AAAS Policy Alert -- September 19, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House Passes Continuing Resolution. As expected last week, the House voted 329 to 91 to approve a
stopgap continuing resolution that would continue funding the government through March 2013. The resolution, if successfully passed by Congress and signed into law, would avoid a government shutdown
when FY 2012 ends Sept. 30. The Senate is expected to pass the measure this week before Congress's anticipated recess at week's end.
OMB Releases Sequestration Report. Responding to a mandate from Congress, on Sept. 14 the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a detailed report (PDF)
outlining the funding impacts of sequestration. According to the report, defense programs would decline by 9.4%, while nondefense programs would decline by 8.2%. (Both figures refer to discretionary
spending only.) This would amount to roughly $12.3 billion in R&D cuts: $7.4 billion on the defense side, and $5.0 billion on the nondefense side. In the coming weeks, the AAAS
R&D Budget Program will also issue estimates of the impacts of sequestration on federal R&D-specific funding for agencies and states through FY 2017.
Congress Weighs Varying Approaches to Sequestration. Congress
continues to debate and jockey for political position on all things sequester-related. Last week the Republican-controlled House passed a
bill along party lines that would "turn off" the across-the-board cuts on defense spending next year, provided that equal savings are found elsewhere. The Administration has already
said that the President would veto the bill, which is unlikely to make it through the Senate in any event. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said its
members would resist any attempts to reduce spending on entitlements and safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare, a key component of several deficit-reduction strategies like the Bowles-Simpson report.
And in the upper chamber, a group of Senators is working on a $55 billion plan to delay the fiscal cliff six months
or more through a mix of spending cuts and, potentially, revenue increases.
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
House to Consider STEM Jobs Act. This week the House is scheduled to vote on legislation introduced late last week that would change the current system of awarding permanent
residency visas via a lottery system to one that would award visas to foreign nationals in STEM fields. The STEM
Jobs Act (PDF) (unnumbered at this time), was introduced by Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and would give priority to foreign nationals who have studied in the U.S. and earned a Ph.D. or
master's degree from a U.S. university in a STEM field. In order to be eligible, individuals must have a prospective employer petition on their behalf and must agree to work in the U.S.
for five years.
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.
Golden Goose Awardees Named. The winners of the first Golden Goose Awards, honored in a Capitol Hill ceremony last week, are Charles Townes, inventor
of laser technology; Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Tsien, who advanced biomedical research with a protein found in jellyfish; and Jon Weber, Eugene White, Rodney White, and Della Roy, who
pioneered bone grafts using coral.
House Considers "Stop the War on Coal Act" This Week. H.R. 3409 includes five separate bills.
Most notably, Title I (Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act) would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from implementing new rules and regulations that
would negatively affect the economy or eliminate mining jobs. Title II (Energy Tax Prevention Act) would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using the Clean Air Act to regulate
greenhouse gasses. The bill has been reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources and may be considered by the full House sometime this week.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Marks Up Cancer
Bill. The Committee expanded the scope of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act and re-named it the Recalcitrant Cancer
Research Act of 2012 (H.R. 733). The bill would require the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop a strategy for
funding and conducting research on specific types of cancer that have five-year survival rates of less than 10% and cause disproportionate numbers of deaths in the U.S., according to an article
by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions plans to consider the amended version on Sept. 19.
USDA Announces Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research Network (LTAR). The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a network of agricultural research sites on which to study long-term
ecosystem processes such as soil erosion and climate change. The LTAR program will focus on improving agricultural
resilience and will collaborate with other long-term research networks already in existence, including NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) and National
Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). USDA has requested $9.5 million from Congress to fund LTAR research.
NRC Issues Report on Ballistic Missile Defense. The National Research Council has released a report, "Making
Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives." The report, funded by the Missile Defense
Agency, concludes that boost-phase defense systems - intended to shoot down enemy missiles immediately following launch, while the rocket engine is still firing - are neither practical nor
feasible, and recommends that the U.S. ballistic missile defense concentrate on intercepting enemy missiles in midcourse. The report makes recommendations for strengthening the current systems (press
U.S. and Canada Sign Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Amendments. Last week the U.S.
and Canada signed amendments to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (news release here;
agreement history here). The amendments address invasive species, such as the Asian carp and zebra mussel, as well as impacts of climate
change, such as rising lake levels. In support of these efforts, EPA announced $1.7
million in Great Lakes Restorative Initiative grants to improve water quality in Cleveland-area watersheds.
UK Commits Funds for Open Access. The UK government has pledged approximately $16 million to help researchers pay article fees for open access publications, following the adoption of a
new open-access policy by the Research Councils UK and the recommendations of a government working group. The funding will supplement money that the Research Councils will provide through a block grant
after its policy goes into effect on April 1, 2013 (more details here).
Japan Considers Plan to End Nuclear Power. A Japanese Cabinet panel has endorsed a new
energy policy that would phase out the nation's use of nuclear power by the 2030s. The previous energy plan, adopted in 2010, proposed increasing nuclear power resources. However, those
plans were revisited following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011. Polls show support for the new policy, although renewable energy sources may not be able to fully replace nuclear
power, potentially increasing Japan's reliance on fossil fuels (more background here).
in the News. - On Sept. 12 the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced the nomination of C.
Daniel Mote, Jr. to serve as the President of the NAE, replacing Charles Vest who will retire in June 2013. Mote is the past president and Regents professor of the University of Maryland and
will serve a six-year term beginning July 2013.
- Christopher P. Austin has been named the first permanent director of the NIH's newest center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). He will succeed
NCATS Acting Director Thomas R. Insel on Sept. 23. Austin had been serving as director of NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the NCATS launch in December 2011. A developmental neurogeneticist
by training, Austin came to NIH in 2002 from Merck (more details here).
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Laci Gerhart, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri
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