AAAS Policy Alert -- March 14, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House Budget Committee Split on FY 2013 Spending Levels. The Budget Control Act, passed last August, established a cap of $1.047 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2013 but some members of the House Budget Committee, which is tasked with establishing overall spending levels, want to establish a spending limit of $931 billion, 11% lower than the current cap. This lower amount would reflect the additional cuts scheduled to take place under next year's sequestration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said that the Senate will abide by the $1.047 trillion cap.
Proposals for Mandatory NIST R&D Programs Move Forward, Gain Focus. The Administration's FY 2013 budget included more than $1.2 billion in one-time mandatory R&D funding for a pair of proposed programs at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Now the bill creating one has been signed into law, and the Administration has provided additional detail on the other. First, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (PL 112-96), also known as the payroll tax bill and signed into law in late February, authorized the creation of a NIST program to develop advanced wireless technologies, and allocated $300 million toward that goal. Funding would come from the proceeds of an FCC-coordinated wireless spectrum auction, which also received the go-ahead in the legislation. Second, the President officially unveiled a proposal to establish a network of up to 15 regional institutes focused on advanced manufacturing R&D. The Administration will also move to immediately establish an initial pilot institute for the network, with $45 million in funding from the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Defense, and the National Science Foundation. The Administration proposes funding the network at $1 billion, nearly all of which would be classified as R&D. Both programs are mandatory rather than discretionary R&D funding, in that they are one-time funding requiring Congressional approval, and not subject to the regular appropriations process.
Appropriators Deny NASA Request for Mars Initiative Shutdown. A NASA request to reprogram FY 2012 funding for its joint Mars initiative with the European Space Agency has been denied by the Congressional subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget. Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) has said the committee will consider the changes as part of its normal consideration of the Administration's proposed budget for FY 2013, which would significantly reduce NASA's planetary sciences budget and scale back Mars activities over the next decade.
For a full breakdown of the President's FY 2013 research and development budget proposals, with the latest estimates, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Senate Approves Gulf Restoration Bill. By a 76-22 vote last week, the Senate approved the RESTORE Act (S. 1400), not as a separate bill but as an amendment to the Senate Transportation Bill (S. 1813), which is still being debated on the Senate floor. The RESTORE Act calls for 80% of penalties and fines paid by oil company BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to be directed toward activities, including research, in the five Gulf states most impacted by the spill.
Senate Briefing Features Simulated Cyber Attack. While the Senate is considering cybersecurity legislation, the Obama administration held a closed-door briefing for Senators from both parties which presented a simulated cyber attack on New York City's power supply system. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is co-sponsoring a cybersecurity bill with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT.), called the mock attack "very compelling," according to Bloomberg News. Obama supports the Lieberman-Collins bill, the report said. The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to set cybersecurity regulations for companies deemed critical to U.S. national and economic security. A competing bill, sponsored by eight Republicans, would avoid new rules while promoting information-sharing incentives such as protection from lawsuits.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
Senate Tea Party Caucus Proposes Eliminating Multiple Departments. In a budget plan released last week, a group of Republican Senators comprising the Senate Tea Party Caucus proposed balancing the federal budget in five years by eliminating the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, among other measures. These agencies will account for approximately $12.5 billion in federal R&D this year, although the caucus's plan would reallocate more than $4 billion in nuclear defense R&D from Energy to the Department of Defense. The plan, which stands little chance of passing, would bring most discretionary spending down to FY 2008 levels, although it would roll back the sequestration cuts scheduled for the Department of Defense. Full details of the plan are available from Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) website.
Democratic Coalition Releases Innovation Agenda. Last week the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 42 members of the House of Representatives that focuses on issues relating to innovation, and business and economic prosperity, issued a document that outlines "Principles for Innovation and Competitiveness." The document addresses subjects such as U.S. exports, access to capital, investing in basic research, R&D tax credit, and STEM education.
PCAST to Issue Nanotechnology R&D Report. At last week's meeting, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology approved its fourth assessment of federal R&D in nanotechnology. The report, required by Congress, will be released in the near future. View a PDF of the prior nanotechnology report from 2010 here.
NIH News. The new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) has issued a Request for Information about how to strengthen the Clinical and Translational Science Awards, a major part of the NCATS portfolio. The deadline for comments is April 6. In addition, NIH has posted an online tutorial about its new conflict-of-interest regulations.
Department of Homeland Security Creates Academic Advisory Council. The new advisory council, comprised of university presidents and academic leaders, will advise the Secretary of the Department on matters related to student and graduate recruitment, international students and scholars, and campus community "resiliency, security, and preparedness."
NOAA Seeks Comments on Environmental Information Policy. On March 7 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on its existing "Policy on Partnerships in the Provision of Environmental Information." NOAA's environmental information services relate to data on weather, water, and climate, including "chemical, biological, and ecological parameters." Public comments are due April 30.
Proposed Revisions to Endangered Species Regulations Generate Opposition. In two separate letters, 89 conservation groups and 97 scientists have expressed opposition to an Administration proposal they say would make it harder for imperiled wildlife to qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, by not designating species as endangered until they are virtually on the brink of extinction. The policy change, proposed in December, would redefine "significant range" under the act and also limit consideration on whether a species is threatened to those areas where it currently exists rather than its historic range. The administration has said the changes will help better clarify which species are eligible for federal safeguards.
Repeal Effort for Louisiana Antievolution Bill Returns. Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson has again introduced a bill (SB 374) to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, legislation passed in 2008 that allows science teachers to use supplemental instructional materials (for example, on intelligent design) if approved by the local school board. The repeal effort has garnered the support of 75 Nobel laureates.
International Patent Filings Set New Record. The World Intellectual Property Organization annual survey found that the number of patent filings in 2011 rose 10.7% above 2010. The U.S., Japan, Germany, China, and South Korea led all countries, and seven of the top ten universities are U.S.-based. China, Japan, and Germany are home to the top five companies filing patents in 2011.
UNESCO Board Approves African Life Sciences Research Prize. The executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voted to establish the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. The prize, to promote life sciences research in Africa, is funded with an endowment of $3 M from Equatorial Guinea. It was originally proposed in honor of Teodor Obiang, the long-standing dictator of Equatorial Guinea, but objections were raised over his record on human rights.
People in the News. • Todd Park, the chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, has been selected to be the next U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He replaces Aneesh Chopra, who left the post in January, and will be the second person to hold the position created when President Obama came into office.
• On March 9 President Obama announced his intention to appoint Sonny Ramaswamy, Dean of Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, to be Director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
• On the same day the President also announced his intention to nominate Arthur Bienenstock to be a member of the National Science Board. Bienenstock, currently Professor Emeritus of Photon Science at Stanford University, was previously Associate Director for Science at OSTP during the Clinton Administration.
• Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) has announced that he is resigning from Congress to focus on a gubernatorial bid. Inslee is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and has been active in climate policy issues.
• F. Sherwood Rowland, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the dangers of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to the atmosphere, has died at the age of 84. Rowland was professor of chemistry and earth science at the University of California-Irvine and a former president of AAAS.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Ric Weibl, Brad Wible
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.