House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) announced last week that the House is working on a "functional equivalent" of a budget resolution, setting discretionary spending levels for FY 2011. The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, however, is not waiting for the resolution and has scheduled a markup of its FY 2011 bill for June 24. This would be the first appropriations subcommittee markup of a FY 2011 spending bill. Meanwhile, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), chair of the Science and Space Subcommittee (NASA's authorizing subcommittee), sent a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee (NASA's appropriating subcommittee), describing the provisions of the NASA reauthorization bill that will soon be brought up before his subcommittee. The letter is an attempt to facilitate coordination between the two subcommittees and to signal publicly that Nelson's reauthorization bill will support a number of President Obama's controversial changes to the NASA budget, including extending the lifespan of the International Space Station, transitioning near-earth cargo and crew services to industry, and developing heavy-lift and crew exploration vehicles for missions beyond the moon. Finally, the House continues to inch forward on the FY 2010 supplemental defense appropriations bill, H.R. 4899, containing $274 million for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) in DOD. The main hold-up at this point is finding offsets for spending features contained in the House bill but not in the Senate's, possibly using unspent funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The offsets are not required for emergency spending, but legislators are wary of voting for more deficit spending, and offsets would ease the passage of the bill.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to order the AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011, download presentation slides or audio from the Forum, and get additional news on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Senate Committee to Address Innovation. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing this week on Innovation in America. Witnesses include Aneesh Chopra, Associate Director for Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); and Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, among others.
Updates on Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an economic analysis of The American Power Act, the climate and energy bill sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). EPA found the bill would have a "relatively modest impact" on consumers, with the average annual cost to households between $79 and $146. The analysis does not reflect the benefits of avoiding the effects of climate change. Senate Democrats are still discussing a strategy for bringing climate and/or energy legislation to the floor, and President Obama is holding a meeting on the topic for key Senators this week.
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WMD Biosecurity Bill Progresses in House. The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on June 15 to discuss the recently introduced WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2010 (H.R. 5498) and plans to mark up the bill on June 23. The bill, a revised version of an earlier one (H.R. 5057), would create a tiered system for dangerous biological agents and would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead efforts to develop security measures for highest-priority biological pathogens and toxins (termed "Tier 1" agents). DHS would also be required to inspect laboratories for compliance with those measures. The bill instructs DHS and the Select Agent Program (SAP) to harmonize security requirements and inspections for Tier 1 agents.
Senate Committee Approves OSTP Nomination. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week approved the nomination of Carl Wieman to be associate director for science in OSTP. It is not yet known when the full Senate will take up the nomination.
FDA News. The Food and Drug Administration will hold a public meeting July 19 and 20 to discuss oversight of laboratory-developed tests (in vitro diagnostics that are manufactured by and offered in the same laboratory), spurred on no doubt by the agency's recent activity challenging the direct-to-consumer sale of genetic tests. The agency also recently unveiled a new type of online resource for drug safety: summaries of FDA analyses on recently approved products. In addition, it is planning to issue final regulations on sunscreen this fall, concluding a process that began 32 years ago.
FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Approval of 5-Day "Morning-After" Pill. The Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unanimously recommended approval of a pill that could prevent pregnancy if taken up to five days after unprotected sex. Called "ella," it is reported to be more effective than "Plan B," which must be taken no more than three days after sex. The pill was developed in the U.S. by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD). It has been approved in Europe and is currently manufactured by a small pharmaceutical firm in France. Anti-abortion groups are opposing approval, calling ella an abortion drug.
Oil Spill Panel Members Named. Three additional members have been appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling: Cherry Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a AAAS Board Member; Frances Beineke, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Terry Garcia, an executive vice president for the National Geographic Society and former general counsel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Previously announced panelists include Donald Boesch, Fran Ulmer, and co-chairs Bob Graham and William K. Reilly.
2010 World Food Prize Laureates and U.S. Feed the Future Strategy Announced. At the announcement of the World Food Prize winners on June 16, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah outlined the new Feed the Future research strategy, which includes a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USAID and USDA will establish the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative, an initiative targeting farmers in the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Among other goals, this effort aims to tie research investments to development programs that work to disseminate scientific innovations to small farmholders. The Borlaug Initiative was unveiled along with the announcement of the 2010 World Food Prize Laureates: Jo Luck, President of Heifer International; and David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World.
Issues Open for Comment. - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on its draft FY 2011-2015 strategic plan. The draft plan proposes five strategic goals and describes how EPA intends to achieve those goals. The public comment period closes July 30, and the final strategic plan will be released by September 30.
- The President's Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), through the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), invites comments on the question:
"What are the critical infrastructures that only government can help provide that are needed to enable creation of new biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology products and innovations -- a technological congruence that we have been calling the "Golden Triangle" -- that will lead to new jobs and greater GDP?"
The comments will inform the implementation of the President's Innovation Strategy as outlined in "A Strategy for American Innovation: Driving Towards Sustainable Growth and Quality Jobs."
- The Small Business Administration has issued a request for information on entrepreneurship development programs for early stage, high-growth companies. For both mentoring and education, the request is aimed at identifying successful models, their metrics for success, and potential for expansion. Comments must be received by July 12, 2010.
Scientists May Be Prosecuted for Failing to Predict Italian Earthquake. The L'Aquila, Italy Prosecutor's office is investigating seven scientists for "gross negligent manslaughter" for failing to issue an alarm for an impending earthquake. The investigation revolves around a committee of experts who met six days before the quake in April 2009 and concluded that months of low-level tremors did not signal that a major quake was on its way, calling the chance of a major quake "improbable, although not impossible." The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck that city killed more than 300 people. Many scientists are concerned about the charges, noting the lack of scientifically-sound methods for short-term earthquake prediction. More than 4000 scientists have signed an open letter addressed to the President of the Italian Republic calling for policymakers "to be proactive in establishing and carrying out local and national programs to support earthquake preparedness and risk mitigation rather than prosecuting scientists for failing to do something they cannot do yet -- predict earthquakes."
School Board Rejects Attempt to Ban Teaching of Climate Change. The Mesa County (Colorado) School Board rejected a petition to prohibit "the teaching of man-made climate change theory as scientific fact in the students' curriculum." The Board also rejected another petition submitted by the same group, Balanced Education for All, to "create and enforce a policy that prohibits teachers from applying their political views to the teaching and grading of students."
San Francisco Board of Supervisors Approves Law Requiring Cell Phone Radiation Information. San Francisco will be the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to adopt a law requiring "all retailers to display the amount of radiation each [cell] phone emits." Under the law, which will take effect in February 2011 if signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom as expected, retailers must "post materials … next to phones, listing their specific absorption rate, … the amount of radio waves absorbed into the cell phone user's body tissue." The National Cancer Institute and the Federal Communications Commission have both declared that there is no scientific evidence that cell phones are dangerous.
Educational Requirements Increasing for Fastest-Growing Jobs. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has released a report forecasting jobs and educational requirements through 2018. Help Wanted: Projecting Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 forecasts that by 2018, 63% of all jobs will require at least some postsecondary education, as compared to 28% in 1973. In four of the five fastest-growing sectors (Healthcare Professional and Technical Occupations, STEM Occupations, Community Services and Arts Occupations, and Education Occupations), 90% of jobs will require postsecondary education. The report predicts a sizable shortage of college graduates by 2018 to fill such positions.
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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 theconvenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to email@example.com.