AAAS Policy Alert -- April 20, 2011
Appropriations Update. The FY 2011 full-year continuing resolution, which includes appropriations for agencies to the end of the fiscal year, was signed by President Obama on Friday, April 15, six and one-half months after the fiscal year began. It includes $38.5 billion in spending cuts from FY 2010 levels. R&D-intensive programs and agencies were spared the worst of the reductions. Basic research programs fared best, while applied research programs, especially at the Department of Energy, did less well, reflecting the current policy debates. Basic research generally has broad, bi-partisan support, but there is disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about how deeply the federal government should be involved in applied research.
In the continuing resolution for FY 2011 the National Institutes of Health are funded at $30.7 billion, a 0.8% ($260 million) cut from FY 2010 spending levels. The National Science Foundation is funded at $6.8 billion, 1.0% ($67 million) below FY 2010. The Department of Energy's Office of Science will receive a total of $4.9 billion, a 0.4% ($20 million) reduction from FY 2010, while the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, an applied research effort, will receive $1.8 billion, an 18.4% ($408 billion) cut from FY 2010. EERE had been slated for a budget of $1.5 billion in the original House-passed H.R. 1, which would have been a 35.0% ($775 million) cut. Although ARPA-E is largely an applied research program with some development spending, it received $180 million in the year-long funding bill, less than the $300 million requested by the President in FY 2011, but its first significant funding outside of the Recovery Act. These funding levels do not include a 0.2% across-the-board cut for all non-defense agencies.
The full-year continuing resolution also contains some policy directives. One forbids the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from using federal funds to "develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company." The origin of this measure is still uncertain, and its implications not yet well understood. At least two other policy riders included in the final language were anti-environmental in nature. One removes gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Another blocks the use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce the Administration's new Wild Lands initiative, which would have designated lands with wilderness characteristics and managed them to protect those characteristics.
After completing action on the FY 2011 budget, the House passed its FY 2012 budget resolution on Friday, April 15. The resolution contains a discretionary budget of $1.019 trillion, almost a full $100 billion less than President Obama's request. In a speech on April 13, the President discussed his long-term budget vision. In that speech, he showed signs of flexibility through his desire to "keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week". He remained firm, however, in his commitment to "not sacrifice the core investments that we need to grow and create jobs" and reaffirmed his State of Union Address pledge to invest in medical research, clean energy technology, new roads and airports and broadband access, education, and job training to "do what we need to do to compete."
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets, and to register for the annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy, to be held May 5-6 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.
Other Congressional News
House Judiciary Committee Approves Patent Reform Bill. On April 14 the House Judiciary Committee approved the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), readying the bill for consideration on the House floor. The Committee made changes to the bill during mark-up, addressing concerns expressed by organizations such as the Association of American Universities (AAU). The House bill is similar in a number of ways to the one passed by the Senate last month. It shifts the patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system, provides a more flexible prior-use rights provision that allows universities to share research results, and removes language that would have allowed infringement claims to be filed during the life of a patent. Principal differences from the Senate bill are more technical in nature. Key interest groups still have issues with the House bill as passed by Judiciary, and what will emerge from House floor action is still uncertain.
STEM Education Bill Introduced. On April 7 Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation to improve STEM education training for teachers. The STEM Master Teacher Corps Act (S. 758) would implement a recommendation outlined in a report on STEM education by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). It would create a mentoring program and a financial reward system for high-performing teachers and schools. AAAS was one of a number of organizations that issued letters in support of the effort.
New Great Ape Protection Bills Introduced. Identical new bills to prohibit biomedical research with chimpanzees have been introduced in the House (H.R.1513) and Senate (S.810). This time they are labeled the "Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act." Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) has also introduced a new version of a bill (H.R.1417) that would require the Department of Defense to "develop, test, and validate human-based training methods for the purpose of training members of the armed forces in the treatment of combat trauma injuries with the goal of replacing live animal-based training methods."
Guidelines for Biosafety Lab Competency Released. On April 15 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories released guidelines for Biosafety Laboratory Competency. These competencies outline essential skills, knowledge, and abilities required for working safely with biological agents at the three highest biosafety levels (BSLs).
Administration Releases "Trusted Identities" Strategy for Greater Cybersecurity. On April 15 President Obama released the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which urges the private sector to improve cybersecurity by facilitating the development of secure online identities for consumers. A post on the White House blog and a video on the website for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explain details of the strategy. Currently it can be difficult for internet users to verify their identities when using sensitive services such as banking or accessing health records, a problem that has prevented some organizations from moving their operations online. Moreover, consumers have to memorize dozens of passwords, which are frequently insecure, to u se Inter net services and participate in e-commerce. Over the past two years, the administration estimated, about 11.7 million Americans were victims of identity theft, costing billions of dollars.
Climate Change Hearing in Supreme Court. On April 19 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the American Electric Power Co., et al., v. Connecticut, et al. (10-174) case that will determine whether states can use public nuisance laws to curtail greenhouse emissions in other states. The main sticking points appear to be (1) whether the courts can rule on this issue, or whether it will be seen as too political for them; (2) whether emissions from a specific power plant can be considered a public nuisance because of the global nature of emissions; and (3) whether the plaintiffs have a right to sue.
California to Increase Renewable Energy Production. California just enacted one of the nation's most ambitious renewable energy standards. Bill number SBX1 2, signed by the Governor on April 12, requires that California utilities derive one-third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Previously, California required investor-owned utilities to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources.
Louisiana Legislator Moves to Repeal Anti-Evolution Bill. Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson has introduced a bill (SB70) to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, a law enacted in 2008 that designates evolution as being controversial, along with "the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The Act allows teachers to use supplemental materials beyond the approved science textbooks to help students "analyze" and "critique" evolution. The Louisiana Act has been the only so-called "academic freedom" bill enacted out of roughly 40 attempts nationwide over the past several years.
International Applications to U.S. Graduate Schools Continue to Grow. The Council of Graduate Schools reported last week that the number of graduate school applications from prospective foreign students for fall 2011 admission increased by 9%. This was the sixth straight year of increase. The strongest growth (12%) was in engineering and physical and earth sciences. Life sciences grew by 8%, while applications in the social sciences and psychology were up 5%, after an 11% gain in 2010. Applications from China jumped by 18% (following 20% growth the prior year). South Korea and India, also major contributors to the international student population in the U.S., also increased, but by smaller percentages.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Phillip Chalker, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Gretchen Seiler, Russell Sillmon, Al Teich, Ric Weibl, Katharine Zambon
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