The OSA Public Policy staff is pleased to provide you with Washington Updates, where you will find up-to-date information on legislation, events, and other activities happening in Washington, D.C. that affect the optics and photonics community. We welcome your feedback on any of these issues. You can contact the OSA government relations team directly if you would like more information on a particular article.
Washington Updates are also sent out as a newsletter. You can receive the Washington Updates Newsletter by joining the Optics Legislative Network.
For the latest on the annual funding bills including status and proposed funding levels, please visit the Washington Updates FY2017 Appropriations webpage.
Washington Updates - 2016
Senator Schumer Sends Letter on Export Control
In July, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Departments of State, Commerce, and Defense supporting “expeditious completion of the proposed rules to update U.S. Munitions List (USML) Category XII and the Commerce Control List (CCL) regulations.” Category XII governs export of optics and photonics. Rewrite of the category is part of the Obama Administration’s Export Control Reform efforts. Category XII is the last category to be considered and possibly the most difficult. A proposed rule was released in early 2015. The Optical Society and our community weighed in with the Administration and asked for significant changes which resulted in a second proposed rule released in February 2016. The second rule was a step in the right direction. It is now up to OMB to clear the rule and implement it before the end of the Obama Administration. Otherwise, the existing Category XII rules will remain in place and many years of work on the rewrite will be wasted.
According to Senator Schumer, “Getting the federal government to go back to the drawing board and rewrite these rules last year was the first critical step. But we can’t risk a fumble on the one-yard line, and the clock is ticking. We need to finalize these rules now. I’m urging these federal agencies to sign on the dotted line ASAP, so we can ensure these thriving industries are not forced to move production overseas or cut jobs just as they gain steam.”
Read Senator Schumer’s letter
Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Astrobiology
On July 12, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Subcommittee on Research and Technology, held a hearing titled Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Astrobiology. To watch the hearing or read witness testimony, visit the hearing’s webpage.
Posted: July 22, 2016
Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on SBIR and STTR Programs
On June 16, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing titled SBIR/STTR Reauthorization: A Review of Technology Transfer. The hearing examined the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. To watch the hearing or read witness testimony, visit the hearing’s webpage.
Committee Hearing on Energy Basic Research
On June 15, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing titled Innovation in Solar Fuels, Electricity Storage, and Advanced Materials. The hearing discussed the status of energy basic research as supported through the Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program. To watch the hearing or read witness testimony, visit the hearing’s webpage.
Senate Proposes Funding Increase for NIH
On June 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill for FY17. In the bill, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $34 billion for FY17, a $2 billion increase of current funding levels. The Senate has not yet announced when the bill might be considered before the full Senate.
For the status and funding levels proposed in the annual funding bills for the upcoming FY17, please visit the OSA Washington Updates Appropriations webpage.
Posted: June 9, 2016
House Releases Funding Bill for NSF and NIST
On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee released its version of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (CJS) for fiscal year 2017 (FY17).
Under the proposed House CJS bill:
- National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive overall funding of $7.4 billion, $57 million below FY16 levels and more than $100 million below the proposed Senate FY17 funding levels. Within NSF, the House bill proposes increasing the NSF Research and Related Agencies account by $46 million and reduce the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account by $86 million.
- National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive $865 million, $99 million below FY16 levels and more than $100 million below the proposed Senate FY17 funding levels
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $19.5 billion, $223 million above FY16 and around $200 million above the proposed Senate FY17 funding request
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.6 billion, $185 million below FY16 and around $100 million below the proposed Senate FY17 funding request
House Appropriations Committee CJS bill summary
Posted: May 17, 2016
Senate Committee Holds Hearing on “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise”
On May 11, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise”. This hearing covered a wide range of science and technology topics including but not limited to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), tech transfer, STEM education, and basic research. The hearing was to help inform the Senate working group that is putting together the Senate version of a reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.
Watch the full hearing to find out more about the testimony as well as hear the comments and questions the Senators had for the panelists (hearing begins around 17minutes-45seconds).
Posted: May 16, 2016
House Small Business Committee Holds Hearing on Manufacturing
On May 12, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing titled “The New Faces of American Manufacturing.” One of the recurring topics of the hearing was the skills gap that leaves manufacturing jobs unfilled. Read the written testimony and the hearing charter. Watch the full hearing (hearing starts around 22 minutes-45 seconds).
Posted: May 16, 2016
House Science Committee Considers NSF Bill
On April 27, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee considered the NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act. This legislation aims to revise management and oversight of NSF funded major multi-user research facilities. More information and to watch the markup, visit the House Science Committee website.
Posted: April 29, 2016
Senate Releases its Version of the CJS Appropriations Bill
On April 19, the Senate released its version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. The Senate bill proposes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.51 billion, a $46 million increase. The bill proposes funding the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at $974 million, a $10 million increase, and within NIST, fund the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation at $25 million. Under the bill, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would see a $21 million increase, funding NASA at $19.3 billion. The Senate Subcommittee passed the bill, the full committee will consider the bill on April 21. The House Appropriations Committee has not yet introduced its version of the CJS Appropriations bill.
Posted: April 19, 2016
Energy & Water Appropriations Bills Released
Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have released the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. Both versions propose a $50 million increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science. The House version proposes a $15 million increase for Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), while the Senate only provides a slight increase of nearly $2 million. For the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the Senate provides level funding; the House on the other hand provides a decrease of $248 million. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have passed their versions of the bill. The Senate began considering the bill before the full Senate; while the House has not yet announced a timeframe for floort consideration in its chamber.
Posted: April 19, 2016
Updated: April 22, 2016
White House Announces Expanded Apprenticeship Program
President Obama announced increased investments in apprenticeship program, which includes high-growth, high-tech fields such as advanced manufacturing. For more information, please see the White House release.
NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Graduate Student Preparedness
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague Letter announcing that it has listed on its Agency Priority Goals improving graduate student preparedness for entering the workforce. Read more on the NSF website.
House Passes Bipartisan Bills Supporting Women in Science
On 22 March, the House of Representatives passed two bills designed to assist with encouraging more women to go into science.
The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act (H.R. 4755) passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 380 to 3. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator to encourage females to study STEM fields and to pursue aerospace careers.
The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (H.R. 4742) passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 383 to 4. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), “authorizes the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women.”
Posted: March 28, 2016
OSA Signs Science Funding Support Letters; Members of Congress sign R&D letters
OSA recently joined our colleagues in the R&D community by signing onto letters of support for funding for the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.
Members of Congress, as part of their appropriations requests, have the opportunity to sign onto group letters to the Appropriations Committee. Of note, a group letter led by Representatives G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) sent to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies requested at least $8 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation. The letter was signed by 143 members of the House of Representatives. View the letter to see if your representative signed the letter.
Additionally, there was also a group letter led by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Richard Hanna (R-NY), also sent to the same subcommittee, requesting that NSF be allowed to continue to determine scientific research priorities. The letter was signed by 34 members of the House of Representatives. View the letter to see if your representative signed the letter.
Posted: March 28, 2016
White House Expands Tech Hire Program
On 9 March, the White House announced an expansion of its Tech Hire Program. View the White House Fact Sheet for more information.
Posted: March 28, 2016
NSF Candidate Search
The National Science Foundation has opened a search for candidates for three Assistant Director level positions.
Posted: March 28, 2016
Government Accountability Office Release Report on Women in STEM
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Women in STEM Research, focused on the federal agencies grant making in STEM fields with relation to women. The GAO report was requested by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who is Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-CT), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).
House Science Committee Holds Hearing on LIGO
On February 24, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing titled “Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe: Gravitational Waves.” There were four witnesses providing testimony including OSA Fellow Dr. David Reitze, Executive Director of LIGO, California Institute of Technology.
Watch the hearing or read the testimony
Read the National Photonics Initiative letter to Chairman Smith
Read the OSA Press Release
NIST Announces Competition for New Manufacturing Innovation Institutes
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a competition for its first manufacturing innovation institute to be a part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which already has nine institutes either established or underway. Read the NIST Press Release for more information.
President Obama Releases FY17 Budget Request
On February 9, President Obama released his FY17 Budget proposal. For more information, read the fact sheets from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on R&D budget and on the STEM budget proposals.
Revised Export Control Proposed Rule Released
The Obama Administration has released the proposed rule changes for Category XII of the U.S. export regulations and corresponding Department of Commerce proposed rule in the Federal Register last Friday. These rules control the export and import of defense-related articles and include optics, photonic laser commodities and components, covering a wide range of key photonics areas. The Optical Society will host a webinar on March 8, 2016, at 2 pm EST with key Department of Commerce staff who drafted the rule and Dr. Gregory Quarles, Chief Scientist for OSA and a member of the Sensors and Instrumentation Technical Advisory Meeting (SITAC) of the Department of Commerce. Register now.
The proposed rule is part of the Administration’s Export Control Reform effort. Category XII of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) was the last category considered due to the complexity of the areas it covers. In May, a proposed rule was released and over 100 companies including The Optical Society voiced our concern with the proposal.
OSA also partnered with other societies to educate members of Congress about the negative effects the rules would have for the optics and photonics industry. The results included letters by members of Congress from Silicon Valley to the Administration expressing concern over the rules as well. Recently Dr. Quarles testified before the House Small Business Committee and outlined three areas where the proposed rule would affect the optics community and small businesses the most: impact on the time to market for regulated products and components, the cost of compliance and the need to enhance government export assistance resources, particularly for small business.
The Departments of Commerce, State and Defense clearly heard the call from our community and addressed many of the concerns raised. Although this version is an improvement, we urge companies to carefully review the rule for issues that may impact their organization. In addition, many items will be moved from ITAR to Export Administration Regulations (EAR) potentially creating a confusing situation for small businesses to understand the changes and new license and control requirements. It will be imperative for the Administration, and in particular the Department of Commerce, to provide educational outreach programs for business to better understand the new rules. We urge companies to weigh in with their viewpoint of the proposed rule, including a request for educational training across the country. The comment period is only 45 days and closes on April 4, 2016. Guidelines on submitting comments can be found via the Federal Register.
Posted: February 22, 2016
Updated: February 25, 2016
House passes bill to require NSF to justify grants as being in the national interest
On February 10, the House passed the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293). Of note in the legislation, is the requirement for the National Science Foundation to justify for every new research grant or cooperative agreement that it is worthy of Federal funding and is in the national interest as defined in the legislation.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 236 to 178. The bill has been referred to the Senate, which has not taken action. The White House issued a veto threat on the bill.
Posted: February 17, 2016
OSA Chief Scientist Testifies Before Congress on Export Control
On February 10, OSA Chief Scientist Gregory Quarles testified before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade. The hearing was titled “Export Control Reform: Challenges for Small Business? (Part 1).”
Read Dr. Quarles testimony
Posted: February 17, 2016
2016 Advocate of Optics
The Optical Society presented the 2016 Advocate of Optics recognition to Dr. John Holdren, director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
OSA chose to recognize the work OSTP has done under Dr. Holdren’s leadership, particularly with regards to working with OSA and the National Photonics Initiative in our efforts to get photonics selected for an Institute of Manufacturing Innovation as well as working with members of the photonics community on the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
Read the OSA press release
Posted: February 17, 2016
California Members of Congress Express Concerns on Export Control
OSA and other scientific societies sought out members of Congress to voice their concerns about restrictive proposed rules for export control reform released last year by the Obama Administration. In December Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sent a letter to the Administration expressing concerns over these rules. Read the letter
The proposed rule for the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) control the export and import of defense-related articles – specifically Category XII of the U.S. Munitions List and also affect the Commerce Control List. Category XII includes optics, photonic laser commodities and components. A revised proposed rule should be released early this year, and industry will once again have an opportunity to provide comments.
Posted: January 26, 2016
Rep. Seth Moulton publishes op-ed after doing a facility tour at Optikos
After Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) did a facility tour with Optikos Corporation in October 2015, he agreed to author an op-ed “Lighting the Future of U.S. Manufacturing” that was published in the Boston Business Journal. Visits by members of Congress to a company or laboratory are a great way of highlight the importance of optics and photonics directly to your Representative. If you are interested in hosting a member of Congress at your facility or laboratory, email email@example.com.
Op-ed posting in the Boston Business Journal (subscription required)
Op-ed full version
OSA Member Recipient of National Medal of Science
OSA Member Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was among the recipients of the National Medal of Science.
STREAM Act Passes House
On 12 January, the House passed the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act (STREAM Act) by a vote of 235 to 188.
This legislation amends Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. Of note for the scientific community, the bill would require the Secretary of Interior to make available any scientific product used to develop any rule (draft, proposed, or final rule) or for “any related environmental analysis, economic assessment, policy, or guidance.” The scientific product used would have to be made publically available 90 days prior to the publishing of the rule, policy, guidance, and analysis. Additionally, the Secretary would be required to make public the raw data from any of the scientific products that received federal funds. Under the bill’s definition of scientific product, it does note that products covered under copyright laws are not considered a scientific product for the purposes of this legislation. Under the definition of raw data for the purposes of this legislation, the bill does note an exemption for data that is copyrighted or contains “personally identifiable information, sensitive intellectual property, trade secrets, or business-sensitive information”.
President Obama delivers final State of the Union to Congress
On January 12, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address to Congress. In his remarks, the President discussed the importance of increasing investments in medical research and the desire to cure cancer. He talked about needing to provide students with more classes on computer science and math. He also mentioned climate change and the investments made in clean energy over the last few years, such as solar and wind.
Read President Obama’s State of the Union address
Read OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan’s statement
Posted: January 13, 2016