June 23rd, 2013, by Amanda Arnold  

Week in Review, or Assuming Away Sequester

During this week’s G8 Summit of world leaders, the group developed an updated stance on nuclear weaponry and signed onto an Open Data Charter to enhance sharing of government-held data under the banner of increasing government transparency and accountability globally.

Meanwhile back home, the Senate released their version of the FY 2014 302(b) allocations, which not surprisingly conform to the Senate budget resolution passed in March at the overall level of $1.058 trillion. This level is $91 billion more than the $967 billion plan governing 302(b) allocations on the House side.

To refresh your memory, the House plan for 2014 conforms to the spending caps imposed by the 2011 debt limit law (PL 112-25) at the $967 billion level for discretionary funding ($498 billion for defense and $469 billion for domestic programs). However, the Senate version assumes Congress will repeal sequester and allows the higher budget number of $1.058 trillion ($556 billion for defense and $506 billion for domestic programs) for the purposes of FY 2014 budget planning.

When compared, the largest discrepancy between the Senate and House budget allocations is in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill where the Senate committee allocated $164.3 billion, about $43 billion over the House allocation of $121.8 billion. As a result of the $91 billion discrepancy, all 12 funding bills get higher allocations from the Senate than from the House.

While both the House and Senate are working on FY 2014 appropriations bills, it is unclear how this $91 billion chasm will get resolved. Regardless, the final months of FY 2013 will no doubt be rocky with significant differences between the House and Senate continuing to unfold.

Also of Note

Agriculture. The five-year Farm bill, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947), widely expected to pass during a House floor debate on Thursday, failed by a recorded vote of 195 to 234. While Democrats complained of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Republicans argued the reductions did not go far enough.

The World Food Prize was awarded this week at the U.S. State Department for the work of three scientists – Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States – on the early development of modern agriculture biotechnology.

Appointments. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz tapped Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists for over 10 years, to be his chief of staff.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) will fill the late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s seat on the Appropriations Committee.

Budget/Appropriations. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development passed a funding bill this week that would essentially end DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, cutting funding from the current level of $252 million to just $50 million, an 80% cut. Reasons cited for the cuts included overall need to decrease federal government spending and the assertion that the applied research undertaken by ARPA-E should be done by the private sector.

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2014 spending bill for USDA agencies, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA is marked at $1.278 billion under the Senate bill, an increase of $134 million compared to the FY 2013 post sequestration level and $76 million more than FY 2012.

Education. Reactions to the Executive Branch STEM education consolidation efforts are heating up with Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) this week leading a Senate Dear Colleague Letter requesting the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee counter efforts to alter the future of STEM education programming at NOAA, NASA, and NSF for FY 2014. The Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to mark up their bill in mid-July.

Energy. Three diverse think tanks in DC including the Center for American Progress, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, and Heritage Foundation jointly released a report, Turning the Page: Reimagining the National Labs in the 21st Century Innovation Economy, arguing for greater autonomy from the government for DOE’s National Labs.

The Center for American Progress and Science Progress released a joint report this week, Fulfilling the Promise of Concentrating Solar Power, outlining low-cost incentives to spur innovation in the solar power market.

Environment. The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, addressing the fact that countries are not meeting the OECD goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama is expected to announce a plan on Tuesday to combat climate change. According to a video and related information released Friday, the plan will include a call for more new energy research, as well as include cutting carbon emissions from power plants and expansion of the production of renewable energy on public lands.

Health. NIH announced the first round of grants for a new program this week through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules (New Therapeutic Uses) is a pilot program to mine molecular compounds previously discarded by industry that show significant promise for diseases like Alzheimer’s.

OSTP released the National Biosurveillance Science and Technology Roadmap this week to address biosecurity threats. The roadmap was put together by the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Homeland and National Security and builds on the National Strategy for Biosurveillance, released July 2012.

And, finally, enjoy the song stylings of NIH Director Francis Collins as he croons the “sequester blues.”

Immigration. The Congressional Budget Office released reports Tuesday indicating that the Senate Immigration legislation, which enhances the ability of universities to train and keep STEM graduates, would actually lower the deficit over the next ten years.

Research. On Tuesday, the Science, Space and Technology Committee merged the Subcommittee on Research with the Subcommittee on Technology.  Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN) will serve as Chairman of the merged subcommittee and MIT alumnus and Freshman Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) will serve as Vice-Chair. The committee will oversee the National Science Foundation, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

The first of the 2013 Golden Goose Awards was announced this week for Wallace H. Coulter, the inventor of the Coulter Counter, which is a fundamental innovation in blood analysis that Coulter identified while researching paint adherence for the Office of Naval Research.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAA&S) released a report this week, “The Heart of the Matter:  The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation,” calling for greater investment in research and education in the humanities and social sciences.  The study was requested by four Members of Congress:  Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA), and Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and David Price (D-NC).

AAAS released its annual AAAS Report XXXVIII: Research and Development FY 2014 on Tuesday.

Space. According to SpacePolicyOnline, comments at a House Science Committee hearing on the House draft NASA Authorization bill last week indicated little support for NASA’s new asteroid mission, renewed support for commercial space, and an effort to consider expanding the use time of the International Space Station.

NASA announced a new Grand Challenge this week, to find asteroids on a collision route with the earth, and released a Request for Information (RFI) on the larger Asteroid Mission Program.

In Print

John Schwartz writes about Bill Nye’s foray from science education to science advocacy for The New York Times in Firebrand for Science, and Big Man on Campus.

The student leaders of Stand With Science published an article this week, Students Calling for Robust Federal Science Funding, in The Journal of Science Policy & Governance.

Lynh Bui writes for The Washington Post in Report: Humanities, social science education needed for innovation along with STEM.

Mark Buchanan quotes Albert Einstein for Bloomberg News in Who Created the IPhone, Apple or the Government?

Lawrence Krauss writes for Slate’s Future Tense blog about politicians grappling with basic science in Mandating Scientific Discovery Never Works.

What’s on Deck

Tuesday (6/25)

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee markup of the FY 2014 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.
  • The Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC) will host the 2013 Science & Technology Leadership Forum on National Lab User Facilities. Contact ratienza (at) ISTCoalition.org for more information.

Wednesday (6/26)

  • The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a full committee hearing From the Lab Bench to the Courtroom: Advancing the Science.
  • The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a full committee hearing on Health Care Quality: The Path Forward.
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Restoring U.S. Leadership in Weather Forecasting, Part 2.
  • The House Committee on the Budget will hold a full committee hearing on America’s Energy Revolution: A New Path to Jobs and Economic Growth.
  • The House Science and National Labs Caucus and the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) will host the 2013 Scientific Research Facility Exhibition.

Thursday (6/27)

  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will be holding a full committee markup for the FY 2014 Appropriations Bills for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies and Energy and Water Development.
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Green Buildings – An Evaluation of Energy Savings Performance Contracts.





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