Washington Updates

2009 Washington Updates

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 and invite you to use the comment section included with each post. You can also contact the OSA government relations team directly if you'd like more information on a particular.

Final Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Bills Signed Into Law

President Obama signed into law HR 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, which includes six appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2010. The omnibus bill includes funding increases for both the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The President also signed into law the funding bill for the Department of Defense. The legislation contains a 2.2% increase for basic research (6.1 programs) while applied research (6.2 programs) received a 1% decrease in funding for FY 2010.

Posted: December 22, 2009

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House S&T Committee Chairman Announces Retirement

On Monday, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) chair of the US House Science and Technology Committee announced his retirement at the end of 2010. Gordon has been chair of the committee since 2007. Among his major accomplishments as chair is the passage of the America COMPETES Act, which he authored and pushed through Congress. According to Gordon, "When I was elected, I was the youngest member of the Tennessee congressional delegation; now, I'm one of the oldest. In fact, I have members of my staff who weren't even born when I took office. That tells me it's time for a new chapter."

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), who is the second ranking Democrat on the S&T Committee, has already expressed interest in assuming the chairmanship at the start of the 112th Congress. According to Costello, "I will pursue the chairmanship of the full committee and look forward to discussing it with our Democratic leadership and my colleagues in our caucus."

Posted: December 16, 2009

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Congress Completes Additional FY 2010 Funding Bills

The US House and Senate last week passed HR 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, which includes six appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2010. The omnibus bill includes funding increases for both the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. See the OSA Budget Tracker for specific numbers. The President is expected to sign the bill this week.

Up until this point, Congress had only been able to complete work on five of the 12 annual funding bills. Although the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2009, Congress has been passing short-term continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep the government operating. The passage of the consolidated appropriations bill leaves Congress with one remaining funding bill to pass, that which funds the Department of Defense (DOD). According to press reports, Congress plans to complete work on the DOD bill before they adjourn for the year.

Posted: December 14, 2009

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Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas Visits CREOL

Yesterday Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, a Democrat who represents the Orlando area, visited CREOL - The College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida to learn about the cutting-edge research being done at the facility. After a presentation by Dr. Bahaa Saleh giving an overview of CREOL, Rep. Kosmas had the opportunity to visit the labs of Dr. Peter Delfyett and Dr. Martin Richardson. Pictures from the visit are available online.

Rep. Kosmas is serving her first term in the US Congress. She serves on the House Science and Technology Committee as well as the House Financial Services Committee. The House of Representatives accepted an amendment offered by the Congresswoman that adds photonics technology to the list of targeted industries eligible to receive federal grants under a new early-stage investment program. The Kosmas amendment was accepted to HR 3854, the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 389-32, aims at improving the Small Business Administration's programs that provide entrepreneurs with access to capital.

Posted: November 25, 2009

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Educate to Innovate Campaign

Yesterday, President Obama announced the Educate to Innovate campaign. The campaign is intended to get kids interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM). As part of the campaign, this Administration hopes to do a series of events, announcements, and other activities that build upon the President's "call to action" and address the key components of national priorities. More information on the campaign is available on the White House Website.

Posted: November 24, 2009

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Agreement Reached on Federal Efficiency Standards for Outdoor Lighting

Industry groups and Congressional leaders today announced an agreement on new minimum efficiency standards for outdoor lighting products in the US. The agreement, which will need to be passed by Congress, aims to reduce US lighting energy use initially by approximately 12 billion kWh/year. The DOE would then be required to quickly revise the standards to reduce usage even more, with the hope of increasing savings by 12 to 30 billion kWh per year for total savings of as much as 42 billion kWh per year - equivalent to six new 1,000 MW power plants (the typical size of a new nuclear unit), according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

Groups working on the agreement included the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Alliance to Save Energy and other energy efficiency organizations, as well as utility company Pacific Gas & Electric. It was supported in Congress by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Posted: November 3, 2009

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Photonics Added to List of Targeted Industries in House Small Business Bill

The US House of Representatives accepted an amendment yesterday by Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) that adds photonics technology to the list of targeted industries eligible to receive federal grants under a new early-stage investment program.

The Kosmas amendment was accepted to HR 3854, the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009. The legislation, which passed by a vote of 389-32, aims at improving the Small Business Administration's programs that provide entrepreneurs with access to capital.

HR 3854 also establishes the Small Business Early Stage Investment (SBESI) Program, which is a public/private partnership grant program to channel investment capital to emerging companies. Rep. Kosmas authored an amendment, which was adopted by voice vote, to add the photonics technology industry to the list of targeted industries qualified to receive grants under this new early-stage investment program. Under the SBESI program, the Small Business Administration will provide matching grant funding to act as a co-investment in highly qualified investment companies that will focus on investing in small businesses, with particular emphasis on investing in early-stage small businesses in targeted capital-intensive industries. The bill will now be considered by the Senate before being sent to the President for signature.

Posted: October 30, 2009

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Department of Energy Announces First Round of ARPA-E Funding

The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $151 million in funding for 37 research projects under its recently-formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E was created to support high risk, high reward energy research that can provide transformative new solutions for climate change and energy security. This is the first round of projects funded under ARPA-E, which is receiving total of $400 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants will go to projects with lead researchers in 17 states. Of the lead recipients, 43% are small businesses, 35% are educational institutions, and 19% are large corporations.

Some of the projects selected for awards include:

Renewable Power (solar)
"Direct Wafer" technology to form high efficiency "monocrystalline-equivalent" silicon wafers directly from molten silicon, with potential to halve the installed cost of solar photovoltaics.
$4 million to 1366 Technologies Inc., Lexington, Mass.

Energy Storage
High energy, low cost planar liquid sodium beta batteries for grid scale electrical power storage. Could enable continuous power from renewable resources, like wind and solar, and could support a highly stable and reliable grid.
$7.2 million to EaglePicher Technologies LLC in Joplin, Mo.

Building Efficiency
A high-pressure ammonothermal process for the inexpensive production of high quality, single crystal GaN substrates at high crystal growth rates. Could allow production of light emitting diodes (LEDs) at costs equal to current low-cost fluorescent lighting. LED lighting consumes as little as one tenth of the energy of current lighting options.
$4.52 million to Momentive Performance Materials in Strongsville, Ohio

Direct Solar Fuels / Energy Storage
A novel catalyst to greatly enhance the efficiency of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. An important platform technology for the production of solar fuels and for distributed energy storage systems.
$4.09 million to Sun Catalytix Corporation in Cambridge, Mass.

For more information, visit www.arpa-e.energy.gov.

Posted: October 26, 2009

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Committee Approves Legislation to Improve Solar Technology

In a bi-partisan effort the House Committee on Science and Technology last week approved House Resolution (HR) 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, to improve solar technology research development and demonstration (RD&D) programs.

The legislation would require the United States Secretary of Energy to develop a comprehensive process for creating a solar RD&D roadmap. These activities would cover a broad range of research areas including solar power, manufacturing, heating and cooling, and the integration of solar technologies into buildings. The roadmap would enlist the insight of both public and private sectors on ways to effectively address RD&D needs. It also requires industry, academia, and government researchers to develop a long-term roadmap that will advance clean energy alternatives.

Members of the committee recognized the potential for the United States to revitalize its manufacturing base by strengthening the domestic solar industry. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), stated that HR 3585 would "require DOE to engage diverse stakeholders in the solar community and work across programs to create a comprehensive plan - a roadmap - to guide funding for the research needed to make the United States the global center for solar innovation."

According to the White House, the Obama Innovation Strategy builds on well over $100 billion of funds from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act that support innovation, education, infrastructure and other initiatives.

For more information, see "A Roadmap for Solar Energy" on the Phoenix Sun's Website.

UPDATE: The full House of Representatives passed the legislation on October 22, with a vote of 310-106.

Posted: October 16, 2009

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President's Speech Prioritizes R&D Funding

On September 21, President Obama visited Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York to deliver a science policy initiative speech. The speech highlighted the Administration's strategy to strengthen its commitment to scientific research and development (R&D). The President explained the benefits of investing in R&D and said that his strategy would restore American leadership in science.

The Obama Innovation Strategy includes:

  • $18.3 billion in research funding as provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the largest research and development increase in the nation's history
  • Doubling the budgets of key science agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as outlined in the America COMPETES Act
  • A call for three percent investment in GDP in research and development
  • Making the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent

While talking about the importance of investing in research the President said, "We must also strengthen our commitment to research, including basic research, which has been badly neglected for decades... It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan."

According to the White House, the Obama Innovation Strategy builds on well over $100 billion of funds from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act that support innovation, education, infrastructure and other initiatives.

For more information visit the White House Website.

Posted: October 2, 2009

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ARPA-E Announces Request for Information on Energy Funding

The Department of Energy's new program, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), is seeking public comment on funding for energy-related research and programs. According to the DOE, the Request for Information (ROI) seeks "public input on potential ARPA-E programmatic areas and opportunities to overcome technological roadblocks to the development of transformational technologies relevant to the ARPA-E mission. The information collected through this process will assist ARPA-E in developing new programs and funding opportunities."

ARPA-E's mission areas include: reducing foreign energy imports; decreasing energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; increasing energy efficiency across the US economy and ensuring that the US maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.

Posted: September 2, 2009

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Obama Administration Announces S&T Priorities for FY 2011

Even though Congress has not yet passed budgets for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is already looking ahead to FY 2011. On August 4, OSTP released a memorandum outlining its S&T budget priorities for FY 2011. The memo states that agencies should build on the S&T priorities outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill) and the FY 2010 budget. The memo also calls on agencies to redirect S&T budget priorities to fall into four practical "challenges": economic recovery and growth, energy independence, biomedical applications and national security.

According a recent AIP FYI Bulletin, there are several differences between this memo and similar memos released by the Bush Administration in recent years: "One of the differences between the memorandum just released and those issued in 2006 and 2007 are the references the earlier documents made to the doubling of the budgets for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. The new memorandum does not refer to any agencies by name, or to numerical targets."

The full memo is available on the OSTP Website.

Posted: August 19, 2009

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SBIR/STTR Legislation Moves in House & Senate

Legislation to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs was approved by the United States Senate yesterday. Last week, the full House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the programs.

The SBIR program was set to expire at the end of July and the STTR at the end of September. Previous attempts to reauthorize the programs failed in part because of a fight over the extent to which small high-tech firms backed by venture capital groups should be able to participate in grant awards. Both the Senate and House handle this issue differently and it will now need to be resolved during a conference committee between the two bodies.

Posted: July 14, 2009

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Funding Application Process

On July 1, Vice President Biden announced the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) loans and grants to help bring broadband service to un-served and underserved communities. The funding is part of the $7 billion allocated for broadband deployment as part of the ARRA. Applications will be accepted beginning July 14 until August 14 with grant announcements being made by mid-September. At least one other round of funding will be made available by September 2010.

Posted: July 2, 2009

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President Obama and Secretary Chu Announce New Energy Efficiency Grants

Today President Obama and the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, announced a $346 million investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of energy efficient technologies in all major types of commercial buildings as well as new and existing homes. $50 million will be used for research to aid in the development and reduce the first cost of high performance lighting products. 

Posted: June 29, 2009

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SBIR/STTR Legislation Moves in House & Senate

Legislation to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs through 2023 was approved by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on June 18, 2009. Earlier in the month, a House subcommittee approved legislation to reauthorize both programs through 2011.

The SBIR program was set to expire at the end of July and the STTR at the end of September. Previous attempts to reauthorize the programs failed in part because of a fight over the extent to which small high-tech firms backed by venture capital groups should be able to participate in grant awards. The Senate-passed version limits the amount of awards that go to small companies owned by venture capital.

The legislation now must be approved by the full Senate and House, although a vote has not yet been scheduled.

Posted: June 26, 2009

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House of Representatives Passes NIST, NSF Funding; Senate Next

The US House of Representatives passed the first of the FY 2010 Appropriations (funding) Bills June 18. The $64.3 billion Commerce-Justice-Science Bill includes funding for two key science agencies - the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NSF received $6.94 billion, which is an increase of 6.87% over the FY 2009 appropriated level. NIST received $781.1 million, which is a decrease of 4.7% over the FY 2009. Funding levels at both agencies are below the President's FY 2010 request. View OSA's FY 2010 budget tracker for more details.

Before the bill becomes law, the Senate must pass its version of the bill. Then the two sides will meet to hash out a compromise bill to send to the President for signature. The Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee is meeting today to discuss the first draft of the bill.

Posted: June 24, 2009

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House Committees Approve FY 2010 Funding for NIST, NSF

The House Committee on Appropriations approved a draft bill this week that included FY 2010 funds for two key science agencies - the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill provides $6.937 billion for NSF. This is slightly less than President Obama's FY 2010 Budget Request of $7.045 billion and an increase of 6.89% over the current FY 2009 appropriated level of $6.49 billion. NIST received $781.1 million, which is a decrease over both Obama's Budget Request ($846.1 million) the FY 2009 appropriated level ($819 million). However, when funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is taken to account, both agencies remain on the path for doubling laid out by the 2007 America COMPETES Act.

The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the CJS bill next week. The Senate has yet to mark up any FY 2010 appropriations bills.

Posted: June 10, 2009

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House Passes Bill on International Scientific Cooperation

The US House of Representatives passed a bill today designed to enhance international cooperation in science and technology (S&T) and advance the foreign policy priorities of the US The International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2009 will recreate a committee under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate the international science and technology activities across US federal agencies.

The bill outlines several responsibilities of the committee including to: plan and coordinate interagency international S&T cooperative research and training activities and partnerships supported or managed by Federal agencies, and work with other NSTC committees to help plan and coordinate the international component of national S&T priorities; establish Federal priorities and policies for aligning, as appropriate, international S&T cooperative research and training activities and partnerships; identify opportunities for new international S&T cooperative research and training; solicit input and recommendations from non-Federal S&T stakeholders, including universities, scientific and professional societies, industry, and relevant organizations and institutions, through workshops and other appropriate venues; address broad issues that influence the ability of United States scientists and engineers to collaborate with foreign counterparts, including barriers to collaboration and access to scientific information.

Posted: June 8, 2009

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OSA Members Meet with Legislators to Discuss R&D Funding

OSA members visited Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. June 4 as part of the successful Capitol Hill Day 2009 event held in conjunction with CLEO/IQEC. The more than 30 participants met one-on-one with US senators and representatives and their staff to urge support for continued federal investments in scientific research and development for fiscal year 2010. The participants visited approximately 50 Congressional offices from 18 states, and attended a personal meeting with 2009 OSA Advocate of Optics Congressman Rush Holt (D - N.J.). The event was co-sponsored by OSA, APS, IEEE-USA and OIDA. More information is can be found in the OSA press release and photos are available on the OSA Website.

Posted: June 5, 2009

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Energy Frontier Research Centers Announced

The Obama Administration announced last month the creation of 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers that will open across the US The US Department of Energy Office of Science will invest $777 million in these centers over the next five years. Supported in part by funds made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the economic stimulus bill),the centers will be established at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms and will conduct research in areas such as solar energy, electricity storage and carbon capture and sequestration.

A full list of the new centers and the research they will conduct is available on the DOE Office of Science's Website.

Posted: May 29, 2009

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OSA Member Confirmed as Under Secretary for Energy

This week, the United States Senate confirmed six of President Obama's DOE nominees including Under Secretary for Energy Kristina Johnson and Under Secretary for Science Steven Koonin. Johnson, an OSA Fellow, was previously the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs of Johns Hopkins University. Prior to that, Johnson served as the Dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering from 1999-2007 where she helped to set up interdisciplinary efforts in photonics, bioengineering and biologically inspired materials, and energy and the environment. Before that she was on the faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder from 1985-1999 where she led an NSF Engineering Research Center and involved engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists and psychologists in working to make computers faster and better connected. Johnson is an electrical engineer with more than 129 US and foreign patents or patents pending.

Dr. Steven E. Koonin was previously chief scientist for BP, plc, where he was responsible for guiding the company's long-range technology strategy, particularly in alternative and renewable energy sources. Koonin joined BP in 2004 following a 29-year career at the California Institute of Technology as a professor of theoretical physics, including a nine-year term as the Institute's Provost. Koonin's research interests have included theoretical and computational physics, as well as global environmental science. He did his undergraduate work at Caltech and has a Ph.D. from MIT.

According to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, "we are fortunate to have such talented and dedicated leaders joining our team at the Department of Energy. The Department has set aggressive goals for creating green jobs, addressing our climate crisis and putting the country on a path to energy independence, and these confirmations are an important step toward reaching those goals."

Posted: May 21, 2009

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President Obama Releases FY2010 Budget Request

On Thursday, President Obama unveiled the details of his FY2010 budget plan. Earlier this year, he outlined a $3.6 trillion budget blueprint and yesterday's release fills in the details of this plan. In addition to increases in funding at S&T agencies, it recommends eliminating more than 120 programs across the federal government to save $17 billion. The only identifiable S&T cuts are at DOE for deep-water and unconventional oil and gas research and moving away from funding vehicular hydrogen fuel cells to technologies with more immediate promise.

The Department of Energy received a sizeable increase. In a roll-out of the budget to stakeholders, DOE Secretary of Energy Steven Chu characterized the budget as placing an emphasis on clean energy investments through creating jobs, reducing dependence on oil, and confronting climate change. The DOE Office of Science would receive a 3.9% increase over FY 2009 funds. Note: the FY 2009 figure does not include the $1.6 billion provided to the Office of Science as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The ARPA-E program is slated to receive an additional $10 million in FY 2010. This is in addition to the $400 million received in FY 2009 as part of the Recovery Act.

The National Science Foundation also fared well under the President's budget proposal with an increase of 8.55% over the FY 2009 level to $7.045 billion. This increase, coupled with the $3 billion increase as part of the Recovery Act, puts the NSF budget on the path to double its budget over the next 10 years as outlined by the America COMPETES Act.

The President proposes $240 millionfor NIST scientific research facilities and $180 million for lab equipment in FY 2010. In addition, the budget proposes $70 million for NIST's Technology Innovation Program, which invests in high-impact research that addresses critical national needs and advance innovation. According to budget documents, "The President's budget recognizes the important role of NIST programs to advance innovation and high-risk research. NIST 2010 initiatives focus directly on addressing measurement-related barriers and other technical challenges related to achieving energy independence, protecting the environment, rebuilding America's physical infrastructure, strengthening information technology security, and improving the delivery and cost-effectiveness of health care."

The President's budget request is just one step in the long process of determining the actual funding levels for FY 2010. Congress now must go through the appropriations process and determine what programs to fund and at what levels.

Detailed information on the President's S&T budget request is available on the Office of Science & Technology Policy's Website.

Posted: May 8, 2009

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President Obama Makes Major Science Policy Speech

President Obama today addressed the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, announcing his Administration's emphasis on investments in scientific research and development.

President Obama said he wants the US to exceed the level of scientific innovation achieved at the height of the space race. "The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years," he said. "This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research, from the labs of renowned universities to the proving grounds of innovative companies."

Highlights of the speech included a goal to spend 3 percent of US GDP on scientific R&D, a renewed commitment to double the budgets at NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science; support for programs to strengthen US STEM education; support for renewable energy research through programs like ARPA-E and 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers; and the appointment of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Highlights of the speech appear in a White House Fact Sheet.

A full transcript of the speech appears on OSA's Website.

An audio transcript is available on the National Academies' Website.

Posted: April 27, 2009

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NSF Seeks Public Comment on Sustainable Energy Report

The National Science Board, an oversight group within the National Science Foundation, recently released a Draft Report on Sustainable Energy. The report makes several recommendations and offers advice on how to "promote national security through increasing US energy independence, ensure environmental stewardship and reduce energy and carbon intensity, and generate continued economic growth through innovation in energy technologies and increases in green jobs."

The Board is seeking public comments on the draft report. Comments must be submitted by May 1 to Tami Tamashiro, executive secretary, Task Force on Sustainable Energy, at NSBenergy@ nsf .gov.

The report is available on the NSF Website.

Posted: April 23, 2009

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Obama Names Nation's First Chief Technology Officer

President Obama over the weekend nominated Aneesh Chopra to be the Administration's new Chief Technology Officer. Chopra currently serves as Virginia's Secretary of Technology and in his new position with the White House will be responsible for promoting technological innovation to bolster job creation, reduce health care costs, protect the homeland and the like.

The Obama Administration says it created the new position of Chief Technology Officer to "ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices."

Chopra will face a Congressional confirmation hearing and vote.

Posted: April 20, 2009

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Agencies Announce Spending Guidelines for Stimulus Funds

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the economic stimulus bill, requires each government entity to be open and transparent in the distribution of their funds in order to allow taxpayers to know how, when and where their funds are being spent. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today announced how the DOE Office of Science will distribute their $1.2 billion in new science funding. The funds will to be used for major construction, laboratory infrastructure, and research efforts sponsored by the Office of Science. 

The Department of Defense has also announced their spending plan for the $7.4 billion allocated to the department as part of the economic stimulus bill. For more details, view the DoD Expenditure Plans.

Posted: March 23, 2009

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Dr. John Holdren Confirmed

The US Senate voted unanimously today to confirm John P. Holdren as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. Holdren also serves as assistant to the President for science and technology and co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Up until his confirmation, John Holdren was a professor of environmental policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the school's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Dr. Holdren has also served as the president of AAAS.

Posted: March 20, 2009

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SBIR/STTR Extension

The House and Senate have reached a compromise on extending the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program until July 31, 2009. There is hope that Congress can come to agreement during this time on a longer, more thorough reauthorization bill. Last year, Congress could not come to agreement on reauthorizing both the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The House passed reauthorization legislation with overwhelming support but the Senate failed to act. A six-month extension was passed to keep the program operating until March 20, 2009. (STTR is reauthorized through September 30, 2009.)

Posted: March 16, 2009

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Updated Information on Broadband Funding Available under American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the economic stimulus bill, contains $7 billion in funding for broadband deployment. The Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and authorizes the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the Department of Agriculture to issue grants and loans for broadband deployment. Both entities issued a joint Request for Information with comments due April 13, 2009.

In order to facilitate the coordinated development of this program, public meetings with NTIA and RUS will take place in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 19, 23, and 24, 2009 at 10 a.m. at the US Department of Commerce. Field hearings will be held on March 17 in Las Vegas and March 18 in Flagstaff, Ariz., with the possibility of additional hearings announced at a later time. NTIA and RUS plan to publish agenda topics for the meetings on their Websites.

For more information on the program, visit NTIA's Website. To learn about the meetings, see the Federal Register Notice.

Posted: March 12, 2009

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FY 2009 Omnibus Bill Signed into Law

President Obama today signed into law an omnibus funding bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009. The legislation includes funding for most of the government agencies, including NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science.

Last year, Congress and the then-Bush Administration could not come to agreement on key funding levels for many of the government agencies. As a result, a short-term continuing resolution (CR) was passed to keep the government funded through March 6, 2009 and then subsequently March 11, 2009. Funding for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs was originally passed in September of 2008 for the entire fiscal year.

To view funding levels for FY 2009 please visit OSA's FY2009 budget tracker.

Posted: March 11, 2009

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President Obama Signs Memorandum on Scientific Integrity

President Obama today signed a memorandum, which according to the White House, is designed to return scientific integrity to policymaking. The memorandum was a result of controversy during the Bush Administration regarding federal policies on stem cell research, global climate change and a number of other high profile scientific and medical issues.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu released a statement that in part said, "President Obama also made clear today that his commitment to decisions based on science instead of ideology extends beyond stem cell research -- tasking every agency to ensure that sound science is at the heart of decisions we make. From energy to environmental protection to health care reform, Americans will be well served by this approach."

For more information on the memorandum, visit the White House Website. The full text of the memorandum is also available on the site.

Posted: March 9, 2009

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Obama Releases Budget Proposal 'Blueprint'

President Obama yesterday released his Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal. While the full request that includes specific funding levels for all agencies will not be released until April, yesterday's proposal is considered a blueprint for the direction the Administration wants to go with the budget.

Specifically, the budget proposal includes $7 billion for the National Science Foundation, an increase of 16 percent over the FY 2008 level (note: FY 2009 appropriations have not been enacted yet). This includes increased support for graduate research fellowships and "high-risk" research grants. While specific numbers were not released for the DOE Office of Science, the Administration indicated it will receive "substantial increases" in an effort toward doubling its budget over the next several years. The amount of funding the National Institute of Standards and Technolgy (NIST) is set to receive is also unclear, but the proposal does include $70 million for NIST's Technology Innovation Program.

Posted: February 27, 2009

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SBIR/STTR Program Update

On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the economic stimulus bill. Although the legislation contains increased funding for S&T programs throughout the federal government, it is not good news for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs' funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A last minute, behind-the-scenes change was made to the stimulus bill that exempts NIH stimulus funding from the SBIR/STTR programs. According to estimates, this would have been $250 million available for these programs. Please note that this includes only funding under the stimulus bill; existing grants will not be affected. In addition to funding not being available for small businesses, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future of SBIR/STTR.

At the same time, in less than two weeks, the SBIR program is set to expire. Last year, Congress could not come to agreement on reauthorizing both the SBIR and STTR programs. The House passed reauthorization legislation with overwhelming support but the Senate failed to act. A six-month extension was passed to keep the program operating until March 20, 2009. (STTR is reauthorized through September 30, 2009.) When the extensions were passed, there was hope that the six months would be enough time to get a reauthorization bill passed and signed into law. Without action by Congress, the SBIR program will no longer exist after March 20.

For more information about the SBIR/STTR programs, visit: http://www.sba.gov/SBIR/.

Posted: February 27, 2009

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House Releases Omnibus Funding Bill for Fiscal Year 2009

Last year, Congress and the then-Bush Administration could not come to agreement on key funding levels for many of the government agencies. As a result, a short-term continuing resolution (CR) was passed to keep the government funded through March 6, 2009. Funding for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs was extended beyond March, through the entire Fiscal Year 2009.

Now that the deadline is quickly approaching, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has released a draft funding bill for the remainder of FY 2009. The bill provides funding for many key S&T agencies including NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST. The legislation must now be considered by the Appropriations Committees, passed by both the House and Senate and then signed into law by March 6.

To view the proposed funding levels, please visit OSA's FY 2009 Budget Tracker.

Posted: February 24, 2009

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President Signs Stimulus Bill; Science Funds Included

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the economic stimulus bill. The final bill includes several billion dollars of funding for key US science agencies like NSF, DOE's Office of Science and NIST. This funding will be in addition to the annual fiscal year appropriations for the next two years.

Specifically, the Act:

  • Provides $2.5 billion for NSF for basic research in fundamental science and engineering and $100 million for improving instruction in science, technology, engineering, and math education.
  • Provides $1.6 billion for DOE Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy sciences
  • Provides $400 million for the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which supports high-risk research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry
  • Provides $580 million overall for NIST, including funding for renovation, repair and modernization of NIST facilities

For additional information on science funding in this bill, please view the chart on OSA's Website (all figures are in millions of dollars).

At this point in time, it is unclear when the agencies will distribute the stimulus package funding. The intent is to get the money out the door as quickly as possible to jumpstart the economy.

Posted: February 18, 2009

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Secretary Chu Highlights Science in New York Times Interview

The New York Times interviewed US Secretary of Energy and OSA member Steve Chu this week. Yesterday's article, "Big Science Role Is Seen in Global Warming Cure," discusses Chu's intent to focus on science as the way to solve US energy issues. Secretary Chu highlighted three areas in which scientific breakthroughs are needed: electric batteries, solar energy and biofuels.

The full article is available on the New York Times website. An audio interview is also available with the article.

Posted: February 13, 2009

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Economic Stimulus Package Passes in the US Senate

Today, the United States Senate passed their version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 (commonly known as the economic stimulus package). This version differs substantially from the House passed package (see below) in terms of funding priorities. The Senate version also includes a one-year "patch" to prevent the alternative minimum tax (AMT) from affecting millions of taxpayers in 2009.

During debate of the legislation, a group of three Senate Republicans (Sens. Collins, Specter and Snowe) worked with Democrats and the White House to pull together a compromise bill that could gather enough support for passage. Funding for key science and technology programs were scaled back from the original draft, as a result. Still, the House version contains substantial increases for NSF, DOE, and NIST. The House and Senate are expected to immediately meet in a conference to hammer out the differences between the two bills. Senate and House Leaders have expressed a desire to present a bill for signature to President Obama by next Monday, President's Day.

To see the funding levels in the two bills, please view this chart provided by ASTRA.

Posted: February 10, 2009

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Economic Stimulus Package Advances in Congress

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 (commonly known as the economic stimulus package) by a vote of 244 to 188. The $819 billion bill contains new spending for S&T, including increases for NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST.

The Senate will consider their version of the stimulus package next week, which greatly differs from the House passed version. The primary difference is that the Senate bill includes a one-year "patch" to prevent the alternative minimum tax (AMT) from affecting millions of taxpayers in 2009. For a look at the proposed numbers for science agencies in both the House and Senate bills, view this analysis.

After the Senate passes their version, they will meet with the House to hammer out the differences between the two bills. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to send a stimulus package to the President by mid-February.

Posted: January 29, 2009

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First Draft of Economic Stimulus Package Contains Funds for Science, Energy, Broadband Access

US Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, just released a draft proposal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 (commonly known as the economic stimulus package). President-elect Obama has been working with Congressional leaders in putting together a massive bill to stimulate the economy.

According to Rep. Obey, "this package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century with $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments with unprecedented accountability measures built in."

The legislation contains:

  • $10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation.
  • $6 billion to expand broadband Internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.
  • $32 billion to transform the nation's energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology.
  • $16 billion to repair public housing and make key energy efficiency retrofits.

The legislation is expected to go before the House of Representatives for a vote next week. The Senate will then need to act on it. The goal of Congressional leaders is to send President Obama a bill to sign into law by mid-February.

Posted: January 15, 2009

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Pelosi Comments on Science in the Economic Stimulus Package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an interview with National Public Radio today that science will be a driving force behind the economic stimulus package currently being hashed out in Congress.

"In the economic recovery package, we are going with proposals that we have in general, for infrastructure, for innovation, for health care and for energy independence," Pelosi said. "If you want four words to describe this: science, science, science, and science; the science, technology, and engineering to build the infrastructure for the future, the science for the innovation to keep us competitive and number one in the world markets."

The comments from Pelosi came as part of an NPR interview on the future of the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) bill. The full story is available on NPR's Website. The science comments occur about half-way through the interview.

Posted: January 14, 2009

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Steve Chu Nomination Hearing Held

Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Steven Chu as US Secretary of Energy. Chu, the head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and an honorary OSA member, was nominated by President-elect Obama in late December. During the hearing, senators asked for Chu's positions on a variety of issues including new nuclear reactors, offshore drilling, and new coal-burning power plants. According to the Committee Chair, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), "President-elect Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Dr. Chu to be the Secretary of Energy. I strongly support his nomination and, as I said, I hope the Committee will approve his nomination later this week and the full Senate will confirm him next Tuesday."

The full hearing is available via video Webcast on the Energy Committee's Website.

Posted: January 13, 2009

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National Research Council Committee on Export Controls

Last week, the National Research Council issued a report calling on President Obama to ease restriction on regulations of high-tech exports and on immigration by foreign scientists. The panel, headed by Stanford University President John Hennessy and Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush, stated that the regulations do little for the nation's security while hampering economic growth and innovation. According to the report, the current system of export controls and visa regulations uses a series of lists to inform the licensing decisions of the Departments of State and Commerce, including the United States Munitions List and the Commerce Control List. Items are regularly added to the lists but rarely taken off.

To view the full report, please visit the National Academies' Website.

Posted: January 12, 2009

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Chu Confirmation Hearing Scheduled

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has announced the confirmation hearing of Steven Chu, who has been nominated by President-elect Obama as secretary of energy. The hearing will take place Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C. The committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), will hold the hearing to question and receive testimony from Chu about his views on energy policy. The committee will then send their recommendation on whether he should be confirmed to the full Senate for a vote. The nomination is unlikely to hit any major roadblocks.

Chu, a distinguished OSA member, is currently the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

It is anticipated that the hearing will be available via Web cast. For more information, consult the committee's Website.

Posted: January 2, 2009

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