AAAS Policy Alert -- April 25, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Congress Takes Up Science, Energy Appropriations Bills. Last week, various appropriations committees in the House and Senate began the process of marking up funding bills for FY 2013 affecting the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other agencies. The full Senate committee has marked up the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill and the Transportation and HUD bill; House subcommittees have marked up their own CJS bill (PDF) and their Energy and Water bill (PDF).
So far, many of the feared cuts have not yet materialized. Both chambers would provide increases of approximately 3 percent above FY 2012 levels to NSF, and approximately 10 percent increases to NIST. Both funding increases would fall somewhat short of the President's request. Both chambers also seek partial restoration of funding to NASA's planetary science account, which was cut by 20 percent in the President's budget. The House would grant NASA's overall science budget a very small increase, while the Senate would trim NASA science by about 1 percent; both chambers would be more generous than the President's budget in this regard. The Senate also proposes shifting weather satellite funding to NASA from NOAA, while the House bill does not contain this proposal. For the Department of Energy (DOE) budget, the House would be much less generous than the Administration. The DOE Office of Science budget would be cut by about 1 percent, while both ARPA-E and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be cut by at least 20 percent. All three energy agencies are slated for large increases under the President's request. It is not yet clear how the House will rectify these higher spending levels with the relatively more austere budget approved by the full House.
This week, the full House Appropriations Committee will take up the Energy and Water bill, while the Senate Energy and Water subcommittee will mark up its own version of the bill. The spending bills for other agencies have not yet emerged.
Senate Adopts Spending Limits, Still No Budget. Also last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted its 302(b) allocations for FY 2013. These allocations essentially set the appropriations framework for the subcommittees. The Appropriations Committee approved a total discretionary budget of $1.047 trillion, matching the spending level established in last year's Budget Control Act and accepted in the Administration's budget request, and $19 billion higher than the limit established by the House budget. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to adopt its own 302(b) allocations this week.
The Senate adopted its allocations in spite of the fact that the Senate Budget Committee has not produced a budget resolution this year, as the House did some weeks ago. There were indications that Appropriations Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) would bring to a vote a budget based on the national fiscal commission's plan, but Conrad has since backed away from a potential vote.
For more updates, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
House to Consider Cybersecurity Bills. The House of Representatives will consider four cybersecurity bills as part of a "Cyber Week" April 23-27 on Capitol Hill. The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R. 2096), the Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2012 (H.R. 3834), and the Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2012 (H.R. 4257) have all be placed on the Suspension Calendar and are therefore only subject to an up or down vote. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523), however, can be amended on the floor. That bill has garnered some controversy over concerns that it encroaches on personal privacy matters, as it allows the private sector to share information regarding cybersecurity threats with the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
House to Consider DATA Act. Also scheduled for a vote on the House floor is the DATA Act (H.R. 2146) introduced by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). The legislation would require "each person, state, local, or tribal government, or any government corporation (recipient) that receives appropriated funds, either directly or through a subgrant or subcontract at any tier, to report at least once quarterly each receipt and use of such funds to the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board established by this Act." The Association of American Universities (AAU) opposes the legislation, arguing that it is redundant to other government reporting requirements and would impose additional costs.
Biosecurity News. On April 20, the U.S. government announced that it had accepted recommendations by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) that support publication of two controversial papers on the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The announcement stated that "the information in the two manuscripts should be communicated fully and we have conveyed our concurrence to the journals considering publication of the manuscripts. This information has clear value to national and international public health preparedness efforts and must be shared with those who are poised to realize the benefits of this research." One of the papers, however, still must undergo some revisions and then clear the export control laws of The Netherlands, where the lead author resides. In related activity, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has scheduled an April 26 hearing called "Biological Security: The Risk of Dual-Use Research," and the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum plans to hold a session on the topic.
Obama Issues Executive Order on Human Rights. On April 23, during a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama announced a new Executive Order that would enable the United States to impose sanctions against foreign nationals who use information and communication technologies that "could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria." While there is increasing use of social media and mobile phone technologies to organize pro-democracy protests, these governments are using computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking to stifle dissent and identify those involved.
EPA Updates Pollution Standards. The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized standards to reduce air pollution associated with oil and natural gas production. This marks the first time that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by natural gas drillers will be regulated by the agency. The new rules require the installation of equipment to reduce certain emissions by January 2015.
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FDA Issues Draft Guidance on Nanotechnology. The Food and Drug Administration has issued two draft guidance documents on nanotechnology. The first is geared toward food manufacturers and the second to the cosmetics industry. Both documents will be open for public comment for 90 days.
EPA Reports on U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency has released its 17th annual inventory of overall emissions for six greenhouse gases. The total emissions for 2010, equivalent to 6,822 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, represent a 3.2 percent increase over 2009 levels. The EPA attributes the increase to increased energy consumption in all sectors of the economy, increased energy demand related to an expanding economy, and warmer weather during the summer of 2010. The report is the result of an EPA collaboration with other federal agencies and was forwarded to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.
District Court Addresses FOIA Request by Animal Rights Group. A U.S. District Court has ruled that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) properly denied access to information requested by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Between February 2006 and August 2008, PETA submitted three related FOIA requests to NIH seeking "copies of all OLAW [Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare] files concerning [an Alabama] University," copies of information related to an alleged NIH investigation concerning complaints about three specifically named researchers at the institution, and a copy of a confidentiality agreement between the university and NIH that prevented the university from releasing the records under the Alabama open records law. In response to the first request, NIH produced 47 pages, but in response to the second and third requests the agency responded by stating that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of responsive records.
Louisiana Committee Rejects Repeal of Louisiana Anti-Evolution Bill. A bill seeking to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act was voted down in committee last week, likely ending the bill's chances for the 2012 session. The 2008 law encourages teachers to help students "critique" certain scientific topics, including evolution and climate change, and allows teachers to employ supplemental materials in the classroom.
RAND Issues Report on Improving Army Basic Research. The RAND Corporation has released a report, "Improving Army Basic Research: Report of an Expert Panel on the Future of Army Laboratories," which states that investment in basic research is critical to U.S. leadership and national security and warns that our nation's defense capability "will diminish considerably without a healthy basic and applied research effort." It also states that the Army basic research program is "increasingly risk-averse" and that it needs to expand its science and engineering workforce in the areas of network and information sciences.
AAAS Issues Report on Biosecurity. Last week, AAAS issued a report called "Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research." The report is the result of a collaborative project with the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The groups convened a meeting to encourage communication among officials from leading research universities (including vice presidents of research or compliance, environmental health and safety officials and biosafety officials), senior faculty and FBI WMD coordinators (who focus on weapons of mass destruction) about security risks associated with biological research. The report, prepared as a result of the meeting, includes policy and programmatic recommendations for consideration by government and universities.
South Africa and Germany Announce a Year of Science. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and South Africa's Department of Science and Technology (DST) have launched a joint initiative to honor the two countries' relations in science and research. The German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 operates with the theme "Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development" and funds 41 research collaborations in astronomy, bio-economy, social science, human capital development, climate change and urbanization.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Erin Heath
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Matt Hourihan, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, Ric Weibl
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