As we approach the December 13th goal date, leaders of the bicameral Budget Conference Committee seem optimistic about delivering a spending plan that will set levels for both FY 2014 and FY 2015.
There is bipartisan support for a topline spending level above the current post-sequester amount of $987 billion and as high as $1.01 trillion. The agreement is expected to replace about half of the cuts from the sequester over the next two years, (about $45 billion in FY 2014 and $20 billion in FY 2015), and a stated goal would be to apply this sequester relief to both defense and non-defense discretionary accounts equally.
The offsets for these increases, (which total about $85 billion), include additional TSA fees on airline tickets, income from spectrum auctions, and some lowering of government contributions to employee retirement accounts. These offsets were identified to avoid discussion of tax increases for the Republicans and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid for the Democrats. Some of the new revenue will also be allocated to deficit reduction, (about $20 billion).
This topline spending agreement is expected as early as December 10th so that the House of Representatives can take a final vote on the deal before attempting to adjourn for the year on December 13th. Assuming the agreement is accepted, Congress then has until January 15th, when the current Continuing Resolution expires, to review topline spending numbers for each of the 12 appropriations buckets and then pass an omnibus bill that would formalize the FY 2014 operating budget.
Also of Note
Appointments. President Obama appointed Christine Fox, the Pentagon’s former chief program and budget analyst, to serve as acting deputy defense secretary to replace Ash Carter while the search continues for a candidate to fill the position on a full-time basis.
Following the “nuclear option” vote to move nominees earlier this month, Senate Democrats will act to approve three key Administration post nominees – including Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, Jeh Johnson to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to oversee the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Defense. The U.S. Air Force warned this week that ongoing sequester cuts will mean cuts to its science and technology research and development portfolios in FY 2014 and throughout the sequester timeline.
A draft proposal will relocate the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a move that will co-locate the office with the Air Force Research Lab headquarters. This is expected to manifest as a shrinking role for AFOSR; and blurred lines between basic/applied research and the intramural/extramural research portfolio.
Education. The National Center for Education Statistics released a report, STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields, that tracks a cohort of STEM students for six years who entered a STEM degree field in 2003-04.
Health. President Obama announced a new $100 million HIV Initiative on December 4th. Funding for the Initiative will be taken from current NIH/AIDS research funding at NIH.
Bill Gates delivered a lecture at NIH Monday on Why the Future Needs Biomedical Research.
Intellectual Property. The House undertook a speedy process to pass the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), a second attempt at patent reform following last year’s passage of the America Invents Act (P.L. 112-29), with a vote of 325-91 on December 4th. Despite strong passage, the bill is lauded and condemned by both sides of the isle and has been criticized for going beyond the stated goal of addressing issues with so called “patent trolls”. The Senate version of the bill will be addressed during a hearing in the Senator Judiciary Committee on December 17th.
According to Biocentury Extra, negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue to move forward and the U.S. Trade Representative last week suggested the U.S. will push for a 12-year exclusivity period for biologics rather than the 7 years as had been suggested in recent months.
The long-awaited Silicon Valley satellite of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will be located at the San Jose City Hall building in downtown San Jose, CA.
Manufacturing. On December 3rd, the White House launched AMP2.0, the second phase of the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. MIT President Rafael Reif and DOW CEO Andrew Liveris co-chaired with university, industry, and White House leaders in attendance.
Research. The National Nanotechnology Initiative released the 2014 Draft Strategic Plan for public comment. Public comment will be accepted through December 18th.
The National Academies released a new report, The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, evaluating EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research).
Sequester. Impacted research communities continue to advocate against ongoing sequestration cuts. Most recently on December 2nd, Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities, along with Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush, Dorothy Coleman of the National Association of Manufacturers; Ian Steff of the Semiconductor Industry Association; and Emily Holubowich of the Coalition for Health Funding and NDD United, held a press conference on the impact of sequester cuts on the American research enterprise.
On December 3rd, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI) sent a letter to the co-chairs of the FY14 budget conference committee urging them to reach an agreement that “provides relief from the sequester and helps close our nation’s innovation deficit by ensuring sustained and robust support for scientific research and STEM education.”
Finally, on December 4th, a diverse group of 470 organizations sent a letter to every Member of Congress urging them to replace sequestration with a “bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.”
Space. According to a NASA blog post by Steve Squyres, Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), NASA is currently undertaking a significant restructuring of NAC. Key changes include eliminating the Education and Public Outreach Committee and merging the Commercial Space Committee with the Human Exploration and Operations Committee.
Tech Transfer. The Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act of 2013 (H.R. 2981), legislation that would allow federal agencies to dedicate a small portion of their Small Business Technology Transfer funds to creating “proof of concept” and other innovative technology transfer programs, is moving through Congress and last week progressed through the House Science Committee, a committee of jurisdiction on the bill.
Emma Green writes for The Atlantic examining the balance between federal funding for basic vs. applied research in What Makes a University ‘Useful’?
Marcia McNutt, Editor-In-Chief of Science, writes an editorial highlighting the challenges and opportunities that await Dr. France Cordova, the nominee to lead NSF, in What Awaits the New NSF Director.
The Editorial Board for The Washington Post published an op-ed about the implications of continued budget cuts to medical research in NIH research is ailing from the budget squeeze.
The Editorial Board for The New York Times penned an op-ed as well, this one about teaching math, science, and engineering in Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?
Tom Kalil writes about realizing the benefits of university-industry collaboration for the OSTP White House Blog in Partnering at the Speed of Business: University-Company Partnerships.
What’s on Deck
- The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation will hold a briefing on Strengthening National Laboratory Commercialization. RSVP here.
- The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will hold a briefing on groundbreaking efforts in the fight against cancer. RSVP to Joshua.Friedlander (at) asco.org.
- The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing on Rebuilding American Manufacturing.
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing on A Factual Look at the Relationship Between Climate and Weather.
- Join a Google Hangout on federal funding of science organized by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Participants include NSP’s Abby Benson. Register online.
- The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements will hold a hearing on FDA Checkup: Drug Development and Manufacturing Challenges.
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a hearing on Building a Network for Manufacturing Innovation.
- The American Chemical Society’s Science and the Congress Project will hold a briefing on Bio-Based Feedstocks: Sustainable Innovation. Register online.