Washington Updates



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. 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

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

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