2015 Archives



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 proposed budget numbers, please see the FY2016 Budget Tracker.
 

Washington Updates - 2015


 

Congress Reaches Deal on Funding Bill

Congress has released its negotiated Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2016 (FY16).  The bill includes funding increases for many key science accounts. 
 
Funding levels designated in the bill:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $7.46 billion, an increase of $119 million
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): $964 million, an increase of $100 million
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.350 billion, an increase of $279 million
  • Advance Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E): $291 million, an increase of $11 million
  • Office on Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE): $2.07 billion, an increase of $15 million
  • Department of Defense (DOD) 6.1 Basic Research: $2.31 billion, an increase of $30 million
  • DOD 6.2 Applied Research: $5.0 billion, an increase of $400 million
  • DARPA:  $2.891 billion, a decrease of $25 million
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): $32 billion, an increase of $30 billion
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $5.8 billion, an increase of $400 million
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): $19.3 billion, an increase of $1.3 billion

To compare these numbers with the President’s budget request and the original proposals from the House and Senate, please see the FY16 Budget Tracker.
 
The House and Senate both passed the bill on Friday, December 18 and President Obama has signed it into law. 

Updated: December 18, 2015
Posted: December 16, 2015



 

Senator Coons Recognizes International Year of Light

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) submitted a statement for the Congressional Record recognizing the International Year of Light, which was designated as 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.  The statement appeared in the December 17, 2015 Congressional Record and reaffirms the crucial role optics and photonics play in the U.S. economy and everyday life. It also recognizes the importance of continued investment in fundamental optics and photonics research and applauds the people of the United States for participating in the International Year of Light through local programs, activities, and ceremonies.  Read the OSA news release.

Posted: December 18, 2015

Congress Passes Short-term CR

While negotiations continue on an omnibus funding bill, Congress has passed a short-term Continuing Resolution to continue funding the government through Wednesday, December 16.  OSA will continue to post updates on the progress of the fiscal year 2016 funding bills as they become available. 
 
Posted: December 14, 2015
 

 

STEM Provisions Included in Education Overhaul

Congress has passed and President Obama signed into law a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act called Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177).  The reauthorization bill includes provisions on STEM education, including authorizing a STEM Master Teacher Corps to help attract and retain STEM teachers.  The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers of Congress, the House passing it 359 to 64 and the Senate passing it 85 to 12.  OSA signed onto a letter by the Physical Sciences Education Policy Coalition in support of the STEM education provisions.  The letter also includes additional details on the STEM provisions included in the bill.

Posted: December 14, 2015

Congress Passes Budget Deal

At the end of October, Congress passed a budget deal that would increase spending caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, providing relief from the sequester cuts that were scheduled to go into effect.  The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the budget deal legislation and President Obama has signed it into law.
 
The budget deal is an agreement of overall spending numbers for the federal government allowing Congress to have more funds to work with when designating specific funding levels for programs and agencies.  A separate bill will still need to be passed by December 11 to actually fund the federal government and set specific numbers for each program and agency.  It is key that members of the scientific community write to their members of Congress to encourage them to support adequate funding of research and development.  A draft letter is available for you to use or to edit with your own story and send to your member of Congress. 

Posted: November 2, 2015


 

Critical Minerals Legislation Considered in the House

On October 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (HR 1937). The bill, introduced by Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV), aims to streamline the permitting process for mineral development. The bill makes several changes to the permitting review process including limiting review to 30 months.  The bill also makes changes to the judicial review process such as setting a 60-day time limit for filing a legal challenge to a mining project. The bill passed the House by a vote of 254 to 177 and has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.  The White House has issued a Statement of Administration Policy in opposition to the bill.
 
Read OSA’s statement on elemental resources.

NSF Webinar on Changes to the NSF Proposal and Award Policies

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be hosting a webinar on October 29 at 2pm EDT to brief the scientific community on the changes to the NSF Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide.   Among the changes in the guide include the NSF’s Public Access Policy as well as other changes impacting proposals and awards.  To learn more about the webinar or the changes to the NSF guide, please visit the NSF website.

Posted: October 22, 2015
 

White House Releases New Strategy for American Innovation

On October 21, the White House released an updated Strategy for American Innovation.  The Strategy highlights the importance of investing in research and development (R&D) and STEM education as well as highlighting particular areas such as advanced manufacturing, BRAIN Initiative, and high-performance computing.  For more specific details, read the White House Fact Sheet.

The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) has been active in several of the highlighted areas.  To read more about the NPI’s activities, visit www.lightourfuture.org.    

Posted: October 22, 2015
 

NSF Community College Innovation Challenge

The National Science Foundation’s Community College Innovation Challenge is accepting submissions from October 15, 2015 to February 15, 2016.  Teams are to propose “innovative STEM-based solutions to real-world problems they identify within the theme: Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems.”  To read more about the challenge, visit the program’s website.

Posted: October 22, 2015

Call for Nominations – 2016 Advocate of Optics Recognition

The Advocate of Optics Recognition commends an outstanding public official who demonstrates leadership in support of the advancement of the science of light. The Public Policy Committee is soliciting nominations from OSA members and will select a candidate based on his/her commitment to science and science policy, level of familiarity with optics and photonics, level of interaction with OSA or OSA members in the past year, and record of consistent support of science, optics and photonics.  To see a list of past recipients, visit the Advocate of Optics webpage.

If you would like to recommend a public official, please email your recommendation to public-policy@osa.org including the nominee’s name, title, country, and description of why the person is being nominated.  The deadline for submitting recommendations for the 2016 Advocate of Optics is November 10, 2015.

Posted: October 22, 2015

STEM Education Bill Signed into Law

The bipartisan STEM Education Act (HR 1020) was signed into law by President Obama on October 7, 2015.
 
The STEM Education Act authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM grant programs for informal STEM education, it expands eligibility of the NSF’s Master Teacher Fellowship Program, and adds computer science to the definition of STEM for federal programs.

Posted: October 9, 2015

NSF Announces Program on Optics and Photonics

On October 5, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter announcing a new program Optics and Photonics (OP).  For more details about this program, please see the NSF notice.
 

Posted: October 8, 2015

Congress Passes Short-Term Funding Bill

On September 30, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law, a short-term Continuing Resolution that will keep the federal government funded through December 11, 2015.
 
Posted: October 1, 2015

National Science Board Call for Nominations

The National Science Board has issued a call for nominations.  For more information, see the National Science Foundation Press Release.   The deadline for submitting nominations is October 30, 2015.

Posted: October 1, 2015

Unique Career Opportunity for Scientists – Help Shape Federal Science Policy

Looking for a way to combine your interest in policy with your science background? Become an OSA Congressional Fellow!   OSA hosts two fellowships – one jointly with the Materials Research Society and the other with SPIE.  The program is a unique opportunity for scientists and engineers to gain experience in public policy and help influence decision makers.  Congressional Fellows spend one year on Capitol Hill working as special legislative assistants on the staff of a member of Congress or Congressional Committee.  Applicants must have a Ph.D. by September 1, 2016 to be eligible; mid- and late-career applicants are encouraged to apply as well.  A competitive salary and a health insurance/travel stipend are provided.  For more information on requirements and how to apply, visit the OSA Congressional Fellowships webpage.  The application deadline is Friday, January 8, 2016.

Posted: September 22, 2015 

AIM Photonics Website Launched

The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) website has been launched.  To view the website, visit www.aimphotonics.com.
 
Posted: September 22, 2015

Golden Goose Awards 2015

On Sept. 17, the 2015 Golden Goose Awards were presented.  The Optical Society is one of the supporters of the event.  Read more about the Golden Goose Awards and the awardees.

Posted: September 22, 2015
 

 

International Year of Light Celebrations Come to Washington, DC

On September 12, several events took place in Washington, DC to celebrate the International Year of Light (IYL).  During the day, hands-on science demonstrations were held as a family day event called “Wonders of Light” at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  View the OSA News Release on the day event: “Wonders of Light”.
 
In the evening, a symposium held at the National Academy of Sciences called “Light for a Better World: A Celebration of U.S. Innovation” featured Nobel Laureate Dr. Shuji Nakamura, Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Betzig, CEO of the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated (AIM) Photonics Michael Liehr, and General Manager of Global Product Development for GE Lighting Gerald Duffy.  Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation, opened the symposium.  View the OSA News Release on the evening event: “Light for a Better World: A Celebration of U.S. Innovation”.
 
The National Science Foundation, along with scientific societies including OSA, hosted these two programs.

Posted: September 22, 2015

White House to Host Astronomy Night on October 19

The White House announced it will be hosting an Astronomy Night on October 19 and encourages others across the country to host their own astronomy event on the same night.  To read more about the White House’s Astronomy Night, visit the White House blog.

Posted: September 22, 2015

National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR and STTR

View information regarding the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Program Solicitation.
 
View information regarding the NSF Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) Phase I Program.

Posted: September 22, 2015
 

 

NSF Call for Nominations – Alan T. Waterman Award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking nominations for its Alan T. Waterman award.  For more information, visit the NSF website.  Deadline for submitting nominations is October 23, 2015.

Posted: September 22, 2015
 

 

AIP Accepting Applications for the State Department Fellowship Program

 
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is accepting applications for its State Department Fellowship.  OSA is a member society of AIP and therefore, OSA members are eligible to apply for this fellowship.  The deadline is November 1, 2015.  For more information, visit the AIP FYI article.

Posted: September 22, 2015
 

 

President Obama makes the Presidential Innovation Fellowship Permanent

On August 17, President Obama announced that he signed an executive order that would make the Presidential Innovation Fellowship a permanent part of the government.  To read more about the Presidential Innovation Fellowship program, visit the White House blog.

Posted: September 22, 2015


 

Government Employee Travel to Conferences

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in collaboration with scientific societies such as The Optical Society, is collecting stories to share with members of Congress about how attendance at a scientific and technical conference led to an important collaboration or impacted research.  There are currently restrictions placed on U.S. federal government employees traveling to conferences including the scientific and technical conferences.  The plan is to use these stories to help show Congress and the administration why it is so important for government scientists to attend these conferences.  If you are interested in sharing your story, please visit the AAAS webpage for more information. 
 
To read more about the strict guidelines impacting federal employees travel to scientific and technical conferences, please visit OSA’s webpage.

Consortium Selected for Photonics Manufacturing Institute

The New York consortium has been selected as the lead for the new Integrated Photonics Institute of Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI).
 
Today, July 27, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made the official announcement at an event in Rochester, NY.  For more information on the announcement and background on the IP-IMI, view the White House Fact Sheet.
 
In January, the Department of Defense (DOD) had narrowed the proposals for the IP-IMI to three consortiums: University of Central Florida, University of Southern California, and the Research Foundation for the State University of New York. 
 
The National Photonics Initiative (NPI), along with OSA, has been advocating for the creation of a photonics manufacturing institute. 
 
View the OSA News Release
View the National Photonics Initiative News Release
View the White House Fact Sheet
View the IP-IMI webpage on manufacturing.gov

 
Updated: July 27, 2015
Originally Posted: July 23, 2015



 

Appropriations Recap for the week of June 1, 2015

On June 3, the House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act by a vote of 242 to 183.  The CJS Appropriations bill contains funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 
 
Also on June 3, the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY16 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Act.  The Committee Report, which accompanies the bill, included the language:
 
“The Committee is pleased with the Navy’s development of highly integrated photonics technology to transmit and process information in wired and chip-level electronic components. This technology can dramatically reduce platform size, weight, and power requirements, all very attractive features for aircraft acquisition programs.  Additionally, overall platform sustainment cost will likely be reduced as a result of using this technology. Although primarily employed on aircraft programs, this technology can be deployed across a wider range of platforms. The Committee encourages the Secretary of the Navy to continue the development of this technology and incorporate it into operational platforms and provides an additional $15,000,000 to accelerate this effort.”
 
To view the funding numbers in the CJS and DOD Appropriations bills, please see the FY16 Budget Tracker at the top of this page. 
 
Upcoming Appropriations Action
The week of June 8, the DOD Appropriations Act is expected to be considered on the House floor. Also, the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin consideration of its version of the CJS Appropriations bill as well as its version of the DOD Appropriations bill.  Once the draft bills are released, we will update the proposed funding numbers into the FY16 Budget Tracker.

Posted: June 8, 2015


House Considers America COMPETES Reauthorization Act

On May 20, the House passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1806) by a vote of 217 to 205.
 
The America COMPETES Act authorizes funding for several science agencies.  The House version, H.R. 1806, only authorizes funding for two years.  Authorization bills set spending targets but do not actually appropriate funds.  The bill’s authorization levels:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) would be authorized at $7.597 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $300 million increase over FY15.
  • National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) would be authorized at $939 million for FY16 and 17, which would be a $75 million increase over FY15.
  • Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would be authorized at $5.340 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $272 million increase over FY15.
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would be authorized at $1.194 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $720 million decrease compared to FY15.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) would be authorized at $140 million for FY16 and 17, which would be a $140 million decrease compared to FY15.

Several amendments that were offered on the House floor and passed included:

  • Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) offered an amendment that would help to promote female entrepreneurs in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.  This amendment passed by voice vote.
  • Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) offered an amendment that would authorize the Energy Innovation Hubs through the Department of Energy. This amendment passed by voice vote.

The White House issued a veto threat on H.R. 1806 through the Statement of Administration Policy.  NSF also released its views on the bill.

OSA signed onto several letters relating to H.R. 1806:

The original America COMPETES Act, passed in 2007, was based on recommendations by the 2005 National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
 
Past Washington Updates Articles on this legislation:
House Science Committee Considers America COMPETES Reauthorization

Posted: May 22, 2015
 

R&D Tax Credit

On May 20, the House passed the American Research and Competitiveness Act, H.R. 880, by a vote of 274 to 145.  H.R. 880 would permanently extend the R&D tax credit.  The White House issued a veto threat on this bill in the Statement of Administration Policy because it does not offset the cost of permanently extending the credit.

Posted: May 22, 2015

Administration Announces Export Control Reform

On May 5, the Obama Administration published proposed rules in the Federal Register updating the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related articles – specifically Category XII of the U.S. Munitions List. The proposed rule will also affect the Commerce Control List. Category XII includes optics, photonic laser commodities and components. These changes are part of the Obama Administration's export control reform initiative.
 
There is a 60-day comment period and all responses will be made public. The administration needs input from industry and the scientific research community to understand the impact on affected parties. Your feedback on the proposed rules has the potential to impact the final rule formulation.

The proposed rules are published in the Federal Register: Department of Commerce proposed rules and Department of State proposed rules.
 
To learn more about the proposed rule and comment process, view the video from the May 14 CLEO session on export controls.


Virtual Advocacy Week: April 27-May 4

Please participate in OSA’s first ever Virtual Advocacy Week, which starts April 27 and runs through Monday, May 4. 
 
This is your opportunity to share with members of Congress the importance of funding for research and development, the manufacturing institutes, and/or STEM education by writing to your representative and senators through our online letter writing system.  Select a draft letter.  Personalize.  And send.  It’s really that easy and only takes a few minutes of your time.  
 
To participate, follow these steps:

  • Select the subject on which you want to write a letter.  You will find more details on the issue as well as a draft letter that you can send to your members of Congress.
     
  • Then view and personalize the letter with your story and complete the “sender information” section at the bottom of the page.
     
  • Once you hit “send message,” it will be sent to your members of Congress based on the address you provide.

You can write one letter or select all four issues:

Feel free to write to your members of Congress on as many of those topics as you would like.  Please also share this email with your colleagues and ask them to participate as well.  Remember, the more constituents that weigh in on an issue, the more effective the letters will be.
 
Thank you so much for your consideration, and we hope you all will participate in Virtual Advocacy Week. 

Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Update

The full House of Representatives is expected to begin consideration of the FY16 Energy and Water Appropriations bill the week of April 27. 
 
Last week, the House released the draft committee report, which accompanies the bill.  In the report, photonics is mentioned.  The exact language:
 
“The Committee encourages the Department to support Highly Integrated Photonics to accelerate computing research leading to exascale computing while reducing computing energy consumption by a factor of 100 or more. The program is encouraged to work with small business entities to support these needed technology applications.”
 
Key funding notes from the bill:

  • Department of Energy Office of Science would be funded at $5.1 billion, a slight increase over FY15 and $240 million below the president’s budget request.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) would be funded at $280 million, the same as FY15 and $45 million below the president’s budget request.
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would be funded at $1.658 billion, a decrease of $256 million below FY15 and $1 billion below the President’s budget request.

The White House has released a Statement of Administration Policy against bill.
 
If you would like to write to Congress about the importance of funding research and development, please edit the draft letter and send to your members of Congress.

Posted: April 29, 2015

MIT Releases Report

On April 27, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report titled The Future Postponed: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit.  The report features various areas where further investments in basic research could potentially have a big payoff.  Included is a section on photonics.

Posted: April 29, 2015

House Science Committee Considers America COMPETES Reauthorization

In April, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee considered and passed, by a party-line vote of 19 to 16, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806).
 
The America COMPETES Act authorizes funding for several science agencies.  The House version only authorizes funding for two years.   Authorization bills set spending targets but do not actually appropriate funds.
 
The bill’s authorization levels:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) would be authorized at $7.597 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $300 million increase over FY15.
  • National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) would be authorized at $934 million for FY16 and 17, which would be a $70 million increase over FY15.
  • Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would be authorized at $5.340 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $272 million increase over FY15.
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would be authorized at $1.199 billion for FY16 and 17, which would be a $715 million decrease compared to FY15.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) would be authorized at $140 million for FY16 and 17, which would be a $140 million decrease compared to FY15.

Amendments and topics of note:

  • A substitute amendment offered by the House Science Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), which was the democratic alternative to the bill, included proposed authorization funding levels through FY2020, providing increases each year for NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science.  This amendment failed by a vote of 15 to 18.
     
  • Open Access – There was no open access language included in the bill and no amendment was offered related to this topic.
     
  • Federal employee travel to scientific and technical conference – An amendment was offered by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) that highlighted the benefits and importance of federal employee participation in scientific and technical conferences.  Rep. Lipinski withdrew the amendment but used it as an opportunity to talk about the issue.
     
  • Photonics mentioned – The legislation does mention photonics within Title I (National Science Foundation Title) in the findings section.  The language says: “Longstanding United States leadership in supercomputing, genomics, nanoscience, photonics, quantum physics, and other key technological areas is jeopardized if United States investments in basic research in the natural sciences do not keep pace.”

OSA signed onto several letters relating to this legislation:

The original America COMPETES Act, passed in 2007, was based on recommendations by the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.


Senate Committee Considers No Child Left Behind Rewrite

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee considered a bipartisan rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more recently known as No Child Left Behind.  ESEA has been up for reauthorization since 2007.    
 
On April 16, the Senate bill, titled Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, received a 22 to 0 vote in the HELP committee to advance the bill.
 
During the markup, Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) offered an amendment, which was passed by the committee, on STEM education funding and professional development for STEM education teachers. 


House Committee Releases Draft of the Energy and Water FY16 Funding Bill

On April 14, the House Appropriations Committee released the draft version of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which contains funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
 
Key funding notes from the bill:

  • DOE Office of Science would be funded at $5.1 billion, a slight increase over FY15 and $240 million below the President’s budget request.
  • ARPA-E would be funded at $280 million, the same as FY15 and $45 million below the President’s budget request.
  • EERE would be funded at $1.658 billion, a decrease of $256 million below FY15 and $1 billion below the President’s budget request.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill is one of two funding bills being considered in the committee this week, the other is the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.  It is anticipated that the bills could be considered before the full House as early as the week of April 28.
 
If you are interested in writing to your members of Congress regarding funding for research and development, OSA has a letter drafted, that you may edit, to send to your members of Congress.

Posted: April 15, 2015

Congressional Letter Supporting Funding for Manufacturing Institutes

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) led a Congressional letter in support of robust funding for the Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  OSA helped lead the effort in getting members of Congress to sign onto the letter as part of the annual Congressional Visits Day.  To view the letter and the list of co-signers, please click here

Posted: April 9, 2015

American Innovation Act Introduced in Congress

In March, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the American Innovation Act, which increases funding for basic research at the NSF, DOE Office of Science, DOD Science and Technology Programs, NASA Science Directorate, and NIST Scientific and Technical Research Services by five percent annually.
 
OSA signed onto a statement commending Senator Durbin on introducing this legislation.

Posted: April 9, 2015

STEM Master Teacher Corps Act Reintroduced

In February, the STEM Master Teach Corps Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate.  This legislation seeks to attract and retain STEM teachers by providing increased pay and specialized training/career advancement for corps members. This legislation also requires 75 percent of Corps teachers to teach in high-need schools.  Click here to view Senator Franken’s description of the bill.

Science Hearing on James Webb Space Telescope

On March 24, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  Hearing witnesses include Dr. John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Cristina Chaplain, Government Accountability Office (GAO); Jeffrey Grant, Northrop Grumman; and 2006 Nobel Laureate and OSA Fellow Dr. John Mather, the Senior Project Scientist on the JWST for NASA.

According to Dr. Grunsfeld, the JWST is still on track and still has ten months of schedule reserve left, which is more than they anticipated having at this point.

To watch the hearing or read the written testimony from the panel, visit the committee’s website.
 

House Passes Secret Science Reform Act

On March 18, the House passed the Secret Science Reform Act (HR 1030), which requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to base its regulations on data made publically available, making the data verifiable and reproducible.  The House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing on this legislation in February of last year, information on this hearing is posted on the committee’s website. The bill passed the House by a vote of 241 to 175.  The Senate has not taken action on this legislation.  The White House issued a Statement of Administration policy against the bill.

House Passes EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act

On March 17, the House passed the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act (HR 1029) that would make reforms to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.  The House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing on similar legislation in March 2013, information on this hearing is posted on the committee’s website.  The bill passed the House by a vote of 236 to 181.  The Senate has not taken action on this legislation.  The White House issued a Statement of Administration policy against the bill.

GAO Releases Report on Government Conference Travel Restrictions

On March 4, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the effects of the government’s conference travel policies on the defense science and technology missions at the Departments of Defense and Energy. In response to reports of misspending on travel, the Office of Management and Budget implemented strict guidelines on federal employees for travel which has impacted travel to Science and Technology conferences.   This report is an effort to highlight some of the negative impacts of the regulations and highlights some of the costs associated with implementing the policy such as the amount of staff time to process requests.  One of the bigger challenges appears to be related to the length of time of the review process for requests to attend conferences.  The GAO report made two suggestions for DOD and DOE, including “establishing time frames for providing conference request decisions and develop a plan to analyze and periodically reevaluate risks from conference participation changes.”  Visit the GAO website for more information on the report.

House Science Committee Passes DOE Tech Transfer Bill

On March 4, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee considered and passed the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act (HR 1158) by voice vote. This legislation allows for more flexibility in partnership agreements and allows lab directors to authorize agreements which are less than $1 million. This legislation also allows the Department of Energy to partner with the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.

House Science Committee Passes Research and Development Efficiency Act

On March 4, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee passed, by voice vote, the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 1119).  This legislation would develop a working group for the purposes of improving efficiency and streamlining the administrative requirements for those receiving federal research grants. 
 
Last year, the House Science Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a joint hearing titled "Reducing the Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research."  
 
The hearing was in response to a National Science Board report Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research.  The hearing discussed the results of the report including the concerns over the amount of time being spent by federally funded researchers on administrative requirements and discussed the report’s recommendations. 
 
In a Federal Demonstration Partnership study 2012 Faculty Workload Survey: Research Report, respondents estimated 42 percent of time spent by researchers on federally funded research was spent working on the administrative requirements.

House Passes STEM Education Bill

On February 25, the House passed the STEM Education Act (HR 1020) by a vote of 412 to 8.
 
The STEM Education Act authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM grant programs for informal STEM education, for federal STEM programs it adds computer science to the definition, and it expands eligibility of the NSF’s Master Teacher Fellowship Program.

House Appropriations Committee – Upcoming Budget Hearings

Many of the hearings can be viewed via webcast.
 
Department of Energy – February 26, 2015 at 9:30am – more information

United States Air Force – February 27, 2015 at 10:00am – more information

National Institutes of Health – March 3, 2015 at 10:00am – more information

Department of Commerce – March 3, 2015 at 2:00pm – more information

Department of Defense – March 4, 2015 at 10:00am – more information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration – March 4, 2015 at 10:30am – more information

Posted: February 24, 2015 

Senate Appropriations Committee – Upcoming Budget Hearings

Many of the hearings can be viewed via webcast.
 
U.S. Air Force – February 25, 2015 at 10:30am – more information

Department of Commerce – February 26, 2015 at 10:30am – more information

Posted: February 24, 2015

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – Upcoming Hearings

Many of the hearings can be viewed via webcast.
 
An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the Department of Energy for Fiscal Year 2016” – February 25, 2015 at 10:00am, testimony by Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
 
Full Committee Markup on The Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 and the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015 – February 25, 2015 at 2:00pm
 
An Overview of the Budget Proposals for the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology for Fiscal Year 2016” – February 26, 2015 at 10:00am

Posted: February 24, 2015


Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI)

The Department of Defense (DOD) has narrowed the proposals for the IP-IMI to three consortiums: University of Central Florida, University of Southern California, and the Research Foundation for the State University of New York.  The three consortiums will submit full proposals by March 31 and the DOD will announce the consortium to receive the IP-IMI in June.  For more information, please see the news release.


President Obama Releases his FY16 Budget

On February 2, President Barack Obama released his FY16 Budget request.  Key funding numbers include:

  • Overall R&D: $146 billion (6 percent increase over FY15)
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.340 billion, an increase of $269 million over FY15
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $7.7 billion, an increase of $400 million over FY15
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): $1.120 billion, an increase of $255.8 million over FY15.
  • DOD Science and Technology: $12.3 billion
  • DOD Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): $3 billion
  • National Institutes of Health: $31.3 billion, an increase of $1 billion over FY15
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $325 million, an increase of $45 million over FY15
  • STEM education: $3 billion (3.6 percent increase over FY15)

 For more information, see the following White House Fact Sheets:


Posted: February 9, 2015


The 114th Congress - Committees

As the new Congress gets underway, all the new members of Congress are starting to get their committee assignments and returning members of Congress may switch committees.  While some committee membership has not yet been announced, please visit the House website or the Senate website over the next few weeks to see what committees your members of Congress have been assigned to. 

Posted: January 21, 2015