AAAS Policy Alert -- August 3, 2011
Tentative Debt Ceiling Compromise Reached. On Sunday night, President Obama announced that a compromise had been reached to raise the federal debt ceiling. Under the compromise, the President is authorized to increase the debt limit to at least $2.1 trillion, but the increase will be offset by $1 trillion in deficit reductions through the establishment of discretionary spending caps over 10 years specified in the bill and at least $1.2 trillion more later this year. The FY 2012 discretionary cap would be $1.043 trillion, $7 billion less than current FY 2011 estimates, $23 billion more than the House FY 2012 budget resolution and $73 billion less than the President's request. The discretionary cap for FY 2013 would increase slightly to $1.047 trillion and then increase between 1.8% and 2.3% each year before reaching $1.2 trillion in FY 2021. Thus, for the short term, the compromise will allow for more discretionary spending than is currently being considered in the House appropriations bills. While this is good news, it would still need to be amended and voted on by Members of Congress to reflect any additional increases. In the long term, however, the push to reduce discretionary spending over the remainder of the ten years will further stress the agency's R&D investments going into the future.
UPDATE: The House passed the deficit reduction package by a vote of 269-161 late Monday evening, sending the compromise legislation to the Senate. The Senate passed the package by a vote of 74-26 on Tuesday and the President has now signed it into law, just in time to meet the August 2nd deadline imposed by the Treasury.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget.
Other Congressional News
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2001 (H.R. 2405) to reauthorize and extend BARDA (the Biomedical Advanced R&D Authority) and Project BioShield's Special Reserve Fund. BARDA and Project BioShield contribute to the advanced development and stockpiling of medical countermeasures against biological threats, respectively.
Senate Hearing on Highly-Skilled Immigration. The Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a hearing last Tuesday on "The Economic Imperative for Enacting Immigration Reform" to highlight the contribution of highly-skilled, foreign-born nationals to innovation and entrepreneurship. Problems with the current immigration system highlighted by witnesses included on one side, loopholes in the H1-B program that are exploited by firms to import unskilled workers, and on the other, policies that make it difficult for foreign students who obtain advanced degrees in the U.S. to seek employment and remain in this country.
More Cuts to Climate Programs . A week after the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to prohibit the use of funds for developing countries to adapt to climate change or transition to sources of clean energy in the foreign relations authorization bill (see July 25th Policy Alert ), the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee reported out its spending bill. The bill eliminates funding for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the World Bank's Strategic Climate Fund and Clean Technology Fund.
Endangered Species Act Rider Removed. The House removed one of the more controversial riders from the Interior-Environment spending bill (See July 25th Policy Alert) by passing an amendment offered by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). The amendment eliminated a provision that would have blocked funding for new endangered species listings and critical habitat designations.
Judge Rules in Support of Obama Stem Cell Policy. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has ruled in favor of the Obama policy allowing the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on human embryonic stem cells, dismissing a lawsuit in which plaintiffs sued the Administration for allegedly violating a law that forbids the use of government funds for the destruction of embryos. Lamberth's surprise decision followed the reasoning of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which threw out the judge's initial injunction on funding the research. Shortly after the decision, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) vowed to continue to push her bill that would codify rules permitting ethical human embryonic stem cell research.
NSF Launches Project to Link Research and Innovation . The National Science Foundation, in collaboration with the Deshpande Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation, launched a new public-private partnership entitled Innovation Corps (I-Corps). The program will make awards to teams composed of a principal investigator, a mentor and an entrepreneurial lead, to advance the development of commercial products based on NSF-funded research. The program intends to support up to 100 projects per year, at $50,000 a project.
FDA Seeks Comments on Drug Evaluation . The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a draft report on the regulatory science needs and internal research directions to guide its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). The report, Identifying CDER's Science and Research Needs, is open for public comment until September 26.
Request for Comments on EPA's BPA Action Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comment on its Bisphenol A (BPA) Action Plan , which includes toxicity testing and environmental sampling. Comments can be submitted online by September 26, 2011.
NIST Seeks Input to Improve Advanced Manufacturing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is inviting public comments on how to structure the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) program, a new public-private partnership. The goal of AMTech is to provide federal financial assistance to industry-led consortia and to develop "roadmaps of critical long-term industrial manufacturing research needs, and issue sub-awards to fund research by universities, government laboratories, and U.S. businesses."
NBSB Seeks Nominations to Advisory Board . The National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB), created by the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, is seeking applications for membership from individuals in industry, academia, healthcare, or other appropriate organizations to serve as voting members on the advisory board. The NBSB advisory board reports to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to prevention, preparedness, and response to public health emergencies including accidental or intentional chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological incidents. Nominations are due by August 19, 2011.
PCAST Ecosystem Services Report Released. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a new report entitled Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy . The report recommends that the federal government institute a Quadrennial Ecosystems Services Trends Assessment to gain a better understanding of the value of ecosystem services. The report calls for the development of more sophisticated methodologies for quantifying the value of ecosystem services to help mature the science and to improve the quality of information available to policy-makers and the public.
NRC Report on Nuclear Safety Post-Fukushima . The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released the report from its Japan Task Force on "Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century," an initial set of insights gained from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident. The report includes a call for establishing a logical, systematic, and coherent regulatory framework to replace the patchwork of regulatory requirements that has developed over the years; and includes recommendations on ensuring protection, enhancing mitigation and strengthening emergency preparedness. A more in-depth report will follow in six months.
Reversal in Myriad Gene Patenting Case. On July 29, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 2-1 that genes can be patented, overturning a lower court decision in a case that has been closely followed by the biotechnology industry. Specifically, the court ruled that Myriad Genetics is entitled to patents on two human genes associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, saying that DNA isolated from the body is "markedly different" from DNA as it exists in nature. The case may next head to the Supreme Court.
Comment on the above item. The Policy Alert blog is located on AAAS's MemberCentral . Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list
IOM Report Critical of Medical Device Regulatory Structure . The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recommended that the FDA's process for assessing risks associated with certain medical devices is sufficiently flawed that Congress should create a new regulatory framework. Before the report was even released, device manufacturers launched a campaign to dismiss its recommendations and discredit the IOM committee that wrote the report. Meanwhile, the FDA, which commissioned the IOM report, has stated that "FDA believes that the 510(k) process should not be eliminated but we are open to additional proposals and approaches for continued improvement of our device review programs." On July 29, the FDA announced that it will seek public comment on the IOM report; a timetable for that process has not yet been posted.
Brazil, Jordan Announce Increased Investment in Science. According to a report in Inside Higher Education , the government of Brazil announced a new program last week that will provide $2 billion for about 75,000 scholarships and fellowships in science and technology. The program will fund undergraduates as well as doctoral students and young scientists. Foreign researchers working in Brazil or collaborating with Brazilian scientists are also included. Providing additional evidence of growing interest in science and technology around the world was Sunday's announcement that King Abdullah of Jordan has ordered an increase in government support for universities as part of a university reform effort. In addition, the King called for a greater emphasis on scientific research and innovation and the allocation of 5 percent of each university's budget to research.
People in the News
John H. Marburger III , who served as White House science adviser throughout the administration of President George W. Bush, died on July 28th at his home on Port Jefferson, N.Y., after a four-year battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Marburger, a laser physicist, served as president of Stony Brook University and director of the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory before taking the science adviser's post in 2001.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Phillip Chalker, Edward Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Michael Kehoe, Earl Lane, Lindsay Peters, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Meghan Seltzer, Al Teich, Kasey White
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.