In this issue:
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS THE ‘AMERICA COMPETES ACT’
On January 4th, President Obama signed H.R. 5116, the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (America COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010,” which reauthorizes various programs intended to strengthen research and education in the United States related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In a December 21, 2010 blog posting, John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), laid out the significance of America COMPETES to the future of the nation’s competitiveness by noting “the bipartisan passage of the America COMPETES Act represents a major milestone on this Nation’s path to building an innovation economy for the 21st century—an economy that harnesses the scientific and technological ingenuity that has long been at the core of America’s prosperity and applies that creative force to some of the biggest challenges we face today.”
Dr. Holden continued by saying, “Whether it’s developing new products that will be manufactured in America, or getting and using energy more sustainably, or improving health care with better therapies and better use of information technology, or providing better protection for our troops abroad and our citizens at home, innovation will be key to our success. And that is exactly what the COMPETES Act is all about.” Other lawmakers also commented on the passage of the America COMPETES Act. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee stating “America has most of the best universities in the world, yet our nation is falling behind. This legislation continues an aggressive effort to preserve America’s brainpower advantage, so our high-paying jobs don’t head overseas to places like India and China. At a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment, this legislation is more important than ever. The process for putting together this legislation could serve as a model: Getting the recommendations of experts and working together step-by-step in a bipartisan way.”
ASME has supported the America COMPETES Act since its inception. For more information about the content of the bill, please see the December 27, 2010 version of Capitol Update.
Dr. Holdren’s complete posting may be read at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/12/21/competes-passage-keeps-americas-leadership-target
The legislative history of COMPETES may be viewed at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5116:http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/01/05/competes-passage-keeps-americas-leadership-target
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org*
ADVANCE CHAPTER ON BP WELL BLOWOUT INVESTIGATION RELEASED; FULL REPORT
The National Oil Spill Commission, established by President Obama in the wake of the April 20, 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, has released a 48-page chapter from the full report, which lists a number of engineering mistakes and management failures which led to the disaster. Included in those mistakes and failures are:
- Inadequate risk evaluation and management of late-stage well design decisions;
- A flawed design for the cement slurry used to seal the bottom of the well, which was developed without adequate engineering review or operator supervision;
- A “negative pressure test,” conducted to evaluate the cement seal at the bottom of the well, identified problems but was incorrectly judged a success because of insufficiently rigorous test procedures and inadequate training of key personnel;
- Flawed procedures for securing the well that called for unnecessarily removing drilling mud from the wellbore. If left in place, that drilling mud would have helped prevent hydrocarbons from entering the well and causing the blowout;
- Apparent inattention to key initial signals of the impending blowout; and,
- An ineffective response to the blowout once it began, including but not limited to a failure of the rig’s blowout preventer to close off the well.
The chapter reports that these failures were preventable. Errors and misjudgments by at least three companies -- BP, Halliburton and Transocean -- contributed to the disaster. The chapter also notes, “Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money).”
Co-Chair Bob Graham said, “The Commission’s findings only compound our sense of tragedy because we know now that the blowout of the Macondo well was avoidable. This disaster likely would not have happened had the companies involved been guided by an unrelenting commitment to safety first. And it likely would not have happened if the responsible governmental regulators had the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.”
The Commissioners will hold a press conference (media only) on the release of their full report and recommendations on January 11, 2001at 11am at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The Commission’s press conference will be streamed live for public viewing on its website, http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/
To review the 48-page chapter, please visit: http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Chapter4.pdf
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com**
MURKOWSKI KEEPS LEADERSHIP POSITION IN SENATE ENERGY COMMITTEE
This week, as lawmakers were sworn in for the 112th Congress, a number of new faces descended on the Capitol, as well as some familiar ones. Of those already acquainted to Washington, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (I-AK) stood out, mainly for her historic write-in Senate reelection victory after losing her party’s primary last year. Sen. Murkowski will now be the third independent Senator in the chamber, and despite losing her other leadership post within her former party, she has retained her Ranking Member position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had been publicly suspected of wishing to take over the Ranking Member position, but that opportunity has vanished.
Sen. Murkowski enjoys a bipartisan relationship with Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), demonstrated by their success in ushering a bipartisan energy bill out of the committee in the summer of 2009 (Please see June 19th, 2009 Edition of Capitol Update for more information). Energy advocates are likely to look to this committee as discussions begin on enacting energy policy changes.
For more information on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, please visit: http://energy.senate.gov/public/
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org**
REPUBLICAN MEMBERS, LEADERS OF HOUSE EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE
Representative John Kline (R-MN), the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee (formerly known as the Education and Labor Committee), recently announced the Republican members of that body, as well as the various subcommittee chairs. In making the announcements, Chairman Kline said “A positive vision for our classrooms and workplaces is essential to America’s economic competitiveness and long-term success. I am pleased to welcome a strong slate of new members to help shape that vision, and I look forward to their fresh perspectives as we seek to enact commonsense ideas that will support the nation’s schools and workplaces.
“Our incoming subcommittee chairs bring a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience that will be critical in our efforts to eliminate government hurdles to innovation, root out program waste and inefficiency, and improve opportunities for teachers, students, and workers.”
The subcommittee chairs are as follows:
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5), Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness;
- Rep. Phil Roe (TN-1), Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions;
- Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-52), Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education; and,
- Rep.-elect Tim Walberg (MI-7), Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
A complete listing of the majority members of the Education and the Workforce Committee may be viewed at http://edworkforce.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=217596
Melissa Carl handles science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME. She can be reached at: email@example.com *
NAE ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF THE DRAPER, RUSS, AND GORDON PRIZES
The engineering profession's highest honors for 2011, presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), recognize three achievements that led to developments in guiding cell evolution, sequencing the human genome, and better preparing students for the engineering workforce.
Frances H. Arnold and Willem P.C. Stemmer will receive the prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize, a $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society, “for directed evolution, a method used worldwide for engineering novel enzymes and biocatalytic processes for pharmaceutical and chemical products.”
Leroy Hood will receive the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, a $500,000 biennial award recognizing a bioengineering achievement that significantly improves the human condition, “for automating DNA sequencing that revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science.”
Edward Crawley will receive the Bernard M. Gordon Prize, a $500,000 award issued annually that recognizes innovation in engineering and technology education, “for leadership, creativity, and energy in defining and guiding the CDIO (Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate) Initiative, which has been widely adopted internationally for engineering education.” Half of each Gordon prize is granted to the recipient and the remainder is granted to the recipient's institution to support the continued development, refinement, and dissemination of the recognized innovation.
“The NAE is delighted to honor these awardees,” said NAE president Charles Vest. “Their contributions as engineers have advanced health and quality of life in the U.S. and around the world, and have enhanced the education of future engineering leaders. Recognizing these outstanding engineers not only rewards great accomplishments, but also shines a light on the importance of work that may inspire others to build on their achievements.”
The prizes will be presented during a black-tie dinner event at Union Station in Washington, D.C., on the evening of Tuesday, February 22nd. For additional information on each of the awardees, go to http://www.nae.edu/37757.aspx*
NASA SEEKS SPACE TECHNOLOGY GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP APPLICANTS
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking applications from graduate students for the agency's new Space Technology Research Fellowships. Applications are being accepted from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of graduate students interested in performing space technology research beginning in the fall of 2011.
The fellowships will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives through their studies. Sponsored by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, the fellowships' goal is to provide the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled engineers and technologists to improve America's technological competitiveness. NASA Space Technology Fellows will perform innovative space technology research today while building the skills necessary to become future technological leaders.
"Our Space Technology Graduate Fellowships will help create the pool of highly skilled workers needed for NASA's and our nation's technological future, motivating many of the country's best young minds into educational programs and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun. "This fellowship program is coupled to a larger, national research and development effort in science and technology that will lead to new products and services, new business and industries, and high-quality, sustainable jobs. Fellowships will be awarded to outstanding young researchers and technologists positioned to take on NASA's grand challenges and turn these goals and missions into reality."
The deadline for submitting fellowship proposals is Feb. 23. Information on the fellowships, including how to submit applications, is available at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/grants/NSTRF.html
To learn more about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and the crosscutting space technology areas of interest to NASA, please visit http://www.nasa.gov/oct
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR THE NATIONAL MEDAL OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation, formerly known as the National Medal of Technology, is the highest honor for technological achievement bestowed by the President of the United States on America's leading innovators. The Medal is awarded annually to individuals, teams (up to four individuals), companies or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to the Nation's economic, environmental and social well-being through the development and commercialization of technological products, processes and concepts; technological innovation; and development of the Nation's technological manpower.
The purpose of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation is to recognize those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological innovation, and to recognize those who have made substantial contributions to strengthening the Nation's technological workforce. By highlighting the national importance of technological innovation, the Medal also seeks to inspire future generations of Americans to prepare for and pursue technical careers to keep America at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation Nomination Evaluation Committee, an independent committee appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, reviews and evaluates the merit of all candidates nominated through an open, competitive solicitation process. The Committee makes its recommendations for Medal candidates to the Secretary of Commerce, who in turn makes recommendations to the President for final selection. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation Laureates are announced by the White House and the Department of Commerce once the Medalists are notified of their selection.
For additional information, please visit: http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2010/10_03.jsp
THE ARTICLES CONTAINED IN CAPITOL UPDATE ARE NOT POSITIONS OF ASME OR ANY OF ITS SUB-ENTITIES, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY NOTED AS SUCH. THIS PUBLICATION IS DESIGNED TO INFORM ASME MEMBERS ABOUT ISSUES OF CONCERN BEING DEBATED AND DISCUSSED IN THE HALLS OF CONGRESS, IN THE STATES, AND IN THE FEDERAL AGENCIES.
EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.