The House passed the Senate version of the emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R.4899) last Tuesday, sending the bill to the President for his signature. The final bill totals $58.9 billion including $273.7 million for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) at the Department of Defense. It does not include the additional $16.2 billion in domestic spending originally added by the House. However, the House has introduced separate supplemental bills to provide $701 million for border security (H.R.5875) and $129 million for the Patent and Trademark Office (H.R.5874). The Senate has introduced an amendment (S.ADMT.4567) to H.R.1586 (the Federal Aviation Administration authorization) which includes $10 billion in state aid to avoid teacher layoffs and $16.1 billion for Medicaid.
The full House passed its first two appropriations bills last week -- the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bills. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 5822) totals $79.7 billion in discretionary spending, just $465 thousand above the President's request; it includes $590 million, the President's request, for Medical and Prosthetic Research. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill (H.R. 5850) provides $67.4 billion in discretionary spending, $1.3 billion (1.9%) under the President's request. The Federal Transit Administration's Research and University Research Centers would be funded at $65.4 million, $35.7 million (120.0%) above the President's request, close to FY 2010 levels.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved three more appropriations bills last Thursday, bringing their total to nine out of twelve appropriations bills cleared for a floor vote. The State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill (S. 3676) totals $54.2 billion, $2.6 billion (4.6%) below the President's request. The Financial Services appropriations bill (S. 3677) totals $48.3 billion, $76.6 million (0.2%) above the request. Finally, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill totals $169.6 billion in discretionary spending. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) offered an amendment to increase the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by an additional $1 billion, but the amendment failed, and the NIH budget for FY 2011 remains at $32.0 billion, equal to the President's request and a $1.0 billion (3.2%) increase from FY 2010.
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
SBA Reauthorization Extended, Again. The President signed legislation (H.R. 5849) to extend the authorization for the Small Business Administration including the SBIR/STTR programs through September 30, 2010. This is the eighth time that an extension has been required as both the House and Senate continue to try and resolve differences between their bills.
Witnesses Discuss Public Access to Scientific Research. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's information policy panel examined public access to federally funded research on July 29. The hearing was not connected to any legislation. Ten witnesses -- including publishers, patient advocates and researchers -- discussed their views on the issue. David Lipman, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health, was also on hand to talk about NIH's mandatory Public Access Policy.
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NOAA Releases Climate Report. The 2009 State of the Climate report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on July 28 found that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been warming over the last 50 years. "For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean," said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. "The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys."
EPA Rejects Challenges to Endangerment Finding. On July 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected ten petitions contesting its 2009 finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson explained, "The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination." The groups have announced their intention to continue to appeal the decision in court.
FDA Authorizes First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Trial. After an 18-month delay, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given clearance to Geron Corporation and the University of California, Irvine, to begin a Phase I study of a human embryonic stem cell therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries. The study, which is aimed at testing the safety of the therapy, involves injecting embryonic stem cells which have been turned into precursors of neural support cells into the spinal cord at the site of the injury in hopes of restoring functionality to the damaged nerves. The trial was initially authorized by FDA in January 2009 but was held up for additional safety tests. It is reportedly the world's first authorized test in humans of a therapy based on embryonic stem cells.
White House Proposal to Ease FBI Access to Internet Activity Records. According to news reports, the Obama administration is seeking to make changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in order to allow the FBI easier access to an individual's electronic activity (e.g., e-mail, Internet searches) without requiring a court order. The proposal, which the White House argues is merely a technical fix, would add "electronic communication transactional records" to the categories of information that the FBI already may access without a judge's approval.
Former NSA Director's Speech on Cyber Attack Culpability. Last week, at the annual Black Hat conference, former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Michael Hayden advocated that the U.S. government should seek to hold nations responsible for cyber attacks that come through their cyberspace via proxy servers rather than tackling the difficult task of determining the country of origin of the primary attacker.
DOE announces Phase III SBIR Competition. DOE has allocated $30 million for a competition for businesses to pursue commercial applications of work that derives from, extends, or logically concludes effort(s) performed under prior SBIR agreements. Small companies previously awarded Phase II grants through DOE's Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) or the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) are eligible. Successful applicants may receive up to $3 million over three years to research, develop and deploy new technologies. Applications are currently being accepted through August 4, 2010, in select technology areas within clean energy.
NRC: Proliferation Study of New Enrichment Technology Unnecessary. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided not to perform an additional "nonproliferation assessment" on a new uranium enrichment technology that uses laser isotope separation. Scientists and proliferation experts, however, are concerned that facilities that employ this new technology are smaller in scale and demand less energy than existing uranium-enrichment plants -- features that would make a clandestine nuclear-fuel enrichment operation easier to hide from regulatory agencies. GE-Hitachi, owners of the rights to the technology, plan to construct an enrichment facility in North Carolina pending NRC approval.
U.S. Nuclear Forensics Capabilities are Declining. Last week, the National Research Council released a report warning that the nation's forensic ability to trace the origin of a nuclear weapon is declining. The report, which was initially released under confidentiality in January, warns of poor governmental management for the program, as well as a deficiency in skilled personnel, sensitive instruments, facilities and, importantly, funding. A AAAS/APS report on this topic issued two years ago reached a similar conclusion.
EU FP7 Programme Publishes New Calls with Emphasis on International Collaboration. On July 20, the European Unions Seventh R&D Framework Programme (FP7) published 51 new calls for proposals. The calls, which are open to U.S. participation, place major emphasis on international collaboration. Funding areas include climate change, energy and food security, and health. For the first time, a call devoted to supporting international researcher exchange in the field of energy research has been launched.
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