January 30th, 2012, by Abby Benson  

Week in Review, or Science in the State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his third annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress (in case you’re wondering, his first speech to a joint session after being elected President was not officially called a State of the Union, since he was considered too green on the job to really have a grasp of the state of the union). The speech contained a few central themes, including the need to provide better access to quality education (with a strong emphasis on college affordability), to invest in the manufacturing and energy sectors, and to revamp the tax code.  The importance of innovation came up regularly in the speech, but most pointedly in the following quote:

“Innovation also demands basic research.  Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.  New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet.  Don’t gut these investments in our budget.  Don’t let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.”

Details on the initiatives introduced by the President during the speech can be found in more detail in the The Blueprint for an America Built to Last, which was released simultaneously by the White House. Additional information will also be revealed when the President delivers his FY 2013 budget to Congress on February 13th, one week after the date required by law. The White House announced this delay earlier in the week, it is the third time the budget has been delayed since Obama took office.

If you’re interested in how science and technology has been referenced in recent State of Union addresses, check out the American Institute of Physics’ blog post on the subject.

Also of Note

Defense. In a press event on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Panetta provided a preview of the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD), which would reportedly cut $259 billion in defense spending through 2017. The DoD released a 16-page document entitled Defense Budget Priorities and Choices, which states “The Department believes that accelerating trends in both technology development and a dynamic threat environment dictate that we must maintain our edge by protecting our investments in development of future capabilities. As such, science and technology programs are largely protected within this budget.”

Education. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: Strategic Planning Needed to Better Manage Overlapping Programs across Multiple Agencies. The report finds that of the more than 200 STEM education programs administered throughout the government, over 80% of them overlap with other programs in either target audiences or objectives. These GAO findings follow a report issued in December 2011 by the National Science and Technology Council entitled The Federal STEM Education Portfolio. This report, required by the America COMPETES Act, aims to inventory government-supported STEM programs, and to “develop a five-year strategic plan to advance the state of American STEM education.”

Technology. The U.S. government’s first ever Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, announced this week that he intends to step down from the position. According to an Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) blog posting released on Friday, “the President created the position of “Chief Technology Officer” to modernize our government while helping the country meet its goals from job creation, to reducing health care costs, to protecting the homeland.”

In Print

In an op-ed in The Hill entitled Time to Rebuild the Middle Class, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) argues that Federal investments in research and infrastructure have created jobs.

Ed Paisley and Sean Pool of ScienceProgress give their take on the President’s State of the Union in a piece entitled President Obama Links Middle Class Prosperity and Innovation.

Alex Tabarrok writes in The Atlantic about The Innovation Nation vs. the Warfare-Welfare State. In this piece, he ponders the question, “Do we want government spending half its money on redistribution and military, or re-dedicating itself to science, infrastructure, and health research?”

In a New York Times op-ed entitled Made in the World, Thomas Friedman writes about how the U.S. should capitalize on its strengths—including talent, education, infrastructure, and research—to compete in a globalized world.

What’s on Deck


  • The Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. and global energy outlook for 2012.


  • The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook.
  • The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet will hold a hearing on Prior User Rights: Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing and Innovation.
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hydraulic Fracturing Research.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on Reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act: What It Means for Jobs, Innovation, and Patients.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies will hold a markup on H.R. 3674, Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act of 2011.
  • The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing on Developing and Strengthening High-Growth Entrepreneurship.
  • Columbia University and the Earth Institute will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on Weather and Climate Extremes. Contact events (at) ei.columbia.edu for more information.


  • The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012-2022.
  • Battelle and the R&D Magazine will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on their  2012 Global Research and Development Forecast. Contact shinea (at) battelle.org for more information.
  • The San Diego group Connect will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on Innovation 101: Technology and Innovation in Life-Sciences Research, Accelerating the Commercialization of an Anti-Cancer Biotech Innovation. Contact jwombie (a) connect.org for more information.


  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing on Fostering Quality Science at EPA: Perspectives on Common Sense Reform – Day II.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management will hold a hearing on Is DHS Effectively Implementing a Strategy to Counter Emerging Threats?
  • The American Chemical Society will hold a Capitol Hill luncheon on Driving Jobs through Innovation:
    Fostering Science Entrepreneurship. Contact science_congress (at) acs.org for more information.

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