House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2011 Spending Allocations. On Feb. 3 Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) released the FY 2011 discretionary spending limits (known as "302(b) allocations") for each of the House's 12 appropriation subcommittees. The allocations total $1.055 trillion, $35 billion less than FY 2010 and $74 billion less than the President's FY 2011 request. Details of the proposed cuts will be contained in a continuing resolution (CR), expected to be released Feb. 10, which will likely extend funding through the end of FY 2011 and be attached to the FY 2011 Defense Appropriations bill. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has said that the Senate will probably not have enough time to fully consider the House CR by March 4 when the current CR expires, making a fifth short-term CR likely.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on action on the FY 2011 budget.
Agency Budget Briefing Schedule. Agencies are beginning to release schedules for their FY 2012 Budget Request briefings which start on Monday, Feb. 14. A schedule of the briefings, updated throughout the week, will be posted on the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website.
Sen. Inouye Agrees To Ban Earmarks for Two Years. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Inouye has agreed not to accept earmarks for the next two years. His announcement follows an earmark ban by House and Senate Republicans and a threat by President Obama in his State of the Union address to veto any appropriations bills that contain earmarks. Senate Democrats were the last hold-outs on an earmark ban for two years, although Sen. Inouye expects to revisit the issue next year. Earmarks made up less than 0.6% of government spending in fiscal years 2008-2010.
Clean Energy R&D Investments Set to Receive Increase in FY 2012 Budget Request. In the President's State of the Union fact sheet, the President announced plans to increase clean energy technology by one-third compared to FY 2010, including an expansion of ARPA-E and doubling the number of Energy Innovation Hubs (bringing the total to six). DOE's Energy Programs and Office of Science invested an estimated $6.7 billion in R&D in FY 2010, making the estimate for the proposed FY 2012 increase as high as $2.2 billion. The increased investment will focus on high-value research on clean energy deployment and will include a doubling of the investment for energy efficiency and an increase of more than 85% for renewable energy investment.
Corker and McCaskill Introduce 10-Year Spending Plan. On Feb. 1 Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the Commitment to American Prosperity Act, "the CAP Act "(S.245), which would enact a 10-year plan starting in FY 2013 to decrease mandatory and discretionary spending from the current level of 24.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 20.6% of GDP, the 40-year historical average. The bill includes authorization for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make evenly distributed cuts throughout the budget each year to bring the budget down to the prescribed level. It would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override the spending cap. The bill contains no specific guidance on individual programs.
Other Congressional News
Congressional Hearings of Interest. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold an organizing hearing on Feb. 10. On Feb. 17 it will host OSTP Director John Holdren at a hearing on the Administration's FY 2012 Research and Development Budget Request.
- The House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a Feb. 10 hearing, entitled "Education in the Nation: Examining the Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Classrooms," on what may be the kick-off for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
- The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies will hold oversight hearings this week with the Inspectors General of NASA, NSF, and the Department of Justice testifying.
Senators Follow House Members in Seeking to Limit EPA's Powers. Several Senators are following the lead of their House colleagues (see Jan. 20 Policy Alert) in introducing legislation to limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s ability to mitigate climate change. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D‑WV) reintroduced a measure he sponsored during the last Congress that would delay the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for two years. Sen. John Barrasso (R‑WY) introduced legislation that would prevent EPA from using any statute -- including the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act -- to regulate GHGs. It would also overturn EPA's 2009 endangerment finding in which it held that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs pose a threat to public and environmental health. Related bills have been introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R‑MI), and by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
Rep. Harman to Resign. According to news reports, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) announced on Feb. 8 that she will resign from the House of Representatives in order to become president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, succeeding former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton who recently retired. Harman serves as the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee.
NIGMS Seeks Comments on Draft Plan for Graduate Education. NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has released a draft strategic plan for graduate education and seeks comments on it by February 15.
SBIR Program Reauthorized . . . for Four Months. On Jan. 31 President Obama signed into law HR 366, reauthorizing several Small Business Administration programs, including the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The reauthorization, however, only extends to May 31. Both the House and the Senate are considering longer-term reauthorizations that include proposals to increase the size of set-asides for the programs.
Interior Strengthens Scientific Integrity. The Interior Department announced the establishment of a new scientific integrity policy and the appointment of Ralph Morgenweck, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Senior Science Advisor, as the Department's new Scientific Integrity Officer. Much of the new policy follows government-wide guidelines on scientific integrity that were issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in December (see Dec. 20, 2010 Policy Alert).
EPA to Regulate Perchlorate. At a Feb. 2 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency will develop regulations for perchlorate in drinking water, reversing a 2008 decision made by the previous administration. Perchlorate, which is both naturally occurring and used in the production of rocket fuel, may disrupt thyroid functions. In a separate action, EPA announced that as part of its Drinking Water Strategy that seeks to address contaminants as a group rather than one at a time, it is moving toward establishing a drinking water standard that addresses a group of up to 16 toxic chemicals that may pose risks to human health.
TIP Issues Three-Year Plan, Seeks Comments, White Papers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Technology Innovation Program (TIP) has released a three-year plan outlining proposed grant competition topics through FY 2014. One can read or comment on the white papers in the areas of civil infrastructure, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, robotics, and water, by following the links to their white papers. Other areas in the three-year plan to be developed in future years are complex networks and sustainability. TIP also has a general call for white papers to be used to identify and select areas of critical national need and the associated technical challenges to be addressed in future TIP competitions. The next deadline is February 15.
USDA Allows Planting of GM Sugar Beets To Resume. Ever since a federal judge last August ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt planting of genetically-modified (GM) sugar beets until it prepared an environmental impact statement, farmers have been battling opponents of GM crops over resumption of planting. GM beets represent an overwhelming share of the U.S. sugar beet crop, which, although relatively small, is an important part of the sugar supply in this country. Although the environmental impact statement will not be ready until May 2012, the USDA agreed to allow planting under an interim "partial deregulation" of the crop requested by its developers.
Court Rules Scientist Had Duty to Report Research Concerns. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld a lower court dismissal of a million-dollar defamation law suit against a former Cornell plant scientist by a post-doc in his lab. The suit stems from controversy over a paper that appeared in the journal Cell in 2003 and was subsequently retracted by all the authors except for the post-doc. The post-doc claimed in the law suit that the retraction and the allegations associated with it had ruined her career. The court's decision has implications for the conduct of research, in that it ruled that since some of the research was funded by the federal government, the Cornell scientist "was required to inform the pertinent agencies of suspicions of scientific misconduct... In making his statements to ... NIH and NSF, [the scientist] was acting in accordance with legal duty." But the court went further, stating that "even had there been no federal reporting regulations, [the scientist] would have had a moral obligation to inform NIH of the possible fabrication of the data...." Although no misconduct has been found in the case, no researcher has been able to reproduce the results reported by the Cornell scientists in their published paper.
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Anti-Evolution (and More) Bill Introduced in NM Legislature. House Bill 302, introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives on Feb. 1, would allow teachers to teach students about the strengths and weaknesses of controversial scientific topics: "biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, [and] human cloning." The bill states that teachers may share "[s]cientific information [that] may include information that coincides or harmonizes with religious tenets." In related news, the creationist publisher Foundation for Thought and Ethics withdrew its bid to have biology education materials approved by the Texas Board of Education.
EU Council Backs Innovation Union Plan. On Feb. 4 the European Union Council endorsed several projects aimed at increasing large-scale research project cooperation, finding new sources of venture capital for start-ups, and making funding formalities less burdensome. The EU council also agreed that the European Research Area (ERA) needs to be completed by 2014. These important steps seek to strengthen key areas highlighted by the EU Innovation Union, a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 strategy, aimed at increasing economic growth in the EU.
People in the News. Romain Murenzi, a physicist and former science minister of Rwanda, has been appointed executive director of TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world. He replaces long-time executive director Mohamed H.A. Hasan, who is retiring. Murenzi currently serves as director of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Sustainable Development.
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