The FY 2011 budget is likely to be very tight. After spending $1.4 trillion in the last two years on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), there is pressure to rein in discretionary spending. As reported in the November 27, 2009 issue of Science, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) said that "there's a consciousness we've got to get the deficit down," and Energy Secretary Steven Chu confirmed rumors that the FY 2011 budget request will be "flat overall."
However, there are signs that within the overall budget, some money will be reallocated to provide increases for basic research agencies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In an October 5 Statement of Administration Policy, the President urged Senators to meet his budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) so that those agencies can stay on track to double their budgets by 2016. Additionally, the conference report for NSF's FY 2010 appropriation bill addressed the doubling of the budget by "reiterating concerns expressed by the House that the request for fiscal year 2011 should represent at least a seven percent increase for NSF over the conference agreement level for fiscal year 2010." Finally, the January 1, 2010 issue of Science reported that in addition to the nearly $1 billion increase in the NASA budget for FY 2010, the President is expected to add another $1 billion in FY 2011 to fund the development of a new heavy-lift rocket for the human space flight program.
For details on the appropriations process as well as updated FY 2010 R&D estimates based on final Congressional action, see the AAAS R&D Budget Web site.
Other Congressional News
Congress Returns, Briefly. The second session of the 111th Congress will get a jump start on January 12 when the House returns for two days before leaving for a retreat, while the Senate holds a pro forma session. Both chambers will reconvene on January 19.
AAAS Co-Hosts Congressional Climate Briefing. AAAS joined with the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Ecological Society of America, and Pew Center on Global Climate Change to host a January 8 briefing on climate change impacts and adaptation. More than 200 representatives from Congress, federal agencies, and NGOs attended the briefing which examined the nature of climate impacts within the United States and options for dealing with them.
NIH Announces More Stimulus Spending. The National Institutes of Health has introduced an $80 million program of stimulus funds called the NIH Director's Opportunity for Research in Five Thematic Areas. The five themes mirror major priorities named by Director Francis Collins: genomics and other high-throughput technologies; translational science; enabling health care reform; global health; and reinvigorating the biomedical research community. NIH also announced recently that it has devoted more than $18 million in stimulus funds to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
Obama Announces STEM Education Initiative. President Obama last week announced a $250 million public-private effort to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The initiative seeks to prepare more than 10,000 new teachers over five years and provide professional development opportunities to more than 100,000. It would effectively double the campaign launched by Obama in November. The President also presented the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching to outstanding math and science teachers.
Report on Managing Select Agents Released. The Working Group on Strengthening the Biosecurity of the U.S. released a report recommending changes in how the government manages the select agent list of 82 dangerous toxins and pathogens. The report calls for the list to be stratified based on agents' risk, and also for increased security at labs that use the agents.
Challenges to EPA's Endangerment Finding. Opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare is beginning to mount. On December 23, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association filed a petition in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the finding, claiming it is not based on scientific analysis. Also that day, the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a petition, with the support of nine House Republican Members, calling on the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding, citing challenges to the science from the e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia. Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and several state secretaries wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking that the agency reconsider its endangerment finding because they feel future climate regulations may have a negative economic effect on Louisiana.
Public Comments Wanted. EPA is seeking public comments through February 1 on a draft document entitled "An Assessment of Decision-Making Processes: The Feasibility of Incorporating Climate Change Information into Land Protection Planning." This document reviews best practices in planning for the impacts of climate change on protected lands and assesses the feasibility of incorporating climate change impacts information into the evaluation of those programs.
Water Research Strategy Released. EPA released a national water research strategy on December 18. The four research priorities include healthy watersheds and coastal waters; safe drinking water; sustainable water infrastructure; and water security.
EPA Proposes Tightening Smog Rules. EPA released a new proposed rule that would reduce the allowable amount of ground-level ozone in the air from 75 to between 60 and 70 parts per billion for any eight-hour period. Ground-level ozone is a primary component of smog. The new proposal mirrors the unanimous recommendation of EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in 2007 – a recommendation that was not followed in 2008 when new rules were released. EPA also announced that it will set a secondary, seasonal ozone limit to protect plants and trees. The proposal must undergo 60 days of public comment before becoming final.
Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 to be Released. The 2010 issue of the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators will be released at a public meeting on January 15. The biennial volume is mandated by statute and contains a comprehensive compilation of data and analysis on the condition of the nation's science and technology enterprise.
Head of Key Weather Satellite Program Resigns. Dan Stockton, the executive director of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), announced his resignation, effective January 8. NPOESS, a joint program of NOAA, NASA, and the Department of Defense, is the next generation of low earth orbiting environmental satellites critical to climate and weather observations and has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. Officials from NPOESS also missed a January 4 deadline to provide Congress with management and budget changes for the $15 billion weather satellite program.
Defense Science Board Members Announced. On January 5, 2010, the Department of Defense announced the members of the Defense Science Board, a standing federal advisory committee created in 1956 to provide "the secretary, deputy secretary and under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics with independent, informed advice and opinion on scientific, technical, manufacturing, acquisition process." The 39 new members include individuals from academia and industry as well as former military officers.
UK Funding Criterion Stirs Controversy. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has launched a new Research Excellence Framework for allocating $2.4 billion per year in public funds to universities beginning in 2013. One of its proposals, however, has engendered sharp protests from more than 18,000 academics, who have signed a petition opposing the Council's plan to require researchers to submit examples of the societal and economic benefits that their research has produced over the past 10-15 years as a criterion for awarding funds. The Council will announce its final plans in spring 2010.
Comment on this item on our new Policy Alert blog.
You must be a registered user to post comments. Join or sign in.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at: http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Kasey White, Ric Weibl, Brad Wible
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.