2010 Archives

Washington Updates


Washington Updates

2010 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.

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Senate Passes COMPETES; House to Vote on Tuesday

The Senate unanimously passed the America COMPETES Act Reauthorization of 2010 (H.R. 5116) on Friday, December 17. The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for a final vote in the waning days of the 111th Congress. The House is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday, December 21.

COMPETES provides authorizing funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the DOE Office of Science, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). In May, COMPETES passed the House by a vote of 262 to 150 but because the Senate made changes to the legislation, it must go back to the House for another vote.

Some highlights of the Senate passed version of the COMPETES Act include:

  • More than 90% of the funds are for routine reauthorizations of major research programs at NSF, NIST, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
  • It is significantly less costly than the earlier House-passed bill.
  • Spending on basic scientific research is an investment in our economy and has been singled out by the Bowles-Simpson Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform as being essential to the long-term economic growth needed to reduce budget deficits.

 

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Ralph Hall to Chair House Science & Technology Committee

Ralph Hall (R-TX) has been selected as the new chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. Rep. Hall has been a member of the committee since his election to the House of Representatives in 1980 and was elevated to Ranking Member in 2007. Rep. Hall will replace Bart Gordon (D-TN) who is retiring from the House. Of his new role as chairman, Rep. Hall said in a press release:

“Having served on this Committee since I was first elected to Congress in 1980, I have great respect and appreciation for the role of science and technology in keeping our Nation competitive and improving the lives of our citizens.”

He went on to say:

“Advancements in science and technology will create jobs, keep America at the forefront of innovation, and drive economic growth.  Smart investments in basic research and development, coupled with proper business and tax incentives, will spur innovation and allow American businesses to commercialize and manufacture technologies here in the United States.”

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R&D Tax Credit Update

Included in the Tax Relief, Unemployment, Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 is the extension of the R&D tax credit which expired in 2009. Although at this time it is unclear when the House or Senate will vote on either version of the tax bills, it seems likely that the R&D tax credit will be included. The R&D tax credit is imperative to the United States so as to improve technological innovation and competitiveness.

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Export Control Council

On December 9, President Obama held a meeting of the Export Control Council. The Administration released a series of regulations and requests for comment as part of the implementation of the new U.S. export control system which was announced in August. 

Included in the regulations and requests for comment are the following:

  • The publication of a draft rule setting out the criteria and procedures to be used in determining whether a product is subject to export controls.
  • The application of these criteria to one category of items (Category VII:  Tanks and Military Vehicles), to be seen as an example of how the new policies would apply.
  • The publication of a draft rule specifying what licensing policies will apply to products subject to export controls.

The creation of a new website was also announced.  The site includes a new tool to facilitate compliance with U.S. export control requirements by bringing together the various screening lists maintained by multiple Departments.  More information can be found at www.export.gov

 

 

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New NSF Director Confirmed

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Dr. Subra Suresh, dean of the MIT School of Engineering, to be the next director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a six-year term. Suresh was nominated by President Obama on June 8 and replaces Arden L. Bement, Jr., who stepped down after six years at the post.   

Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, said “I congratulate Dr. Suresh on his appointment. NSF will benefit from having an accomplished engineer at the helm, in particular with experience in some of the fast-growing fields of materials science, nanotechnology and the life sciences.”

Suresh joined MIT in 1993 as the R. P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and has since held joint faculty in four different MIT departments. He was elevated to the position of dean of the School of Engineering in July 2007. Prior to his work at MIT, Suresh received his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, his master’s degree from Iowa State University, and his ScD from MIT in 1981. As a mechanical engineer who later became interested in materials science and biology, Suresh has done pioneering work studying the biomechanics of blood cells under the influence of diseases like malaria.

 

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Congress Approves FY2011 Funding Continuing Resolution Measure

The House and the Senate approved on Wednesday a stopgap “continuing resolutions” (CR) measure that would allow the federal government to continue functioning at mostly current spending levels until after the November election. According to a draft, lawmakers would hold the level of total funding at $9 billion below current levels through Dec. 3. The House cleared the measure, 228-194, hours after the Senate sent it over by a vote of 69-30. The budget and appropriations process stalled this year amid rising concern about the deficit and not a single spending bill has been enacted yet for fiscal 2011, which starts Friday, October 1.

No additional action is expected on FY2011 funding until after the mid-term elections.

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President Obama’s focus on STEM Education

Today, President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO led entity, which will dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Change the Equation is a non-profit entity founded by astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, and Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

The group will replicate successful privately-funded programs in 100 high-need schools and communities, improve professional development for math and science teachers, increase the number of students that take and pass rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses, increase the number of teachers who enter the profession with a STEM undergraduate degree and provide new opportunities to traditionally underrepresented students and underserved communities.

 

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New Report on STEM Education Presented to President Obama

September 15, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) presented President Obama with a report outlining ways for the Federal government to coordinate and lead on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The report calls on the federal government to:

  • Recruit and train 100,000 great STEM teachers over the next decade who are able to prepare and inspire students;
  • Recognize and reward the top 5 percent of the Nation’s STEM teachers by creating a STEM master teachers corps;
  • Create 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade;         
  • Use technology to drive innovation, in part by creating an advanced research projects agency—modeled on the famously innovative Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—for education;
  • Create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences outside the classroom;
  • Support the current state-led movement for shared standards in math and science.

PCAST members are appointed by the President to provide him advice on a range of science and technology topics.

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President Obama Announces Export Control Reform

Today, President Obama will announce plans to streamline the export control system. The Departments of Commerce and State will develop lists that better define restricted products and technologies and classify them based on sensitivity in one of three tiers. In addition, enforcement activities will be handled by the newly created Export Enforcement Coordination Center. The new proposal is a result of the State, Commerce, and Defense Departments reviewing the current regulations over the last year.

According to remarks President Obama made via video to the Department of Commerce Annual Export Controls Update Conference, "Over the years, different parts of the federal government have developed very different control lists, with agencies fighting over who has jurisdiction. Decisions were delayed, sometimes for years, and industries lost their edge or moved abroad. Going forward, we will have a single, tiered, positive list - one which will allow us to build higher walls around the export of our most sensitive items while allowing the export of less critical ones under less restrictive conditions."

The Administration's goal is to begin issuing proposed revisions to the control lists and licensing policies later this year.

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Senate FY 2011 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill

The Senate bill provides funding for the Department of Energy, Office of Science at $5.012 billion; however it is $109.4 million below the president's budget request. The Senate bill focuses on the following program areas: high energy physics, nuclear physics, fusion energy sciences, biological and environmental research, basic energy sciences, advanced scientific and computing research, science laboratories infrastructure, and workforce development for teachers and scientists.

Additional funding was given for the existing 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), but did not provide any additional funding for new EFRCs. The funding will support research in two specific areas: (1) discovery and development of new materials and (2) research for energy applications.

The bill provides $200 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). In addition $70 million will be budgeted to fund the existing three Energy Innovation Hubs in: Production of Fuels from Sunlight (Office of Science); Energy Efficient Building Systems Design (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy); and Modeling and Simulation of Advanced Nuclear Reactors (Nuclear Energy).

The bill has been placed on the Senate calendar to be considered upon return from summer recess. The House version still has to be voted on by the full Appropriations Committee and it remains unclear when the full committee will meet to consider the legislation.

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DOE Announces Secretary of Energy Advisory Board

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced the members of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB). The twelve member board is comprised of scientists, business executives, academics and former government officials who will serve as an independent advisory committee to Secretary Chu. The Board will provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary on the Department's basic and applied research, economic and national security policy, educational issues, operational issues and other activities as directed by the Secretary. SEAB reports directly to the Secretary of Energy. It was chartered in 1990 to provide the Secretary with timely, balanced, external advice on issues concerning the Department. The board is expected to meet twice a year and at other times as needed.

The SEAB Members are: Norman Augustine, Ralph Cicerone, John Deutch, Nicholas Donofrio, Alexis Herman, Chad Holliday, Jr., Michael McQuade, William Perry, Arthur Rosenfeld, Susan Tierney, Steven Westly and Daniel Yergin.

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Obama Administration Announces S&T Priorities for FY 2012

The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are looking ahead to the FY 2012 budget request President Obama will send Congress next February. The July 21 memo builds on an OMB memo distributed on June 8. The President's long-term goal is that R&D investment (both private and Federal) in the United States should reach three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The memo also calls on agencies to redirect S&T budget priorities to fall into six practical "challenges": economic growth and job creation, energy independence, climate change, biomedical applications and national security.

The House appropriations subcommittee has drafted its bill and provided a two-page summary. The report will be released following action by the full committee.

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FY 2011 Senate Appropriations Bill: National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

The Senate Appropriations Committee released the committee report accompanying S. 3686, the FY 2011 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill. This bill increased total funding for the National Institutes of Health by 3.5 percent. The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would increase by 2.8 percent. Figures and language from Senate Report 111-243, may be viewed in its entirety on the Library of Congress' legislative site.

The House appropriations subcommittee has drafted its bill and provided a two-page summary. The report will be released following action by the full committee.

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House Science Committee Passes NASA Authorization Bill

In July, the House Science and Technology Committee approved their version of the NASA authorization bill. The bill parallels the bill passed by a Senate committee that same month. This request included the Administration's proposal to cancel the Constellation Program and to rely instead on commercial transportation services to the space station. The House and Senate versions of the bill were greeted differently. The Senate passed their version within an hour. In contrast, the House took six hours and began with thirty amendments to be considered.

The House bill is ready to go into conference with the Senate to resolve differences between the two versions. Both the House and Senate are currently in summer recess.

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PCAST Convenes to Discuss Scientific Diplomacy, Gives Go-Ahead to Health IT Report

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) featured an extensive discussion on science diplomacy. Advisors addressed challenges and benefits of being a science envoy and suggested that PCAST should examine the United State's role in building local merit-based institutions abroad, and suggested a report- Inventing a Better Future: A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology -as a guide.

Members emphasized that the science envoy program is already making strides and the international science community. Three areas-water, food and energy security, health and environment, and how best to establish evidence and merit-based systems-have emerged as common priorities across countries. Director John Holdren of Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was asked discuss the issue of scholarships and visa issues for foreign students to the attention of the President.

PCAST members also gave updates on reports PCAST has been deliberating for many months. PCAST's much anticipated report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is expected in early September.

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House Appropriators Draft FY 2011 DOE Funding Bill

The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee drafted a $34.7 billion FY 2011 funding bill that allocates $1.5 billion or 5.6 percent less than the Administration requested for the Department of Energy. The subcommittee's bill would essentially freeze the budget for the Office of Science in FY 2011.

The bill's accompanying report with specific program recommendations will be released after the full House Appropriations Committee meets and passes the legislation.

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Senate FY 2011 National Science Foundation Appropriations Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2011 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill. S. 3636 provides funding for the National Science Foundation. The Senate Committee report language described the foundation's mission and reiterated reprogramming requirements and budgeted for the following categories: research, major research equipment and facilities construction, and Education and Human Resources.

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Senate Committee Passes America COMPETES

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed its version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, S. 3605, in late July. The legislation is based on the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report from the National Academy of Sciences which called for increased investments and a commitment to R&D in the United States. The COMPETES Act set many of the R&D agencies on a path to double their budgets over the next ten years.

In late May, the House Science and Technology Committee, spearheaded by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), passed their version of COMPETES Act. H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, continues to make investments in science, innovation, and education to strengthen the U.S. scientific and economic leadership.

The full Senate has yet to vote on this version. Once it is passed by the full Senate, the House and the Senate must meet to hash out the differences between the two versions. It is unclear if the Senate will consider the bill due to the busy congressional schedule. COMPETES is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

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Legislation Approves FY 2011 Funding for Energy Development

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved FY 2011 funding legislation. Under this legislation the Department of Energy (DOE) would receive $28.346 billion. Of particular note is that the DOE Office of Science would receive $5.012 billion, which is $109.4 million below the President's budget request, but $108.3 million above FY 2010 funding. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $200 million to develop high-risk, but promising future energy technologies.

Next, these funding levels will need to be approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and then by the entire Senate. Once it is approved, the Senate and the House versions will have to be combined in a conference committee and be voted on again by the Senate and the House.

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Senate Action on COMPETES Act Reauthorization

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act of 2007. The legislation, S. 3605, is designed "to invest in innovation through research and development, to improve the competitiveness of the United States, and for other purposes." The Commerce Committee will consider changes to the act on Thursday, July 22, 2010. The next step is for the full Senate to consider the legislation although it is unclear whether there will be time on the busy congressional schedule before the end of the year.

As noted in earlier Washington Updates, the House of Representatives passed changes to the America COMPETES Act on May 28, 2010. After the Senate completes their version, the two sides must meet to hash out the differences between the two bills. COMPETES is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

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Funding Update

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations approved its Fiscal Year 2011 funding bill on June 15, 2010. The bill includes funding for the Department of Energy including $4.9 billion for the Office of Science, a $4 million decrease from the FY2010 appropriations funding level, and $221 million below the presidential budget request.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) is funded at $220 million. The program received considerable funding as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill) in 2009.

The end of the fiscal year is approaching very quickly and Congress is scheduled to take a month long recess in August. To date, not a single one of the 12 annual funding bills have been passed by either the House or Senate. There is speculation that a short term continuing resolution will be enacted which will allow Congress to return home for the elections and then come back in November to finish the funding bills and other items.

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House Subcommittee Advances S&T Spending Bill

On June 29, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science considered the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and a number of related agencies. The National Science Foundation received a 7.2% increase over fiscal year 2010 funding. This amount is the same as requested by President Obama. NIST received a 3.1% increase over FY 2010 funding but slightly less than the President's budget request.

Consideration by the subcommittee is just the beginning of the process. The full House Appropriations Committee will consider the bill next week and then the bill must be considered by the full House. The Senate must also go through this process and then the two sides meet to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

The end of the fiscal year is quickly approaching and none of the 12 annual funding bills have been completed. Congress is scheduled to take a month long break during August. There is speculation that Congress will have to pass a short term continuing resolution which will keep the government running until they can complete their work on the funding bills sometime later this fall.

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Possible Senate Action on COMPETES

During a hearing on June 22, 2010, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, announced that he intends on introducing COMPETES legislation "very soon." Of the legislation Senator Rockefeller said, "I firmly believe in strengthening the roles of the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other federal agencies. I plan to introduce the America COMPETES reauthorization bill very soon to promote basic research programs and maintain and strengthen America's science, technology, engineering, and math education."

As noted in earlier Washington Updates, the House of Representatives passed changes to the America COMPETES Act on May 28, 2010. The Senate must now act on their version and then the two sides will then need to meet and work out any differences between their bills. COMPETES is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

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NEW NSF Director Nominated

On June 8, President Obama formally nominated Dr. Subra Suresh, dean of the MIT School of Engineering, to lead the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Arden Bement, who led NSF for the last six years, concluded his tenure on June 1, 2010. An interim director has been appointed until Dr. Suresh is confirmed by the Senate.

"I am proud that such experienced and committed individuals have agreed to take on these important roles in my administration. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years," Obama said.

Since July of 2007, Suresh has served as the dean of the School of Engineering and has held joint faculty appointments in four MIT departments. Suresh received his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in 1977, his MS from Iowa State University in 1979 and his ScD from MIT in 1981. Following his postdoctoral research from 1981 to 1983 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he joined Brown University as an assistant professor of engineering in December 1983 and was promoted to full professor in July 1989. He joined MIT in 1993 as the R. P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

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Houses Passes America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010

On Friday, May 28th the House of Representatives passed the reauthorization of COMPETES with bipartisan support by a vote of 262 to 150. The bill had over 100 cosponsors and was endorsed by over 750 organizations, including The Optical Society.

COMPETES puts basic research programs on a path to doubling authorized funding levels over ten years at key R&D agencies such as the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs. COMPETES will help foster innovation in new energy technologies. The bill will also help ensure U.S. leadership in emerging and growing fields, including nanotechnology and IT.

More information on the reauthorization of COMPETES can be found at the House Science and Technology Committee. Next, the Senate must consider their version of changes to COMPETES and then the two versions will have to be combined in a conference committee. At this time, it is still unclear when the Senate will act.

Posted: May 28, 2010

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House Considers Changes to America COMPETES

During the week of May 10, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider changes to the America COMPETES Act. Originally passed in 2007, the Act is set to expire on September 31, 2010. The legislation is based on the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report from the National Academy of Sciences which called for increased investments and a commitment to R&D in the United States. The COMPETES Act set many of the R&D agencies on a path to double their budgets over the next ten years.

In late May, the House Science and Technology Committee, spearheaded by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), considered changes to the COMPETES Act. H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, continues to make investments in science, innovation, and education to strengthen the U.S. scientific and economic leadership.

For up to date information on the reauthorization process, please visit the House Science and Technology Committee. The Senate must consider their version of changes to COMPETES and then the two versions will be synced in a conference committee. At this time, it is unclear when the Senate will act.

Updated: May 11, 2010

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Congressional Visits Day 2010

OSA once again offered the unique opportunity for its members to participate in Congressional Visits Day (CVD).

The free event took place April 28th and 29th in Washington, DC. Participants joined with fellow OSA members and 250 scientists and engineers from other scientific societies for an orientation session on April 28th then visited Capitol Hill offices on April 29th. OSA scheduled all appointments and provided background and talking points for participants. CVD is an annual event sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group, of which OSA is a member.

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New NSF Director Announced

On March 12, 2010, the White House announced the nomination of Subra Suresh to lead the National Science Foundation. Suresh is currently the dean of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Suresh is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and maintains a productive research group in the emerging field of nanobiomechanics.

The current director, Arden Bement Jr., recently announced that he would be stepping down on June 1 to lead a new global research institute at Purdue University.

The U.S. Senate must now begin the confirmation process for to Subra Suresh which will be handled by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. A schedule has not yet been announced.

Posted: March 12, 2010

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Good News for R&D Funding in FY 2011 Budget Request

President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal on Monday, February 1, 2010. R&D programs fared well under his proposal. The National Science Foundation would receive an 8% increase to $7.4 billion. The DOE Office of Science would receive a 4.5% increase to $5.1 billion and NIST would receive a 7.3% increase to $918 million.

The increases are in-line with the pledge by Congress to double the budgets for NSF, NIST and DOE over the next ten years. For specific budget numbers, please visit the budget tracker.

The President's budget request is just one step in the long process of determining the actual funding levels for FY 2011. Congress now must go through the appropriations process and determine what programs to fund and at what levels.

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

Posted: February 3, 2010

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AAAS Announces Technical Workshop on Helium-3

AAAS will be hosting a technical workshop on February 11, 2010 in Washington, DC to discuss the developing shortage of Helium-3. At current consumption rates, helium-3 supply is predicted to meet only 10% of the projected demand per year, starting in FY2010. The AAAS workshop is an opportunity for the scientific community to better understand the impacts of this shortage to scientific research, the medical community, and private industry.

If you are interested in attending the February 11, 2010 workshop, please contact helium3@aaas.org. The registration fee is $50.00. Additional information will be posted at AAAS.

Posted: January 19, 2010

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Call for Volunteers - National Labs Day

OSA Members are invited to participate in the National Labs Day to be held in early May. In late 2009, President Obama announced the creation of this ongoing event designed to provide high quality, hands-on, discovery-based lab experience to middle and high school students by science, technology, engineering and math professionals in their local communities. There are many ways to join this effort including donating materials, helping with lesson plans, mentoring a student and helping with science fairs. Coordinators with the National Labs Day will match participants with events in their local area. To sign up, please visit the National Labs Day.

Posted: January 19, 2010

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