Week in Review, or Deficit Deja Vu
With members of Congress back in town last week and appropriations season heating up, reports emerged once again about renewed efforts to identify solutions to address the federal deficit. CQ reports that the Senate “Gang of Six” and members of the bipartisan, bicameral Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction are among those rumored to have resumed work on these efforts, perhaps in an effort to put forward proposals for adoption before sequestration kicks in early next year. Of course, even the most reasonable approach could struggle to see floor action in an election year. Recognizing this, former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Alice Rivlin, who co-chaired a deficit reduction task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote an op-ed in The Hill imploring both the President and the Congress to not use the election as an excuse to avoid addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges.
Meanwhile, members in both the House and Senate are sorting out how to handle budget resolutions this year. Resolutions effectively set the top-line number that appropriators work from when processing their spending bills. In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has essentially said that he won’t pass a budget resolution this year since the top-line number for FY 2013 was already set in the Budget Control Act (BCA). This decision could allow several Senators, especially those facing elections, to avoid a tough vote. In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that a budget resolution will be passed, but its members may choose to reduce the top-line spending number as agreed to in the BCA. If this occurs and the appropriators follow suit, they could end up with two very different sets of spending bills in the House and Senate, making conference even more complicated than it already promises to be.
House and Senate appropriations committees will hold more FY 2013 hearings this week, following up on their busy schedule last week. The heads of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are among those making the trek to Capitol Hill this week to defend their budge requests. In the House, the Appropriations Committee is also reacting to last week’s announcement that its ranking member, Norm Dicks (D-WA), will not seek re-election.
Also of Note
Health. According to ScienceInsider, the NIH has asked the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to revisit its prior decision to withhold publication of potentially sensitive research results related to avian flu. This may be a response to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) review of the decision, which recommended that the research results be published.
For those of you interested in the debate on the use of federal funds to support embryonic stem cell research, the Association of American Universities (AAU) reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a new brief in the ongoing case of Sherley v. Sebelius, in which the plaintiffs argue that using federal funds to support stem cell research violates an existing law related to embryo destruction. In addition to the DOJ’s brief, the advocacy group Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) also filed an amicus brief in opposition of those claims.
Manufacturing. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released its National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing, as required by the America COMPETES Act of 2010. The plan includes several recommendations on how to support advanced manufacturing in the U.S., including “optimizing federal advanced manufacturing R&D investments by taking a portfolio perspective.” Cited investment areas include advanced materials, production technology platforms, advanced manufacturing processes, and data and design infrastructure.
Research. As previously reported, a bill in the House called the Research Works Act (RWA) has pushed for limited public access to the results of federally-funded research. Last week, after a major publisher of scientific journals indicated they would not support the bill, the House sponsors of RWA announced that they would no longer move the bill forward.
As reported last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officially released its advanced notice of proposed guidance regarding reforms to circular A-21 and other government circulars which govern cost recovery associated with federal grants. The deadline for public comment on the proposed reforms is March 29, 2012.
Space. The General Accountability Office (GAO) released a NASA-focused report entitled Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects. In the report, GAO criticizes NASA’s management of large projects such as the James Webb Telescope (JWT) and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which have experienced significant costs overruns and schedule delays. According to the report, these two projects alone “account for approximately $11.4 billion—or 51 percent—of the total life-cycle costs for the 15 projects in implementation during our review.”
After recent concerns over the NASA FY 2013 budget request, which included a cut to its Mars program, NASA announced that it would create a Mars Planning Group to identify the path forward for robotic Mars exploration. According to SpacePolicyOnline, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science, John Grunsfeld, in making the announcement stated that “he strongly believes it is important to keep Mars exploration vibrant to retain critical workforce skills as well as public and political interest in exploring the planet both with robots and humans.”
The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports on a new report from GAO outlining instances of duplication in federal spending. According to the report, one example of this duplication is “the lack of a coordinated reporting system makes it difficult for the NIH, Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs to track health research funded by other federal agencies…meaning agencies may issue duplicative grants to different research projects on the same topic.”
Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) writes in the American Physical Society’s Capitol Hill Quarterly about how government-backed scientific research is a key to America’s competitiveness.
Louis Sullivan, President George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), writes in Florida’s Bradenton Herald about how medical research funding cuts could be hazardous to America’s health.
The Task Force on American Innovation recently announced a video contest, encouraging students to submit short videos demonstrating how federally funded scientific research in the physical sciences has resulted in discoveries that have enhanced competitiveness and job creation, improved quality of life, and/or strengthened national security. Prizes include cash and a trip to Washington, DC for the first place winner.
What’s on Deck
- The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Keeping America Competitive Through Investments in R&D.
- The House Appropriations Committee will hold subcommittee hearings on the FY 2013 budget requests for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the USGS, and the NSF.
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold subcommittee hearings on the FY 2013 budget requests for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the FY 2013 budget request for the HHS.
- The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold hearings on the FY2013 budget requests for the Coast Guard and NOAA, and on Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the FY 2013 budget request for the DHS.
- The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for National Security Space Activities.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE).