June 20th, 2011, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Finding Middle Ground through Golf

The House continued its progress last week on the Fiscal Year (2012) appropriations process, with the House passing the agriculture and military construction/veterans affairs bills. The full House Appropriations Committee also reported out two spending bills—defense and energy and water—making them ready for floor action in the next few weeks (more details on research funding in these two bills below).

The Senate, without a FY 2012 budget resolution to facilitate the appropriations process, busied itself with several confirmation hearings and a reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration riddled with sticky amendments regarding tax credits for ethanol.

Vice President Biden’s debt limit/deficit reduction group met three times last week, as they plan to do again this week, and Biden publicly laid out the goal of reaching an agreement on the debt limit before the fourth of July Congressional recess.  At the White House, meanwhile, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) stepped out together for the first time for a much publicized round of golf with Vice President Biden and Ohio Governor John Kasich. The President and Speaker apparently beat the Vice President and Kasich, and presumably addressed some pretty heavy topics (debt limit, spending) in between holes.

Also of Note

Defense. The full House Appropriations Committee reported out the FY 2012 defense appropriations bill. Overall, the bill provides an increase of $17 billion in non-emergency funding for DoD over FY 2011.   Although last week’s Defense Subcommittee press release cited a decrease in funding for Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E), the committee report released this week shows that DoD Basic and Applied Research programs received an increase from FY 2011 levels, while the Advanced Technology Development Program was decreased from last year’s level. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) provides the following breakdown:

  • Basic Research Program (6.1): $2.09 billion, an increase of 4.3 percent or $86.8 million from FY 2011.
  • Applied Research Program (6.2): $4.65 billion, a decrease of 3.2 percent or $156.1 million from FY 2011.
  • Advanced Technology Development Program (6.3): $5.42 billion, a decrease of 8.2 percent or $486.9 million from FY 2011

Energy. The full House Appropriations Committee also reported out it’s final  FY 2012 energy and water bill, with overall funding levels essentially the same as they were when reported out of Subcommittee:

  • Office of Science: $4.8 billion, compared to $4.84 billion in FY 2011.
  • ARPA-E:  $100 million, compared to $180 in FY 2011.
  • EERE: $1.3 billion, compared to $1.8B in FY 2011.

The committee also released their report just before the markup, with additional information on how the funds should be spent. AIP provides another great summary of details for the Office of Science, which starts on p. 105 of the report. Of note, the bill includes follow-on funding for the three existing energy innovation hubs (energy efficiency, nuclear modeling and simulation, and fuel from sunlight), as well as funding for both the newly proposed hubs for materials and batteries at $20M, same as the Administration FY2012 request. The report also includes quite a bit of language asking for more transparency, accountability, and proof of performance from the Office of Science, including the troubling requirement that Basic Energy Sciences  “perform an evaluation of Basic Energy Science research activities and terminate the lowest-performing awards” (p.79). As anyone involved in the conduct of scientific research knows, performance can be a hard thing to quantify!

DOE posted a new document on its website highlighting 50 Breakthroughs Made In the U.S.A. by America’s National Laboratories.

Health. In advance of Senate consideration of the FY 2012 budget for the National institutes of Health (NIH), Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) spearheaded a “Dear Colleague” letter in support of  NIH. 41 Senators, including 34 Democrats and 7 Republicans, signed the letter to Senate appropriators expressing their support for the agency.

Last week, I reported on a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) group looking at the use of chimpanzees in research across the country. The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (S. 810, H.R. 1513) has been introduced in both the House and Senate, to essentially prohibit the federal government from conducting research on, housing, or funding research conducted on any number of “great apes” such as chimpanzees, orangutans, etc. Some research organizations have opposed the bill, citing the importance of these animals for use in biomedical research. The Association of American Universities (AAU) is one such organization that recently issued a statement in opposition of the bill. A recent Nature editorial also cites the historical successes of chimpanzees in biomedical research, and urges researchers to get involved in this debate.

Patent Reform. The patent reform bill continued to stall in the House last week due to concerns in the fee diversion provision outlined in last week’s update, but it is expected to go the floor this week. The Coalition for Twenty-first Century Patent Reform, a group of stakeholder advocating for patent reform, is holding an advocacy day on Monday to help seal the deal with this long-time-coming legislation.

In Print. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL), who has been a vocal supporter of federal funding for energy research, issued a statement this week criticizing the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its “misguided” priorities and wasteful spending. In the statement, Hultgren refers to the recent report, “Under the Microscope,” issued by Senator Coburn earlier this year. Rep. Hultgren also criticized the National Science Board’s recent (NSB) decision to discontinue support for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) in South Dakota, a facility that would have partnered extensively with Fermilab, which is located in Hultgren’s district.

David Leonhardt’s penned an op-ed in the New York Times emphasizing the role that economic growth should play in reducing the federal deficit. In this op-ed, Leonhardt argues that in order to foster growth, “Perhaps most important, Washington could make more high-return investments in science and education.”

NIH Director Francis Collins authored an op-ed in the Huffington Post on the importance of conducting biomedical research in the U.S. aimed at addressing global health challenges. He concludes the op-ed with the following charge, “So, as a nation, let us renew and strengthen our commitment to biomedical research aimed at improving the health of the world’s poorest peoples. It just might improve our own.”

What’s On Deck


  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a nomination hearing for John Bryson to be the next Secretary of Commerce.
  • The Congressional Hazards Caucus will hold a public briefing on landslide hazards.


  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the proposed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Service.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing examinig oversight of intellectual property law enforcement.
  • The Joint Economic Committee will look at the need for a national manufacturing strategy.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the importance of diabetes research.


  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a markup on legislation addressing harmful algal blooms.

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