Status of FY 2011 and FY 2012 Federal Budgets. Because the final FY 2011 budgets for nearly all federal agencies have not been passed by Congress, the agencies are still operating at FY 2010 budget levels on the basis of a continuing resolution (CR) scheduled to expire on March 4. Meanwhile, the final touches are being put on the President's proposed budget for FY 2012. It will likely be released the week of February 14.
Geithner Reiterates Administration Support for R&D. In a January 12 speech, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reiterated the Administration's stance that investments in education, research and development, and public infrastructure should be protected, even during this period of budgetary constraint, because they are vital for economic growth and competitiveness. Geithner's comments mirrored those of President Obama during a news conference at the end of December.
New House Rules Affect Budget Process. The House, under the new Republican majority, adopted new rules (H.Res.5) on January 7, some of which directly affect the budget process. First, the "pay-as-you-go" (PAYGO) rule as established by the 110th Congress was replaced with a "cut-as-you-go" rule, which requires that new mandatory spending be offset with cuts to existing programs and does not allow new spending to be offset with increased revenues as in the previous PAYGO rules. Since the new rule only applies to government spending, tax cuts or other revenue reductions are not covered by cut-as-you-go and do not need to be offset as they did under PAYGO rules. Second, the chair of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan (R-WI), was given expanded power under the new rules to establish overall budget spending limits for FY 2011-2015 without a committee vote. Previously, these limits, known as the 302(a) allocations, were approved by the Budget Committee and voted on by the full House as part of the annual budget resolution.
Is NASA Locked Into Spending on Defunct Program? Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation last week to end contracts for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) cancelled Constellation program. While the program was effectively cancelled in the recent NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (S.3729), the continuing resolutions which have been funding the government since last October implicitly extend language included in the FY 2010 omnibus appropriations bill which forbids NASA from canceling Constellation contracts. Unless the legislation is changed, NASA will have spent $215 million on unnecessary Constellation contracts by the end of February, and a total of $575 million by the end of FY 2011.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on congressional action on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Bills Introduced to Limit EPA Climate Regulation. Just days after the start of the 112th Congress, several bills have already been filed in the House that use a variety of strategies to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Ensuring Affordable Energy Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), would prohibit the EPA from using any money to enforce GHG regulations. A bill by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the regulation of GHGs. A third bill, Protect America's Energy and Manufacturing Jobs Act by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would delay the implementation of GHG regulations for two years. This is similar to the bill sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in the previous Congress.
Majority Members of House Science Committee Announced. On January 18 Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, announced the Republican members of the Committee. The list contains many familiar names: James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is vice chairman; also on the list are Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Judy Biggert (R-IL). There are five vacancies.
Senators Order NASA to Build System Despite Budget Constraints. NASA recently reported that given currently projected out-year funding levels, it will be unable to build a Space Launch System that meets congressional mandates. In response, four members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, including Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), issued a joint statement saying that "the production of a heavy-lift rocket and capsule is not optional. It's the law."
Three Senators Forego Re-election Bids. On January 13 Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) announced she would retire at the end of her term in 2012. Senator Hutchison has served as Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for many years and has been a strong supporter of NASA. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced on January 18 his intention not to seek reelection in 2012. And on January 19 Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) announced that he too would retire in 2012.
Task Force Issues Draft Model for Translational Sciences Center. The NIH National Center for Research Resources Task Force has issued a "straw model" outlining where existing NCRR programs might potentially reside as NIH moves forward to create the new National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). The draft model would house the Primate Research Centers, Institutional Development Awards (IDeA), and Science Education Partnership Awards within an "Interim Infrastructure Unit" to be managed within the Office of the NIH Director. The Clinical and Translational Science Awards would be housed within the new NCATS. The NCRR Task Force is seeking comments on the proposal.
DHHS IG Reports on NIH Grantee Institutions' Conflict-of-Interest Procedures. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services released a report this month recommending that "NIH require grantee institutions to identify, report, and address institutional conflicts...." While NIH has had a policy in place with regard to individual researchers and conflicts of interest since 1995, it has never formally issued policy or regulations regarding institutions, which (rather than the researchers therein) are the direct recipients of agency grants. In its response to the IG's report, NIH acknowledges that "institutional conflict of interest is a significant and timely topic worthy of serious consideration....However, … NIH neither concurs nor non-concurs with the OIG recommendation that NIH promulgate regulations that address institutional financial conflicts of interest." NIH's attention regarding conflict-of-interest issues is currently focused on guidelines for individual researchers.
State Department Letter on Visas and Ideological Exclusion. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) posted a letter from the State Department to AAUP, in which the Department notes that it does not engage in the practice of "ideological exclusion," or denying visas to individuals who may make negative comments about the United States. The letter notes that State will give "sympathetic weight" to visa applications from individuals coming to speak at academic events and lectures.
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Report Urges Greater Military Involvement in Genomics. JASON, an independent advisory group to the Department of Defense, has issued a report titled The $100 Genome: Implications for the DoD, which calls for DOD "to take advantage of the advances in ‘personal genomics technology' by collecting genetic information on all military personnel" for purposes beyond identification upon death. Some of the purposes listed "pertain to short- and long-term medical readiness, physical and medical performance, and response to drugs, vaccines, and various environmental exposures... More specifically, one might wish to know about phenotypic responses to battlefield stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the ability to tolerate conditions of sleep deprivation, dehydration, or prolonged exposure to heat, cold, or high altitude, or the susceptibility to traumatic bone fracture, prolonged bleeding, or slow wound healing." The report also notes that "it may be beneficial to know the genetic identities of an adversary and, conversely, to prevent an adversary from accessing the genetic identities of U.S. military personnel."
NOAA Seeking Public Comment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public comments through February 3 on its Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) revised draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2011-2015.
2010 Warmest Year on Record. According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature in 2010 tied with 2005 as Earth's warmest year on record. Global precipitation in 2010 was well above the 1961-1990 average, ranking as the wettest on record since 1900.
Public Attitudes on U.S. R&D and Medical Innovation. Last week the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI) -- a coalition of disease, patient, and research university organizations -- released the results of a survey showing that 65% of respondents believe that the U.S. is losing its edge as a global leader in research and development (R&D). The same respondents were equally split as to whether the nation is losing its edge in medical innovation.
India and UK Create Fund to Boost Agricultural R&D Capacity in Africa and Asia. The governments of India and the United Kingdom have joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to create a new program called Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID). Its aim is to enhance food security, while boosting sustainable crop yields. One-tenth of this $32 million program will go towards funding projects for "emerging research leaders" or those scientists performing four-year research programs in their own countries.
WHO Reports That Several Commercial TB Tests Are Not Working. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the use of commercial serological tests for tuberculosis is leading to misdiagnosis of individuals in high-burdened countries. WHO is expected to release soon a "negative policy recommendation" advising against the use of such tests, which attempt to detect antibodies in blood serum (as contrasted with the "gold standard of sputum microscopy").
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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 the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.