Washington Updates

2011 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 article.

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OSA Urges Debt Committee to Protect R&D Funding

Recently, OSA – along with nearly 70 other organizations – signed a letter authored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) urging Congress's Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to avoid cuts to R&D funding in its spending plan.

"Drastic cuts to research investments…would set a dangerous precedent that would inhibit scientific progress and threaten our international competiveness long into the future," the letter states. "An effective path out of the current difficulties should include investments in R&D. They can fuel our future growth and prosperity."

The committee, also known as the "Super Committee", is charged with drafting a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. If they cannot agree on a plan by November 23, or if Congress does not adopt their plan a month later, the Budget Control Act mandates automatic reductions in federal spending beginning January 2013. Under those so-called "triggers", discretionary spending for nondefense programs would be reduced by at least 7.8 percent of current levels and discretionary funding for defense programs would be reduced by at least 10 percent.

The full text of the letter is available here PDF(pdf).

Posted: November 7, 2011

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Senate Passes 2012 Science Agencies Funding Bill

On November 1 the Senate passed its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. The spending measure was passed as part of a "minibus" package with Agriculture, Transportation and HUD funding bills added to it.

As there are differences between this bill and the version which previously passed the House, the legislation will now be conferenced on by appropriators from both chambers to develop a final, compromise bill. Conference negotiations are expected to start promptly, and final passage could come as early as November 14. It is possible another short-term spending measure ("continuing resolution") for 2011 will be attached to this bill when it goes up for final vote, as current federal spending authority runs out on November 18.

The Senate CJS bill provides NASA with $17.9 million; a 2.8 percent decline from FY 2011, NIST would receive $680 million; a 9.3 percent decline, and NSF would receive just under $6.7 million; a 2.4 percent decline. The House CSJ in contrast would fund NASA at $16.8 million an 8.9 percent decline, NIST at $700.8 million, a 6.6 percent decline, and NSF at $6.86 million; even with FY 2011 levels.

Posted: November 7, 2011

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Job Announcement – NSF Assistant Director for Geosciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is initiating a national search for an Assistant Director for Geosciences (GEO), to be appointed July 1, 2012.

The Assistant Director, GEO, manages a Directorate comprised of three divisions -- Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Ocean Sciences -- and also provides leadership and guidance to multiple international and interagency programs in the geosciences. Employment may be on a temporary or permanent basis in the Federal Service or by temporary assignment under provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.

The NSF seeks help in identifying candidates with outstanding leadership qualifications, a deep sense of scholarship, a grasp of the issues facing research and education in the geosciences, and the ability to serve effectively as a key member of the NSF policy and management team. They are especially interested in identifying women, members of minority groups, and persons with disabilities for consideration. Recommendations of individuals from any sector – academe, industry, or government – are welcome.

Please send your recommendations, including any supporting information which you might be able to provide, to AD/GEO Search Committee by December 21, 2011 via email or at the following address: National Science Foundation, Office of the Director, Suite 1205, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230.

Posted: October 18, 2011

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Updated Grants from OSTP and NSB

The OSA Grants and Photonics website has been updated with two new opportunities with the White House Office and Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Student Volunteer Program and the National Science Board (NSB).

Details regarding these two opportunities are available on the Optics & Photonics Grants page.

Posted: October 17, 2011

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House Passes Short-Term Spending Bill - Attention turns to full FY2012 Funding

Representatives David Price of North Carolina and Rush Holt of New Jersey have drafted a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – also known as the "Supercommittee" – asking them to "protect, prioritize and strengthen federal investments in education, basic scientific research and technological development" as the committee prepares a deficit reduction package.

The letter highlights the importance of science education and research and development in strengthening the US economy, creating jobs and increasing our global competitiveness. "One of the most effective means of deficit reduction is a growing economy," the letter states. "Imprudent reductions to programs that contribute directly to economic growth would in fact undermine our deficit reduction goals as well as our future economic prosperity".

Federal funding for research and development as a percentage of GDP has been steadily declining since the 1960s, a trend Representatives Price and Holt seek to reverse. The Members have circulated letter amongst their House colleagues asking them to sign on.

Posted: October 14, 2011

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Members of Congress ask Debt Supercommittee to Protect Science Funding

On October 4 the full House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through November 18. This package, which passed the Senate on September 26, makes across the board cuts in discretionary spending, setting each agency's budget at 1.503 percent below FY2011 levels.

Appropriators from both the House and the Senate will now move onto bipartisan talks to hash out a long-term FY2012 budget package. Top House appropriator Republican Harold Rogers of Kentucky has spoken with his Senate counterpart - Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii - and says he is optimistic that negotiations will begin shortly.

Among the issues lawmakers will come together to settle are the three competing budget proposals for the National Science Foundation (NSF). In his 2012 budget request, President Obama has asked Congress to fund the NSF at $7.8 billion - a thirteen percent increase over last year's levels. Included in this increase is a program to train and prepare STEM educators at both the K-12 and undergraduate levels and a program designed to recruit and retain undergraduate students from under-represented groups.

Under the Senate's proposed budget, NSF's Research and Related Activities (R&RA) budget would set at $120.875 million bellow FY2011 levels and its Education and Human Resources (EHR) budget -which includes funding for STEM programs would be cut by $32.034 million. The House plan meanwhile would keep total NSF funding at FY 2011 levels and would increase R&RA funding by $43 million - offsetting the increase with cuts to EHR and facility construction funding.

An all-inclusive "omnibus" spending bill is expected to reach the floor of both chambers before Thanksgiving, once House and Senate appropriation committee members reach an agreement.

Posted: October 6, 2011

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America Invents Act Signed into Law

On September 16, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act. This bipartisan law makes sweeping changes to U.S. patent law, which hasn't undergone significant reform since 1952. In promoting innovation and hoping to boost the job market, H.R. 1249 changes the process of granting patents from a "first to invent" to "first-inventor-file" system. This law hopes to decrease the wait time at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from three years to one year, as it will provide the agency with enough funding to address the backlog of 1.2 million applications. Furthermore, supporters of the law say that while promoting domestic manufacturing at an even higher quality, the law will tighten patent standards to meet the standards held by other countries, thus making it easier to ensure American inventions will be protected abroad. While some think it may hurt small inventors, supporters assure the public that independent inventors will be able to compete with larger corporations. With so many large industries in the United States focused in the telecommunications, science, and technology sectors, the American Invents Act is believed to provide all inventors with the opportunity to bring their creations to the marketplace.

Posted: September 30, 2011

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NSF Launches Career-Life Balance Initiative

On September 26, the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Science and Technology announced a new 10-year plan to provide greater work-related flexibility to women and men in research careers. Among the new Foundation-wide practices to be put in place is the ability for researchers to delay or suspend their grants for up to one year in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations. The initiative would also provide for supplements to cover research technicians to maintain labs while researchers are on family leave.

NSF has implemented targeted flexibility efforts in the past, but the new plan is the first to be implemented Foundation-wide. Through the new initiative the NSF and the White House hope to help eliminate some of the barriers to women's advancement and retention in STEM careers. It also aims to help both women and men - particularly those just starting out in their careers - who may struggle to balance the needs of research careers and the needs of their families.

Posted: September 28, 2011

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Senate Passes Short-Term Funding Bill

On September 26, the full Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through November 18. This short-term spending package makes across the board cuts for all non-defense spending, setting each agency's budget at 1.503 percent below FY2011 levels. This is the same level of funding required under the budget caps in the Budget Control Act - also known as the "debt deal" - signed into law earlier this year.

September 30th marks the end of the 2011 fiscal year and neither chamber has yet completed its thirteen annual spending bills for FY 2012. In order to avoid a government shut-down next week and give the House time to consider the continuing resolution, the Senate also passed a stop-gap measure keeping agencies funded at current levels through October 4. The House is expected to pass this measure on Thursday by unanimous consent and will vote on the larger package next week.

Posted: September 28, 2011

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Senate Appropriations Committee Proposes Cuts to NSF Budget

On September 15 the Senate Appropriations committee passed its budget plan for commerce, justice and science related agencies. Among those agencies is the National Science Foundation (NSF) whose budget under this plan has been cut $161.1 million, or 2.3 percent, from the FY 2011 level of $6.86 billion. This number is 14 percent below funding levels proposed by the President earlier this year.

Under the Senate bill, NSF's Research and Related Activities (R&RA) budget would be cut by $120.875 million and its Education and Human Resources (EHR) budget -which includes funding for STEM programs would be cut by $32.034 million. Funding for research equipment and facility construction and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) would remain at FY 2011 levels.

In contrast, the science related spending bill previously passed by the House Appropriations Committee sought to keep total NSF funding at FY 2011 levels and would increase R&RA funding by $43 million. House and Senate leaders are set to begin talks next week to resolve differences and craft an omnibus appropriations bill for all government funding.

Posted: September 28, 2011

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Senate Continues Work on FY 2012 Funding Bills

Last week was a busy week for the Senate Appropriations Committee.  They approved a total of four of the annual thirteen FY 2012 funding bills, including funding for NIST, NSF and DOD.  Under these funding bills, NSF would receive a 2.4 percent reduction from FY 2011 and NIST would receive a 6.6 percent reduction from FY 2011.

To date, the full Senate has only approved one of the funding bills and September 30 which is the end of the fiscal year is quickly approaching.  In contrast, the House has approved six of the thirteen funding bills.  Recognizing that Congress won't be able to complete its work on time, a short-term funding bill or continuing resolution is already being discussed by key lawmakers.  This resolution would keep the government funded through November 18.

Posted: September 20, 2011

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Energy & Water Bill Passed by Senate Appropriations Committee

On September 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. In FY 2011 the appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science was $4,857.7 million and the FY 2012 administration request was $5,416.1 million. On July 15 the House passed a bill providing $4,800 million, a decline of $57.7 million or 1.2 percent from the FY 2011 budget for the DOE Office of Science. The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $4,842.7 million to the DOE Office of Science, a decline of $15 million or 0.3%.

Next, the full Senate will need to vote on the bill. Once it passes, the House and Senate versions will need to be resolved to hash out the differences then voted on again by both the House and the Senate before being sent to the President to be signed into law. All of this needs to be finalized before the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2011.

Posted: September 14, 2011

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Inaugural Washington Update Newsletter

OSA Public Policy is now offering a quarterly Washington Update newsletter with recent information on policy matters. The newsletter will feature legislative issues currently moving through the U.S. Congress and Administration, as well as other public policy happenings around the world and at OSA. We recognize that you are busy and would like to provide you with an easy way to download all the information you need to know in one place. To sign up to receive the quarterly newsletter, please contact the OSA Public Policy team.

The latest Washington Update Quarterly Newsletter is now available online.

Posted: September 13, 2011

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"Super Committee" Named, Begins Work after August Recess

As part of the Debt Ceiling legislation, Congress created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or more commonly referred to as the "Super Committee." The Super Committee is charged with proposing between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in spending cuts for Congress to consider in an up or down vote before the end of the year.  The Super Committee would not have to propose the cuts in the unlikely event that Congress adopted a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Super Committee is co-chaired by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and compromised of: Rep. Upton (R-MI), Rep. Camp (R-MI), Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Sen. Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Toomey (R-PA), and Sen. Portman (R-OH).  In a joint statement released on August 24, 2011 the co-chairs stated they were working together to propose a meeting schedule, hire staff and set up a series of rules regarding the committees procedures.

If the Super Committee cannot reach agreement or Congress does not enact the Super Committee's proposal, federal spending will automatically be cut on a program basis by 7.9% for domestic discretionary spending.   Depending on how those cuts are implemented it could have serious ramifications for the federal government's commitment to science funding over the next ten years.

The Super Committee can propose revenue increases and entitlement savings, both of which would reduce the pressure on domestic discretionary spending.  As Congress returns from its summer recess in September, all attention will be focused on the Super Committee.

Posted: August 25, 2011

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Office of Management and Budget Memo about FY2013 Funding

In a memo to the Heads of Departments and Agencies dated August 17, 2011 the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget has requested that all budget proposals for FY13 “provide options to support the President's commitment to cut waste and reorder priorities to achieve deficit reduction while investing in those areas critical to job creation and economic growth. Unless your agency has been given explicit direction otherwise by OMB, your overall agency request for 2013 should be at least 5 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation. As discussed at the recent Cabinet meetings, your 2013 budget submission should also identify additional discretionary funding reductions that would bring your request to a level that is at least 10 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation.”

The memo went on to say that “at the same time as your submission shows lower spending overall, you should identify programs to ‘double down' on because they provide the best opportunity to enhance economic growth.”

While science and technology funding is a key to enhancing economic growth it is unclear at this time how it will be affected by agency cuts.

Posted: August 22, 2011

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Telecommunications Update

The current Congressional activity in the telecommunications arena is focused almost exclusively on spectrum, and that focus is driven primarily by the desire to generate funds through spectrum auctions that can then be directed to reduce budget deficits and reduce the national debt. While the recently-enacted Budget Control Act of 2011 did not contain any spectrum measures, the process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 calls for the Super Committee to find up to $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction. Because estimates have shown that incentive auctions could raise in the neighborhood of $25 billion, it is very possible that spectrum policy will be considered by the Super Committee in the coming weeks and months.

Both Committees of jurisdiction has acted in this regard. Chairman Rockefeller's bill, S.911, was passed by the Senate Commerce Committee in June and calls for a reallocation of the D-block to public safety community along with an allocation of nearly $12 billion for construction and maintenance of a nationwide public safety broadband network. To raise those funds S. 911 would authorize the FCC to hold incentive auctions of spectrum relinquished voluntarily by broadcast and satellite licensees. Broadcasters of course are concerned that the legislation in its current form does not afford interference protection or assurances that television viewers will continue to have access to their over-the-air channels.

In the House, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is crafting its own version of spectrum legislation. Discussions between Democratic and Republican leaders of the committee have continued into August in the wake of competing discussion drafts that parties floated earlier this summer. The key differences center on the approach to the D-block, both with regard to whether the spectrum should be auctioned or reallocated directly and also as to the governance of the public safety network. In addition to addressing the need for a national interoperable public safety network, both bills also address other spectrum issues with the aim of promoting wireless broadband through both licensed and unlicensed use.

Outside of the spectrum policy debate, the FCC has been active in trying to reform the USF fund ($4-5 Billion) and redirect its focus to ensuring broadband access for all Americans, including those in rural and high-cost areas. To date Congress has decided to refrain from taking any legislative action while the FCC continues its work. A final plan is expected from the FCC later this year.

Posted: August 19, 2011

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Debt Deal and its Effect on Science Funding

The recent passage of the debt ceiling deal will have a large impact on the science sector as federal programs at agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) become subject to drastic cuts if a special committee of Congress does not approve the $1.5 trillion in budget savings by Christmas. Federal agencies must have congressionally-approved budgets and, as such, fall into the realm of the debt deal. The deal created a special committee of six Republicans and six Democrats, yet to be named, tasked to come up with $1.5 trillion in budget savings. If that effort fails to make it through Congress, automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion would kick in, starting in 2013. Defense spending would be reduced by 9.1 percent while non-defense programs would be targeted for a 7.9 percent cut.

While a lack of funding may hinder the ability of young scientists to get research grants because limited money tends to go to investigators with a history of successful testing, it may also slow the progression of research as a whole. Hundreds of thousands of scientists rely on federal grants and will likely be limited to fewer and smaller grants.

Posted: August 5, 2011

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Better Use of Light Bulbs Act Rejected

On July 12, the House of Representatives voted down H.R. 2417, the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, concerning lighting energy efficiency for incandescent light bulbs. Specifically, this act would have overturned the 2007 federal bulb standards outlined in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) which are slated to go into effect in 2012. In an effort to reduce power, consumers are required to find alternatives in compact fluorescent lights, light-emitting diodes, and other halogen-based light sources. While some argue that these alternatives are often much more expensive than traditional light bulbs, others suggest that the savings in energy outweigh the costs of the bulbs themselves. Traditional incandescent light bulbs emit only 10 percent of the energy they consume as light, while the remaining 90 percent is exerted as heat. New bulbs, however, will have to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent light bulb models.

Posted: July 14, 2011

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Department of Defense & Department of Energy Spending Bills

The House continues to debate the Fiscal Year 2012 Department of Defense spending bill. Consideration of the legislation could last into Friday. House members are offering up a number of amendments to add or cut funding for certain programs within the DOD. An amendment cannot add to the overall cap of the spending bill thus requiring a cut in another section of the bill. Next up for the House will be consideration of the Department of Energy funding bill known as the "Energy and Water" bill. Please visit the OSA budget tracker for funding levels for S&T programs.

Posted: July 8, 2011

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Updated Budget Tracker

The OSA budget tracker has been updated to reflect House and Senate proposed budgets for key science & technology agencies for FY 2012.

The budget tracker is available on the OSA Washington Updates page.

Posted: July 7, 2011

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Coalition for National Science Funding Letter to Congress

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) released a letter to Congress calling for increases in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for FY 2012. Specifically, the letter calls upon Congress to provide $7.7 billion in funding for the agency in the next fiscal year. The level is consistent with President Obama's budget request. Furthermore, it is consistent with the authorization level outlined in the America Competes Act which passed Congress late last year.

CNSF is a group of more than 100 scientific, business and university groups, including OSA, with an interest in funding at NSF.

Posted: July 7, 2011

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House Continues Work on FY 2012 Funding Bills

The House will return to session after the July 4 break on Wednesday, July 6 and continue its work on the annual appropriations bills. The House is scheduled to continue considering the FY 2012 Department of Defense spending bill which it had originally began work on at the end of June. Later on in the week, the House will consider the Department of Energy funding bills. As reported earlier, both bills contain significant funding for R&D research.

There is widespread speculation in Washington, D.C. as to whether Congress will be able to finalize all 12 of the annual funding bills by the end of September. To date, the House has only passed three of the bills while the Senate hasn't passed any. The delay is due to the ongoing talks by Congress and the Administration to raise the debt ceiling for federal borrowing. The Treasury Department is reporting that this must be done by August 2, 2011 to avoid default on some of the government's financial obligations. In order to reach a deal, both sides are calling for a comprehensive plan to rein in spending. The sides differ in whether to cut programs or raise taxes.

Posted: July 5, 2011

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President Obama Launches Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

On Friday, June 24 at Carnegie Mellon University, President Obama announced the details of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort, which will devote more than $500 million, to bring together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies such as information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology that will create high quality manufacturing jobs.

Of the program, President Obama said: "Today, I'm calling for all of us to come together- private sector industry, universities, and the government- to spark a renaissance in American manufacturing and help our manufacturers develop the cutting-edge tools they need to compete with anyone in the world. With these key investments, we can ensure that the United States remains a nation that 'invents it here and manufactures it here' and creates high-quality, good paying jobs for American workers."

AMP is being developed based on the recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which released a report on Friday entitled "Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing." AMP will be led by Andrew Liveris, Chairman, President, and CEO of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The universities initially involved in AMP will be MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. The manufacturers initially involved will be Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Northrup Grumman, Procter and Gamble, and Stryker.

Key steps of note include:

  • Starting this summer, the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce and other agencies will coordinate to leverage their existing funds and future budgets, with an initial goal of $300 million, to co-invest with industry in innovative technologies that will jumpstart domestic manufacturing capability. Initial investments include small high-powered batteries, advanced composites, metal fabrication, bio-manufacturing, and alternative energy, among others.

  • The Department of Energy will launch an effort to leverage their existing funds and future budgets, with initial goal of $120 million to develop innovative manufacturing processes and materials to enable companies to cut the costs of manufacturing, while using less energy.

Posted: June 27, 2011

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House Continues to Move FY 12 Funding Bills

Last week, the full House Appropriations Committee considered two key science & technology funding bills. The Department of Defense (DOD) Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill contains a slight increase for the 6.1 (Basic Research) account while the 6.2 account (Applied Research) received a small decrease. The funding levels for DARPA have not been released yet. The Department of Energy funding bill was also passed by the committee. The DOE Office of Science would receive a .9 percent decrease from current funding levels. The legislation is set to be considered by the full House of Representatives this week.

To date, the full House has voted on only three of the annual 12 funding bills. The Senate has not yet acted on any measures but its Appropriations Committee has held several hearings on each of the bills. The Senate must first pass a Budget Resolution which determines funding levels for each appropriations subcommittee. In the Senate, they have had trouble coming to agreement on overall budget levels. The House and Senate much each pass their own bills and then resolve the differences before sending them to the President for his signature or veto by the end of the fiscal year. In the likely event that Congress isn't able to complete its work, a short term funding measure must be passed.

Posted: June 22, 2011

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Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Update

The Optical Society joined nearly 100 other scientific and business organizations as part of the STEM ED Coalition's letter to the United States Senate recommending changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The ESEA, also known as the "No Child Left Behind Act", is the main federal education law governing all public K-12 education programs. The coalition letter outlined proposals to enhance science, technology, engineering and math education. To view the letter, please visit the STEM ED Coalition.

Posted: June 21, 2011

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Committee Consideration of FY 2012 Department of Energy Funding Bill

On June 2, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations considered its Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 funding bill which provides funding for the Department of Energy, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and various regional water and power authorities.   Under its proposed legislation, the DOE would receive $24.7 billion which is $850 million below last year's level and $5.9 billion below the President's request.  According to the Appropriations Committee, “within these funds, priority was given to programs that support the nation's security and economic competiveness.” Specifically, R&D would receive $4.8 billion, a $43 million reduction from FY 2011 funding.

The subcommittee meeting is just the first step in a very long appropriations process.  The next step will be for the full House Appropriations committee to consider the measure and if approved, send it to the House floor for consideration.  The Senate must also go through these steps through their own committees.  Once both sides have passed their version, they must meet to resolve the differences between the two bills.  Then, both the House and the Senate must pass the legislation again before it can be sent to the President for signature or veto.  All of this must be done by the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2011).  In recent years, Congress has not been able to meet the deadline and instead have passed short-term funding measures known as “continuing resolutions.”

Posted: June 2, 2011

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Capitol Hill Day Event Held in Conjunction with CLEO: 2011

On Wednesday, May 4 and Thursday, May 5, 25 OSA, APS, IEEE-USA and OIDA members participated in Capitol Hill Day (CHD). CHD is held biannually when CLEO is in Baltimore and provides attendees with the opportunity to spend a day on Capitol Hill to meet with their legislators and their staff. Prior to their meetings, participants received training on the current political climate in Washington, information on federal budget and how to meet with congressional offices. While on Capitol Hill, participants met with more than 70 offices from states around the U.S.

Additional information, including pictures from the event, can be found on the Capitol Hill Day website. For more information, including how to participate in future Capitol Hill or district office meetings, please contact the OSA Public Policy team.

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Senate Committee on Appropriations Releases Highlights of FY11 CR

On Tuesday, April 12, the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations released highlights of the FY11 continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30. According to the committee: "In total, the Continuing Resolution (CR) cuts $78.5 billion from the President's Fiscal Year 2011 request and is $38.5 billion below Fiscal Year 2010 enacted levels." They went on to say: "As these cuts must be implemented in just the remaining six months of the fiscal year, their impact will be especially painful in some instances. However, the bill preserves critical programs that were targeted for cuts in H.R.1, including Head Start, Pell Grants, and vital scientific and medical research."

Highlights of the budget:

  • The DOE Office of Science will receive $4.884 billion, which is $866 million above H.R. 1 and $20 million below FY 2010.
  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will receive $180 million which is $130 million above H.R. 1 and $180 million above FY 2010.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be funded at $6.9 billion, which is $307 million above H.R. 1 and $53 million below the FY10 enacted level.

Although a firm date has not yet been set, it is expected that Congress will vote on the final FY11 CR before the latest CR expires this Friday, April 15.

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7th Continuing Resolution Signed Into Law - Government Shut Down Avoided

On Saturday, April 9, President Obama signed the 7th continuing resolution (CR) into law keeping the federal government funded until Thursday, April 14. The latest CR was passed by Congress a mere hour before the government would have been forced to shut down due to lack of funding. Under this CR the current federal budget will be reduced by about $38 million making the total amount of budget cuts approximately $78.5 billion from the President's FY11 request. In regards to science funding at federal agencies, a statement from the White House on Monday, April 11, said: "Even though we will no longer double the funding of key research and development agencies, you will still see strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science." It is expected that Congress will reach an agreement this week and pass a bill to fund the government through FY11 which ends September 30.

Congress is currently in the process of determining funding levels for FY12. On May 5, members from OSA, APS, IEEE and OIDA will meet with their congressional representatives to urge them to support level, consistent funding for key federal agencies in the FY12 budget.

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OSA Members Participate in Congressional Visits Day 2011

On Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7 five OSA members joined more than 300 of their colleagues from other scientific societies for an extensive briefing by Congressional, Administration, and AAAS staff on the federal budget. Sherwood Boehlert, a former member of Congress, spoke to the attendees about the current climate on Capitol Hill. Boehlert served as chair of the House Science and Technology Committee. A reception and exhibits were held on Capitol Hill for members of Congress, congressional staff, and all CVD attendees. Luna Innovations and Schott Glass were on hand to showcase their technology to attendees. On Thursday, the five OSA members spent the day on Capitol Hill visiting more than 16 congressional offices from Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Oregon.

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6th Continuing Resolution Signed into Law

On Friday, March 18, President Obama signed the 6th continuing resolution (CR) into law. The latest CR will keep the federal government funded until April 8 while also cutting $6 billion in federal spending. Since October 2010, lawmakers have been unable to pass the FY2011 budget so in its place a series of stop-gap measures have been used to keep the government open. At this time it is unclear whether lawmakers will be able to agree upon a permanent budget before this latest stop-gap expires or if another CR will be needed before the April 8 deadline. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever before, that the voices of scientists are heard on Capitol Hill about the importance of sustained and consistent federal funding for science and technology and research and development. To ensure that this message is heard, OSA is providing the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill to meet directly with lawmakers and their staff. More information including how to sign up is available on the Capitol Hill Visits website.

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President's FY2012 Budget Request

On Monday morning, President Obama unveiled his FY 2012 budget request. Although the proposal contains level funding for many of discretionary programs, it does contain increases for key science and technology (S&T) agencies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive a 16% increase and the DOE Office of Science would receive a 18% increase. During a presentation of the S&T budget, Dr. John Holdren, the President's science and technology advisor, stated, "This is a budget that our Nation can be proud of. It provides solid research and development investments to achieve game-changing advances in areas of crucial importance to America's future, including sustainable energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. At the same time it reflects the President's strong commitment to fiscal discipline by cutting programs that were not competitive with our highest priority needs."

The President's budget proposal marks the beginning of a likely long and contentious battle with the House of Representatives. Although the current fiscal year is already under way, the budget for FY 2011 is still undecided and will be voted on in the House this week. The legislation is in sharp contrast to President Obama's budget in the focus and priorities. The Republican proposal would drastically cut S&T programs—see post below. The government has been operating under a "Continuing Resolution" which is set to expire on March 4.

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House Republican Propose New Rounds of Cuts

Late Friday, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Harold Rogers (R-KY), released a proposal to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2011. The package contains cuts of over $100 billion from President Obama's FY 2011 budget request. Earlier last week, Rogers released a package containing nearly $74 billion in cuts. House Republican members called on the Chair to find even more cuts resulting in the latest package.

The current package contains drastic cuts for key S&T agencies such as the National Science Foundation which would receive a 5% reduction from FY 2010 funding. DOE Office of Science would be cut 18% while NIST would also be reduced 18%.

The package must go before the House this week for a vote and then to the Senate. Already, Senate Democrats are saying they will not support these cuts. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) released a statement saying, "The priorities identified in this proposal for some of the largest cuts- environmental protection, health care, energy, science and law enforcement- are essential to the current and future well-being of our economy and communities across the country."

The government is currently running on a Continuing Resolution (CR) which runs out on March 4. Congress will need to reach agreement on a spending package, face a government shut down or pass another CR to keep the government operating.

The President's 2012 fiscal year budget proposal will be sent to Congress on Monday, February 14. An OSA Washington Update will be posted soon.

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Proposed Spending Cuts for FY2011

The Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Harold Rogers (R-KY), today, February 8, previewed proposed spending cuts for the current fiscal year.  These cuts are part of legislation which will be introduced in the House on Thursday and then voted on next week.

Although the fiscal year began on October 1, 2010, Congress could not come to an agreement on spending levels.  As a result, the federal government has been running on a continuing resolution “CR” which maintains the previous year's spending levels.  The current CR is set to expire on March 4, 2011.

The new Republican majority in the House has vowed to cut $100 billion from the federal budget.  However, the proposed cuts only amount to $74 billion.  The cuts are relative to President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget request, not current spending. Of note to the S&T community are the following cuts:

The National Institutes of Health (-$1 billion), the National Science Foundation (-$139 million), the Department of Energy Office of Science (-$1.1 billion), NASA (-$379 million), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (-$5 million). 

Other research agencies and programs that would see cuts under the plan include Nuclear Energy (-$169 million), Fossil Energy Research (-$31 million), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (-$336 million) and Agriculture University Research (-$246 million).

After passage in the House, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration.  New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), vice chairman of the Democratic conference, slammed the proposal, saying that cuts should focus on “waste.”

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112th Congress Begins

On January 5, 2011, the start of the 112th Congress began with Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) being sworn in as the Speaker of the House and 94 new House members being sworn into office. 

Due to the change in party control in the House, Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX) will assume the chairmanship of the House Science, Technology and Space Committee.  Hall is a long serving member of the Committee.  One of his first acts as chair was to include “space” in the committee title's name.  Formerly the committee was known as the “Science and Technology Committee.”  This change signifies the importance of space issues to Chairman Hall and the new ranking member, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).  Both members are from Texas, which is home to Johnson Space Center.

 

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COMPETES Signed into Law

On Tuesday, January 4, President Obama signed into law the America COMPETES Act.  COMPETES is authorizing legislation which sets bold outlines for increased investments in R&D and STEM Education at the National Science Foundation, DOE Office of Science, and NIST.  COMPETES was approved in the final days of the 111th Congress.  The Act is based on recommendations in the National Academies' 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which recommended investments to support basic research, improve STEM education, and foster innovation. The original COMPETES Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2007. 

Rep. Bart Gordon, former chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee commented that, “If we are to reverse the trend of the last twenty years, during which our country's technological edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today. More than half of our economic growth since World War II can be attributed to development and adoption of new technologies. These investments are the path toward sustainable economic recovery and growth and the path toward prosperity for the next 50 years.”

For more information on the legislation and to read comments by the President's Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, please visit OSTP.

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