AAAS Policy Alert -- March 6, 2013
IN THIS ISSUE
Sequestration In Effect. Sequestration officially began on March 1. Last week, as expected, the U.S. Senate failed to pass two legislative proposals -- one offered by Democrats and the other by Republicans -- to replace the sequester with a deficit reduction plan. The Democrats proposed a plan (S. 388) (PDF) to generate $110 billion through a combination of spending cuts and additional revenues, the latter by eliminating tax loopholes. The Republican proposal (S. 16) (PDF), would have authorized the President to allocate the sequester cut of $85 billion for FY 2013 at the Administration's discretion and allowed some flexibility to protect military programs. However, the Administration's decisions would have still needed final approval by Congress.
As reported last week, for federal research and development (R&D), sequestration reductions in defense and nondefense discretionary spending will translate into an estimated cut of $8.7 billion to the FY 2013 R&D budget. The Department of Defense would be cut 7.3%, and nondefense research agencies would be cut 5.1%. These cuts, however, must be implemented in a fiscal year that is already nearly five months into the cycle, making the burden of the cuts that much more acute. For example, the White House Office of Management and Budget has estimated that this would result in cuts equal to 13% and 9%, respectively.
AAAS Posts Revised R&D Sequestration Figures. The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy project has posted a revised table that reflects the potential cuts to federal R&D agencies for FY 2013 through FY 2017 (http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/). With the sequester officially in effect, some agencies have issued new memoranda on the impact of sequestration on agency operations. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, stated that the "impact could include: not issuing continuation awards, or negotiating a reduction in the scope of...awards to meet the constraints imposed by sequestration. Additionally, plans for new grants or cooperative agreements may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the availability of resources." The National Science Foundation (NSF), meanwhile, has stated (PDF) that it will continue to honor existing grants issued in FY 2013 to date in order "to minimize disruption of scientific research." However, it also stated that "the total number of new research grants will be reduced by approximately 1,000."
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Next: The FY 2013 Continuing Resolution. With the sequester now in effect, at least for FY 2013, the Congress must now begin to deliberate over how to fund the U.S. government for the remainder of the fiscal year. To date, the government has been operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that is set to expire on March 27. On March 4 the House Appropriations Committee unveiled a proposed omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. According to the press release, all nondefense agencies would continue to be funded at FY 2012 levels, which would equal approximately $140.6 billion. However, the budget would still continue to be subject to sequestration, which translates to a 5.1% decrease for nondefense research agencies, as outlined above. Defense R&D (6.1-6.3 accounts) would be funded at $70 billion (FY 2012 levels) and be subject to sequestration, which translates to a cut of 7.3% from that FY 2012 level. The draft omnibus bill (PDF) also includes language that would provide, in special cases, some protections in critical areas such as FBI, embassy security, and wildfire suppression. It also includes a provision that would allow "additional funding to maintain the launch schedule for new weather satellites." But the majority of the federal nondefense research agencies are not provided with any flexibility on the allocation of the across-the-board cuts resulting from sequestration.
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013 and the AAAS sequestration report, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Space Bill Re-Introduced. The Space Leadership Preservation Act (H.R. 823) has been reintroduced by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and four co-sponsors. The new bill would extend the term of the NASA Administrator to six years, create a Board of Directors to oversee the agency, and re-structure the budget. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the legislation last week.
House Hopes to Protect American Innovators. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a new bill, Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELDS) (H.R. 845), that would protect American innovators from "patent trolls" who buy very broad patents for products they did not create and then sue companies for infringement (press release here).
New Forensic Science Commission Seeks Applicants. As reported in the Feb. 19 issue of Policy Alert, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Justice announced the creation of a National Commission on Forensic Science "to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science." On March 1 the Justice Department issued a "Solicitation of Applications for Membership" (PDF) to the Commission and described the application process. Applications must be received by March 25, 2013.
Agencies Document Economic Impacts of Programs. The Department of Energy (DOE) held its fourth annual Energy Innovation Summit to showcase the market impact of projects sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). At the event officials announced that 17 projects have so far attracted over $450 million in private-sector follow-on funding after ARPA-E's initial investment of about $70-million, while 12 have leveraged their technologies to form new companies (press release here). Meanwhile, the Department of Defense (DOD) released a report it commissioned on "National Economic Impacts from DOD License Agreements with US Industry 2000-2011." The study's aim was to determine the extent to which DOD license agreements active in the stated time period generated new U.S. economic activity and job creation. The 505 companies surveyed reported about $13.4 billion in total sales, although a single license agreement accounted for about $11-billion (83%) of this. Four agreements produced more than $100 million in sales, 37 agreements had sales of at least $10 million, and 130 license agreements (22%) generated sales of at least $1 million.
Several State Science Education Bills Fail to Progress. Scientifically misleading education bills in Kansas, Indiana, Arizona, and Oklahoma have failed to progress in their respective state legislatures this session. All four bills featured language commonly used in anti-evolution bills (the Kansas bill, as described in the Feb. 19 Policy Alert, focused on climate science). Another anti-evolution bill, HB 1674, reportedly remains in play in Oklahoma.
SpaceX Capsule Docks at International Space Station. Despite some thruster pod issues, the SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docked at the International Space Station on March 3 with more than 1,200 pounds of cargo. SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, CA, has contracted to provide at least 12 resupply missions under a NASA policy to promote U.S.-based access to the station. The company successfully carried out its first resupply mission in October 2012. While Russia, Japan, and Europe also make station deliveries, only the Dragon is designed to bring back cargo. In a blog post, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. applauded the success but warned that automatic budget cuts under sequestration "could further delay the restarting of human space launches from U.S. soil, push back our next generation space vehicles, hold up development of new space technologies, and jeopardize our space-based, Earth observing capabilities." NASA, working with U.S. companies such as SpaceX, wants to show that commercial spacecraft also can be safe enough to carry astronauts to the station. Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011, NASA has depended on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transport.
Chamber of Congress Report Questions EPA Analyses. A new report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce alleges that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distorted its predictions when assessing economic impacts of some of EPA's major rules. The authors suggest that the EPA did not consider the costs of compliance when evaluating new rules, and that policies that were supposed to create more jobs actually had negative impacts on income levels and job availability.
EC S&T Advisory Council Formed, Holds First Meeting. The Science and Technology Advisory Council, created by European Commission President Barroso to provide independent and informal advice directly to the President - an analogue to the U.S.'s President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) - held its first meeting (press release found here). This comes almost a year after Barroso appointed Anne Glover as the EC's first science advisor. Glover will chair the meetings of the Council, but the Council will report directly to the President.
People in the News. On March 4 the White House announced nominations for three key federal agencies. • MIT physicist Ernest Moniz was nominated to be Secretary of Energy, to replace the outgoing Steven Chu. Moniz recently directed MIT's wide-ranging Energy Initiative, and previously served in the Clinton Administration as Under Secretary of Energy, as well as associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
• Gina McCarthy, currently head of the EPA Air and Radiation Office, was nominated to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. She would succeed Lisa Jackson in that post.
• Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently president of the Walmart Foundation, was nominated to direct the White House Office of Management and Budget, the President's primary budget arm. If confirmed, she would replace Jeffrey Ziants.
• On Feb. 26 the President announced his intention to appoint Stephen L. Mayo to membership on the National Science Board. Mayo, a member of the AAAS Board of Directors, is Bren Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Joanne Carney, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible
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