Week in Review, or Replacing Sequestration
Members of the House and Senate were back in DC last week after their previous one-week recess. As I reported in my last update, the House considered a reconciliation bill, which has been marketed as a replacement for “sequestration,” the process by which significant spending cuts will begin in January 2013. The bill, which identifies cuts to entitlement programs to counter planned cuts to discretionary spending, passed in a vote of 218-199. 16 Republicans opposed the bill, and no Democrats supported it. The vote on the reconciliation bill was somewhat symbolic, however, as neither the Senate nor the President are likely to accept it.
The House also passed its first FY 2013 spending bill, which provides research funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill was approved in a 247 to 163 vote. Several amendments affecting research accounts were adopted during floor consideration, including one that would cut all funding for political science research at the NSF, one that would cut cross-agency support at NASA by $126 million to fund a Department of Justice program, and others that would reduce funding for climate change research and education at NSF and NOAA. The House did defeat a concerning amendment, introduced by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have cut $1.2 billion (17 percent!) from the NSF, in order to offset the federal deficit.
The White House has threatened to veto the CJS spending bill, given that its top line number does not comport with the overall FY 2013 number agreed to in the Budget Control Act last summer. While the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the bill, it is not clear when that bill will go to the Senate floor.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will consider FY 2013 spending this week for some defense accounts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, including its Science and Technology Directorate), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (more info below).
Also of Note
Appointments. ScienceInsider reports that Dr. Arun Majumdar, Acting Undersecretary of Energy and Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy (DOE), announced his resignation, effective immediately. Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, David Sandalow, will serve as Acting Under Secretary, while ARPA-E Deputy Director, Eric Toone, will serve as Acting Director of ARPA-E.
Nature’s news blog reports that Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy was sworn in as the new director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Appropriations. The House Appropriations Committee released the FY 2013 defense spending bill which, according to the committee press release, “contains $70 billion – $2.4 billion below last year’s level and $576 million above the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) of new defense technologies.” RDT&E includes basic and applied research, and is broken down by service (see bill text for more detail).
The House Appropriations Committee also held a subcommittee markup of the FY 2013 homeland security spending bill. The bill includes $825 for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, an almost $160 million increase from the FY 2012 enacted level. This significant increase from last year reflects restoration of significant cuts that were made to S&T during the FY 2012 appropriations process. A full committee markup is scheduled for this week.
Manufacturing. Back in January, the Administration announced a new initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). This program aims to partner research agencies such as NIST, NSF, DoD, and DOE, with industry and academia to advance manufacturing technologies in the U.S. The government issued a request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register last week, seeking input on how to shape this initiative.
Recognition. The White House and the DOE awarded the annual Fermi Prize to MIT Professor Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus and Stanford Professor and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Burton Richter. The prestigious Fermi Prize is a Presidential award administered by the DOE’s Office of Science “to honor individuals who have given unstintingly over their careers to advance energy science, and to inspire future scientists to follow their example.”
Ezra Klein writes in the Washington Post, Jeff Flake’s plan to politicize the National Science Foundation, about Flake’s efforts to stop the NSF from funding political science research. Klein accuses Flake of trying to politicize the NSF, and also shares some of his own views on public access of federally funded research. Flake responded to the piece on his Facebook page.
Reps. Bud McKeon (R-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Budget Committee, penned an op-ed entitled Military-Crippling Sequester Must Be Stopped in RealClearPolitics.com. The op-ed outlines the pairs’ concerns about cuts to the military that would occur if sequestration were to take place. In addition to defense spending, however, the piece also mentions concerns about “deep cuts to programs like the National Institutes of Health and border security, squeezing critical priorities while letting entitlement spending remain on autopilot.”
In a piece entitled Advocates warn automatic cuts would hit medical research, The Hill reports on how advocacy organizations are communicating the effect that sequestration would have on biomedical research.
If you’re interested in learning more about what the Appropriations Committees have to say about how federal research agencies should spend their money in FY 2013, I recommend visiting AIP’s FYI blog. There, you will find key excerpts of report language accompanying the DOE, NIST, NSF, and NASA FY 2013 spending bills.
For any enrolled students reading this, the Task Force on American Innovation is still looking for students to submit videos highlighting the importance of federal funding for basic research. Prizes included a visit to Washington, DC and cash. Visit the contest’s website for more information on the competition.
What’s on Deck
- The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee markup of the FY 2013 homeland security spending bill.
- The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) will hold a reception on Capitol Hill highlighting researchers from across the country that are supported by the NSF.
- The House Appropriations Committee will hold a full committee markup of the FY 2013 homeland security spending bill.
- The House Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee on hearing on Implementation of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (patent reform).
- The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee markup of the FY 2013 spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) will holding a Capitol Hill briefing on Improving STEM Outreach through Strategic Partnerships.