AAAS Policy Alert -- July 18, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Appropriations Process May Soon Grind to a Halt. The House and Senate appear unlikely to pass many more appropriations bills for FY 2013. Last week Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the full Senate will not consider any spending bills before the November
elections, a position that drew quick criticism from House Appropriations
Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and which would all but guarantee the necessity of continuing resolutions by October 1, the start of FY 2013. At the core of the dispute is the long-running disagreement
between the parties over how much discretionary spending should be allowed in FY 2013. Last year's debt ceiling agreement established a discretionary spending cap of $1.047 trillion. The
Administration and Senate Democrats have since abided by this agreed-upon limit, but earlier this year the House GOP passed a budget
resolution that capped overall spending at $1.028 trillion. The lower cap has drawn the ire of Democrats, and the White House has consistently promised to veto any spending bill that abides by
the lower cap. To date, nine of the 12 annual spending bills have been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee (all but Defense,
Interior/Environment, and Legislative Branch funding) - which appears to be as far as the committee will go for the time being. The full House has already passed six out of 12 bills, and will
likely vote on the Defense Appropriations bill this week. However, according
to an aide working for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the other five appropriations bills are unlikely to be brought to the floor as they would not see action in the Senate.
In other budget
news, the Congressional
Budget Office released FY 2012 deficit numbers for June. The deficit was 6.8% lower than at the same point in 2011. The smaller deficit is largely due to increased revenues, which are 5.2% higher to
date. The deficit is projected to total $1.17 trillion at the end of the fiscal year, which is lower than the $1.3 trillion deficit in 2011.
3,000 Public Interest Organizations Ask Congress to Avert
Indiscriminate Spending Cuts. In recent years nondefense discretionary spending (NDD) - a budget category that includes virtually
all federal spending outside of defense and entitlements, and virtually all nondefense R&D - has been a particular target for severe budget cuts, most notably in the FY
2013 House Budget Resolution. On July 12 approximately 3,000 organizations from across the public-interest spectrum – including AAAS – sent
a letter to Congress asking for a responsible deficit reduction approach that does not include further cuts to NDD. Over
the past few years, NDD programs for science, environment, health, transportation, education, housing, public safety, and other areas have been cut by an average of 10%. Last year's Budget
Control Act is expected to cut NDD spending by an additional 7% over the next decade, and the looming across-the-board sequestration would cut these programs even further. Several proposals have
emerged that would shift the onus of sequestration entirely onto nondefense discretionary spending, while exempting defense spending from such cuts. This would have severe consequences for the nation's
research enterprise, as prior AAAS assessments have found. The letter asks
Congress to achieve a balanced approach to cutting the deficit, without subjecting science and other nondefense programs to even deeper cuts than have already taken place.
University Presidents Issue Letter on Sequestration. On July 11 over 150 university presidents from institutions comprising the Association of American Universities and the Association
of Public and Land-grant Universities released a letter to the President and congressional leaders urging "bipartisan leadership in forging a major, balanced long-term deficit-reduction agreement" as
well as action that will avoid the impending sequestration. The university leaders argued that any deficit reduction agreement must address mandatory spending, tax reform, and discretionary spending,
but also urged that investments in scientific research and education be maintained (links to press release and letter found here).
For updates on the federal research and
development budget for FY 2013, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Bicameral Bill to Address Forensic Science. On July 12 Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the Forensic
Science and Standards Act of 2012 (S. 3378; H.R. 6106). The proposed legislation creates an interagency coordinating office within the National Science Foundation to manage the award of research
grants in forensic science fields; charges the National Institute of Standards and Technology with establishing standards for the field; and directs the National Academies to conduct a study to establish
research priorities in forensic science (press release found here).
NOAA Releases Report on Extreme Weather Events. The July 2012 study by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 From a Climate Perspective," found that climate change increased the likeliness of the occurrence of recent extreme
weather events. For example, scientists concluded that climate change made the 2011 Texas drought 20 times more likely to occur, and Britain's 2011 November heat wave 62 times more likely to occur.
NOAA also announced recently that the 12-month period between July 2011 and June 2012 was the hottest in U.S. recorded history.
FDA Criticized for Tracking Scientists' E-mails. The New York Times has reported that
the Food and Drug Administration has engaged in widespread monitoring of e-mails from FDA scientists who had been critical of the agency's approval of certain medical devices. According to the article, "What
began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency's
medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort." Members of Congress from both parties were "irate to learn
that correspondence between the scientists and their own staff had been gathered and analyzed." An earlier Policy Alert issue
(Feb. 1, 2012) reported on a lawsuit filed by six FDA employees concerning the agency's surveillance.
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.
Senior Federal Scientists Voice STOCK Act Opposition. The Assembly of Scientists,
a group of senior federal scientists and researchers, called
on Congress to delay or repeal part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act which would go into effect next month, significantly expanding public access to financial disclosure reports
filed by federal employees. The STOCK Act, which was enacted earlier this year, would put financial disclosure forms filed by 28,000 senior career, military, and political personnel online by the end of
August. Although the disclosures are currently available from the specific agencies, where they must be requested individually, the STOCK Act would ultimately lead to the posting of all financial disclosure
documents in a centralized public database. The letter cited privacy concerns, warning that such disclosure might discourage scientists from taking positions in the federal government.
NRC Report Encourages Scaling Down Proposed Kansas Bio-/Agro-Defense Facility. A July 13 report by the
National Research Council said the U.S. should reexamine and possibly scale down plans to build
a proposed $1 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas to study potentially deadly animal diseases. There have been concerns that disease-causing
agents could escape the facility and devastate agriculture, especially given the high number of tornadoes reported almost annually in the state. The Department of Homeland Security asked the National Research
Council to assess whether DHS should proceed with the new facility, scale it back, or continue using the Plum Island Animal Disease Center near Long Island, NY. The NRC report did not recommend any
of the options but did look favorably on scaling back the proposed new facility. The development of some new facility is "imperative" to the nation, it said, but putting all of the functions
in the lab that were initially intended would result in a "duplication of resources." As mentioned in the June 27 Policy
Alert, the planned lab has already been the subject of three assessments, including a recent report by the National Academies that said risk estimates are based on "questionable and inappropriate
assumptions" and fail to account for the potential of human error.
University of Florida Fights to Keep Animal Lab Locations Secret. Camille Marino, an animal rights activist, is
suing the University of Florida to find out the locations of animal research labs. Marino's attorney, Marcy LaHart, filed a brief July 9 in the First District Court of Appeal to get the locations
of the labs. A circuit court judge allowed access to records about primates being used in animal research but denied the request for the labs' locations, citing a public records exemption for security
system plans. The group Marino founded, Negotiation is Over, recently held a protest at the home of a University of Florida researcher, Raymond Bergeron, who said that Marino threatened to burn down his
house, a charge Marino denies. Contact information for scientists posted on the Negotiation is Over website has led to threats and harassment. Marino's suit may be hampered following her July
13 arrest in Michigan where a judge ordered her to stand trial for
stalking a Wayne State University professor who filed a personal protection order against her in October. Judge Lynise Bryant-Weeks set Marino's bond at $500,000.
China Releases Regulations for
Carbon Emissions. The Chinese government released a set
of regulations that may lay the foundation for a national carbon market. These rules apply to cities and provinces participating in voluntary carbon cap-and-trade programs. They include proposals
for setting baseline measurements and calculating emissions reductions, as well as plans for the National Development and Reform Commission to track and record emissions reductions.
People in the
News. • Arati Prabhakar has been named the new director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA); she will start work on July 30, 2012. She formerly served in the agency from 1986-1993 before being appointed by President Clinton to head the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST). Most recently, she was with the venture capital firm U.S. Venture Partners, which has invested in green tech and IT start-ups.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kelly Anderson, Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Katharine Zambon
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