Multi-Agency Optics & Photonics Committee Launched
In early May, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council (NCST) established a Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics (FTAC-OP), with representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the White House Offices of Management and Budget and Science and Technology.
FTAC-OP will build off of the findings in the 2012 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) optics and photonics report to identify research areas of interest, opportunities for collaboration, and mechanisms for interagency coordination; as well as make prioritized research and research organization recommendations to the NCST Committee on Science Physical Sciences Subcommittee. According to their charter, specific goals of the FTAC-OP will be to:
Specific details regarding the committee’s timeline and operations have not yet been announced, but the charter runs for four months – unless extended by the NCST. OSA is involved in achieving similar goals through its efforts to create a National Photonics Initiative, which is scheduled to launch in late May.
Identify cross-cutting areas of optics and photonics research that, with interagency cooperation, could benefit the US based on challenges and recommendations described in the 2012 NAS report;
Prioritize these research areas for possible Federal investment; and
As appropriate, to set long-term, outcome oriented goals for Federal optics and photonics research.
Posted: May 16, 2013
Obama Administration Launches Three New Manufacturing Innovation Institutes
On May 9, U.S. President Barack Obama announced competitions to form three new manufacturing innovation institutes – with a $200 million Federal investment from across the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The institutes are a follow on to an additive manufacturing center in Youngstown, Ohio, and are part of the Administration’s goal to create a National Network for Manufacturing (NNMI) – consisting of 15 manufacturing institutes nationwide.
Two of the new institutes will be led by the Department of Defense (DOD), and one by the Department of Energy (DOE), and each represent technology areas that the Federal government has identified as having broad commercial applications but meet critical mission needs. The three topic areas are:
All three institutes will be selected through an open, competitive process, led by the Departments of Energy and Defense, with review from a multi-agency team of technical experts. Winning teams will be selected and announced later this year. Federal funds will be matched by industry co-investment, support from state and local governments, and other sources. Industry days for the DOD institutes are currently being planned, with award of cooperative agreements targeted for late 2013. Solicitation information will be posted on www.grants.gov and www.fedbizopps.gov as it becomes available. Organizations interested in partnering with the DOE institute can apply via their FOA on the DOE website.
Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (DMDI) – Led by the DOD, the DMDI will focus on the development of novel model-based design methodologies, virtual manufacturing tools, sensor and robotics based manufacturing networks. The ultimate goal is to create advanced design and manufacturing tools that are digitally integrated and networked with supply chains. The DMDI Institute will be established by formal solicitation through the Army Contracting Command - Redstone in support of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) located at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The DOD has sent out a request for information (RFI) to solicit input on potential technologies. The deadline to respond is June 6, 2013.
Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing (LM3I) – Led by the DOD, the LM3I will focus on the development of advanced lightweight metals for components and products, leading to reductions in manufacturing and energy costs. The institute will scale-up research to accelerate market expansion for products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes. The LM3I will be established by formal solicitation through the Contracting Department of the Office of Naval Research located in Arlington, Virginia. The DOD has sent out an RFI to solicit input on potential technologies. The deadline to respond is June 3, 2013.
Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing – Led by the DOE, this Clean Energy Manufacturing Institute (CEMI) will focus on wide bandgap semiconductor based power electronic devices. The goal is to increase the use of wide bandgap technologies over silicon-based technologies, enabling more compact and efficient power electronic devices for electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable speed drive motors and a smarter more flexible grid; in addition to high-performance defense applications. DOE has sent out a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to solicit partners. Interested parties must submit a letter of intent by July 11, 2013 and their full application by August 29, 2013.
Additional manufacturing institutes may be launched next year, pending Congressional approval of the President’s $1 billion funding request in the fiscal year 2014 budget. Members can contact their legislators in support of this funding request using OSA’s online policy action center, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule in person meetings. Over the last year, OSA and OIDA have been advocating for at least one institute with a focus on an optics technology, including submitted responses to two RFIs related to the NNMI program, attending meetings and holding discussions within the community regarding a possible NNMI institute in optics.
Posted: May 10, 2013
White House Launches New STEM Education Community Service Program
On April 22, during the third annual White House Science Fair, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to create a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is a U.S. federal program that runs community service programs in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection. It is similar to the Peace Corps, but operates only domestically.
The new STEM AmeriCorps initiative is a partnership between nonprofit organizations and the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) a federal agency that oversees numerous public service programs – including AmeriCorps – and will place service members in nonprofits that mobilize STEM professionals to inspire young people to excel in STEM education. As the first step, starting this year 50 AmeriCorps members will be placed at FIRST – a nonprofit organization that sponsors robotics competitions and other technology challenges. Members will also partner with other nonprofits in the Maker Movement – a grassroots movement that encourages consumers to build their own products – which will lay the foundation for a future AmeriCorps STEM competition.
The program is part of the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which includes numerous programs designed to increase student interest in STEM fields.
Posted: April 26, 2013
White House Hosts 3rd Annual Science Fair
On April 22, the White House played host to young scientists and inventors at the 3rd annual White House Science Fair. The event featured 100 students from more than 40 states, all of whom were winners of 45 different science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions and organizations from across the United States.
President Obama spent the afternoon viewing projects and presentations from nearly 30 student teams, including portable wind mills, algae-based biofuels, robotic arms, and a bicycle-powered water filtration system. Celebrities Bill Nye the Science Guy and LeVar Burton were also on hand, touring the exhibits and interviewing the students.
During his remarks at the events, President Obama stressed the need to promote and strengthen STEM education, saying “So we need to make this a priority to train an army of new teachers in these subject areas, and to make sure that all of us as a country are lifting up these subjects for the respect that they deserve.”
A transcript of the President’s remarks can be found on the White House’s website, along with a complete list of the 2013 Science Fair participants and videos from the event.
Posted: April 23, 2013
On April 10, U.S. President Barack Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request. The request provides for sustained funding levels for most science, technology, and innovation programs, and increases and new funding for others. The President is proposing $142.8 billion in total research and development (R&D) investments and $3.1 billion in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education initiatives. The President’s budget also proposes replacing the deep across-the-board spending cuts (“the sequester”) that took effect March 1, with a mix of tax reforms, changes to entitlement programs, and target cuts throughout the federal government.
White House's 2014 Budget Request Unveiled
Top-line budget requests for key science and technology related agencies are as follows:
The President’s request also includes a number of inter-agency R&D, manufacturing, and STEM Ed initiatives. Highlights include:
National Science Foundation (NSF) - $7.6 billion
National Institute of Standards in Technology (NIST) - $754 million
Department of Energy (DOE) office of Science - $5 billion
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) - $379 million
Department of Defense (DOD) R&D and test evaluation programs - $67.5 billion
$12 billion for DOD science and technology (S&T) programs
$2.9 billion for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
$2.1 billion for basic research (6.1) programs
$4.6 billion for applied research (6.2) programs
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - $5.4 billion
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $17.7 billion
National Institutes of Health (NIH) - $31 billion
Over the coming months, Congress will begin drafting and debating FY 2014 appropriations bills, taking the President’s budget request into consideration. The process must be completed by September 30, when the current fiscal year ends. Interested parties can use OSA’s easy online Legislative Action Center to send a letter to Congress in support of the President’s request. Our online budget tracker is also available, to follow the appropriations process as it moves through both chambers and compare FY 2014’s top-line numbers to previous years.
Budget would expand, and make permanent the Research & Experimentation Tax Credit (also known as the “R&D tax credit”)
$1 billion for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), to develop up to 15 regional manufacturing innovation institutes
$100 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative
$123 million for programs to improve retention of undergrads in STEM fields
$65 million for NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, which focuses on training technicians for high-tech jobs
$80 million for STEM teacher training programs
Posted: April 12, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday unveiled plans for a new Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative – a $100 million proposed research investment aimed at increasing our understanding of the human brain and discovering ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The Initiative is part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget request, which he will introduce to Congress April 10. If fully funded, the program would allocate approximately $50 million to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), $40 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and $20 million to the National Science Foundation (NSF). In his introductory remarks, President Obama identified the BRAIN Initiative as one of the Administration’s “Grand Challenges” – national goals that require advances in science and technology to achieve.
President Obama Proposes Brain Research Initiative
Optical scientists and engineers play an important role in research areas that would be supported by the BRAIN Initiative, including optogenetics and medical imaging. As such, OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan testified last month before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to call for sustained federal investments in research and development (R&D) funding in these, and other, areas.
Posted: April 3, 2013
OSA’s CEO Elizabeth Rogan testified on Capitol Hill today in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, Justice and Related Agencies (CJS), in support of continued research and development (R&D) funding, especially for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards (NIST). The CJS subcommittee has jurisdiction over NIST and NSF’s budgets, as well as NASA and NOAA.
OSA's CEO Makes the Case for Science Funding on the Hill
Her testimony focused on the importance of sustained, long-term federal investments in science research – and optics and photonics in particular – that drives manufacturing, innovation, improved communications technologies, increased solar energy efficiency, and much more. She also referenced the recent National Academy of Sciences landmark report Optics & Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation, and OSA’s multi-society efforts to carry out its key recommendation of creating a National Photonics Initiative (NPI).
The subcommittee hearing was focused on the fiscal year 2014 budget, and is designed to allow representatives from relevant organizations to share their insights. Rogan’s full testimony is available on the OSA website. More information about the hearing and the appropriations process is available on the Appropriations Committee’s website.
Posted: March 21, 2013
FY 2013 Funding Measures Moving Through Congress
Both chambers of the U.S. Congress have been hard at work recently to pass a spending package for the remainder of 2013 and avoid a government shutdown. Currently, the Federal Government is operating under a continuing resolution, which expires on March 27. The stopgap measure was passed last fall when Congress was unable to complete the appropriations process for fiscal year 2013.
The House of Representatives passed a version of the FY 13 continuing resolution (CR) March 6. Their measure – which the Administration voiced disapproval of – sets new funding guidelines for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, while extending current spending levels at all other agencies. The bill sets total discretionary spending at $984 billion, and maintains the across-the-board cuts (aka “sequestration”) imposed under the Budget Control Act of 2011 that took effect March 1. However, the measure would give additional flexibility to defense programs in implementing those cuts. The flexibility was not extended to non-defense spending.
The Senate began consideration of their 2013 funding bill last week, with votes on final passage except in the coming days. Nearly 100 amendments have been submitted, which the chamber is still working out an agreement on how to proceed with. The Senate CR expands on the House passed version, but maintains the same overall spending levels. Their measure would add new appropriations levels for Defense, Veterans, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Homeland Security agencies, while extending current budgets for all others. Included in the new appropriations is a $221 million increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to allow for 550 new research grants and an increase of $43 million for the Nation Institute of Standards in Technology’s (NIST) laboratories and technical research programs. The bill also provides greater flexibility to all agencies in implementing the $85 billion in cuts under sequestration.
Once the Senate passage is complete, the two chambers will conference on the two bills and reconcile differences, likely using the Senate language as the basis for discussion. A final package will need to pass both chambers and be signed by the President prior to March 27, when the government’s current spending authority expires.
Posted: March 19, 2013
The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to establish an annual academic competition, designed to promote student involvement in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The Academic Competition Resolution of 2013 (H.Res.77) – introduced by Representatives Candice Miller (R-MI) and Robert Brady (D-PA) – will set up a House-wide STEM competition for students across the country. The program will be modeled on the annual Congressional Art Competition, allowing Members to host an annual contest in their districts. Winning entries will then be recognized by the House.
U.S. House to Establish Science Competition
The White House also holds an annual STEM completion – The White House Science Fair – which was established in 2010. Participants in that program are winners of various STEM competitions throughout the country.
Posted: March 8, 2013
Visa Reform for STEM Grads Introduced in U.S. Senate
A bipartisan group of Senators, led by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced legislation this week designed to increase access to visas for high-skilled immigrants working in the science and technology fields. The bill proposes to immediately increase the cap on H-1B visas – which are solely for high-skilled immigrants – from 65,000 a year to 115,000 a year, and would create a market-based system to increase the visa cap as needed, up to 300,000 per year. Spouses of the H-1B visa holders would also be able to work, and the reforms would make it easier for visa holders to change jobs.
The bill also proposes changes to the existing permanent resident green card system to ensure more green cards go to those in the science and technology fields, including making an unlimited number available to foreign graduates for U.S. universities who have earned advance degrees in STEM fields.
Earlier in the week, a group of eight Senators, led by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ) unveiled a blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform. Their plan refers to the need for changes for high-skilled immigrants, but does not give specific proposals.
Posted: February 1, 2013
The 113th Congress has officially begun, with over a dozen new Senators headed to Capitol Hill. To help you keep track of the changes and get a sense of what is in store for the new term, the OSA public policy team has put together this Senate committee-by-committee guide.
2013 Senate Committees Overview
Posted: January 22, 2013
Congress Puts Off Automatic Spending Cuts
The United States Congress rang in 2013 in session, voting on legislation designed the avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” – a combination of mandated across the board discretionary spending cuts and the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, both set to take effect on January 1, 2013. Under the deal, implementation of the discretionary spending cuts (also known as “sequestration”) will be delayed until March 1, 2013, giving Congress more time to reach a broader spending agreement. The cuts were initially created under the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) as an incentive for Congress to reach a deficit reduction plan; they were only “triggered” because no agreement was reached.
The “fiscal cliff” legislation however does include a measure that lowers discretionary spending caps – also put in place by the 2011 BCA – by $12 billion over the next two years. Unlike the sequester however, the reductions do not take effect all at once. Instead, FY 2013 discretionary spending will be cut by $4 billion, and FY 2014 by $8 billion, divided equally both years between defense and nondefense spending. Enforcement of the reductions will begin on March 27, 2013, at the same time the current government spending authority under last year’s continuing resolution expires. This means Congress will be able to target the cuts toward specific programs, rather than the blanket approach that would be taken under sequestration.
In good news for science and technology however, the measure extends the R&D tax credit through 2013. President Obama, in his statement on the deal, also reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to research and innovation, saying “we can't keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy.”
Other provisions in the legislation include extending the Bush-era tax rates for individual incomes below $400,000 and family incomes below $450,000, increasing tax rates for capital gains, extending unemployment benefits, a one-year farm bill, and extensions of several education-related tax provisions.
Posted: January 3, 2013
2013 House Committees Overview
The 113th Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2013, and leadership from both parties are beginning to shape the new Congress with the selection of committee Chairs and Ranking Members. To help you keep track of what is in store for the upcoming term, the OSA public policy team has put together a committee-by-committee guide for the U.S. House of Representatives, please note that full committee rosters and some leadership positions are still being finalized. A Senate version will follow in the coming days.
Posted: January 2, 2013