142 margin. The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) would raise money for the Food and Drug Administration through inspection fees and give the FDA broad new powers such as mandatory food recall authority. It would mandate several changes in food facility practices, and it would require the government to devise "science-based standards" to minimize food hazards. The bill has yet to go through the Senate. In related news, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new food safety strategies last week, including guidance on E. coli detection.
SBIR Re-authorization Stalls. House and Senate conferees, working against a July 31 expiration of the authorization for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, have had difficulty reaching consensus. Consequently, President Obama last week signed legislation (S. 1513) temporarily extending the programs' authorization for two months. As previous Policy Alerts have reported, a key sticking point has been whether the percentage set-aside for SBIR/SBTT from R&D programs should be increased or remain the same.
PCAST to Hold First Meeting. The Obama Administration's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will hold its inaugural meeting on August 6-7. The Council will address a range of issues including energy and environment, science education, health information technology, innovation, and international security. PCAST is comprised of leading scientists, engineers, and policy-makers and serves to provide independent advice to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In addition to its public meeting, PCAST will hold a closed session with President Obama.
GAO Examines Bayh-Dole Act "March-In" Provision. The Government Accountability Office released a report about the "march-in" rights allowed to federal agencies under the landmark Bayh-Dole Act. That act lets universities retain patents on inventions created through government-supported research grants. "March-in" rights allow federal agencies to take charge of a patent – for example, if the government determines that an inventor is not taking proper steps to commercialize a technology or that such action is necessary to meet public health or safety needs. However, the provisions serve more as a potential threat than something federal agencies use in practice. In fact, the four agencies that the GAO report examined (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health) have never exercised the right. The report lists four reasons why this may be the case, including the fear that agencies' use of the rights would have a "chilling effect" on federal research.
People in the News. - Myron Gutmann, a University of Michigan historian, has been named head of NSF's directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), effective November 2. Until that time, deputy director Judith Sunley will serve as acting assistant director for SBE. Gutmann succeeds David Lightfoot, who has served since 2005.
- President Obama plans to nominate David Michaels to be Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor. Michaels is an epidemiologist at George Washington University and in 2005 received AAAS's Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award "for his commitment to obtain justice for workers whose health suffered from working in nuclear weapons programs, and for advocating scientific integrity in public policy making" while serving as Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety, and Health at the U.S. Department of Energy.
NRC Report on Developing Energy Technologies. The National Research Council of the National Academies last week released a report with recommendations for short- and long-term development and deployment of technologies to meet the nation's energy needs over the coming decades. Rather than narrowly targeting resources to identify technology "winners and losers," the report recommends that a broad portfolio of research should be supported through the demonstration project stage in order to enable accelerated deployment of new technologies.
U.S. and China Find Common Ground. On July 28 the U.S. and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation in Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment following wide-ranging meetings in Washington, DC. The MOU highlights potential areas of collaboration between the two countries, including energy conservation and energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner uses of coal, carbon capture and storage, and joint R&D of clean energy technologies.
German Science Groups Advocate Public Debate on Ethics of Synthetic Biology. Three major scientific organizations in Germany have issued a report recommending public debate on the ethics of synthetic biology science and its potential applications. The organizations – the German Research Foundation; the Leopoldina, Germany's national academy of science; and the German Academy of Science and Engineering – call for a "national centre ... to be established to host a database of information of all newly-created stretches of DNA." The center could use the database, for example, to conduct a safety assessment of a sequence, especially if it has a history of creating dangerous proteins.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Barbara Jasny, Earl Lane, Ginger Pinholster, Amanda Rubin, Al Teich, Kasey White. Brad Wible
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