December 2, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


In a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, the CEOs of 29 national scientific and engineering societies called for the speedy appointment of a science advisor and demonstrated their willingness to work with the new administration to address national challenges involving engineering, science and technology.

The letter reads, “On behalf of the U.S. scientific, engineering, and higher education community we are looking forward to working with you, as 45th President of the United States, and your administration.

As President you will face a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from protecting national and energy security, to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness, curing diseases, and responding to natural disasters. These challenges share one thing in common: scientific knowledge and technological expertise to address them successfully.

For this reason, we urge that you quickly appoint a science advisor with the title of Assistant to the President for Science and Technology who is a nationally respected leader with the appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills necessary for this critically important role. This senior level advisor can assist you in determining effective ways to use science and technology to address major national challenges. Moreover, this individual can coordinate relevant science and technology policy and personnel decisions within the executive branch of government.

The economic benefits of advancements in science, technology and innovation have been well documented, estimated by leading economists to have accounted for approximately half of U.S. economic growth over the last fifty years. Past government investments in the U.S. scientific and technology enterprise have fueled our economy, created new jobs, and ensured our global competitiveness and national security. At the same time, these investments have enabled the development of a system of U.S. research universities and national laboratories unmatched in the world.

We know that one of your top priorities will be to focus on ensuring that the U.S. economy remains strong and continues to grow. If we are to maintain America’s global leadership, and respond to the economic and security challenges currently facing the nation, we must build on our strong history of federal support for innovation, entrepreneurship and science and technology…”

To read the entire letter, please visit:


AAAS recently collaborated with ASME and several other scientific, engineering and higher education institutions to release a new report on federal research and development funding issues, Science and Technology in Congress FY 2017.

Research and development continues to be of vital importance and the federal government’s role remains substantial. This report is intended to foster understanding of those mechanisms among the science and engineering community and provide a record of key policy questions. For example, there are discussions over facilities and disciplines funded at the National Science Foundation; science and exploration priorities for NASA; recent support for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health; and surveys of policy and funding debates in advanced computing, mechanical engineering and other topics.

ASME contributed Chapter 18, which focuses specifically on mechanical engineering research and development, a multidisciplinary field involving physics, mathematics, material science, electronics, and other scientific disciplines. ASME Industry Advisory Board Chair Thomas Gardner, Jr., Ph.D., P.E. was the primary author. Chapter 18 provides a snapshot of potential--not dedicated--sources of funding for mechanical engineers, and lays out the trends in federally-supported mechanical engineering-related R&D with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing, energy, industrial partnerships and technology commercialization.

To review the AAAS report, visit:


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) understands the challenges businesses face in protecting their data and systems, and is reaching out especially to small businesses on cybersecurity with a new report entitled, Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals.

“Businesses of all sizes face potential risks when operating online and therefore need to consider their cybersecurity,” said Pat Toth, lead author. “Small businesses may even be seen as easy targets to get into bigger businesses through the supply chain or payment portals.” The guide is written for small-business owners not experienced in cybersecurity and explains basic steps they can take to better protect their information systems.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60 percent of small companies close down within the six months following a cyberattack.

This publication will help businesses to do a risk assessment to understand their vulnerabilities, help them to identify the information they store and use, determine its value, and evaluate the risk to the business and customers if its confidentiality, integrity or availability were compromised.

To review the NIST report, please visit:


An Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety, established in the wake of 2015’s natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon site, issued a new report intended to help reduce the risk of future incidents. Co-chaired by Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); and Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the report,  Ensuring Safe and Reliable Underground Natural Gas Storage, analyzed the nation’s more than 400 underground natural gas storage wells and pursued three primary areas of study: well integrity at storage facilities, public health and environmental effects from leads, and energy reliability.

The results were 44 recommendations to industry, federal, state, and local regulators and governments to reduce the likelihood of future leaks. Key recommendations included:

  • New wells should be designed so that a single point of failure cannot lead to leakage and uncontrolled flow, and except under limited circumstances, natural gas storage operators should phase out single point-of-failure wells.
  • Operators should adopt risk management plans that include a rigorous monitoring program, well integrity evaluation, leakage surveys, mechanical integrity tests and conservative assessment intervals.
  • In the event of a natural gas leak large enough to require multiple jurisdictions in the response effort, a “unified command” should be formed early so that leaders from each primary response agency can provide clear and consistent communications between agencies and with the public about progress toward controlling the leak and understanding the potential public health impacts of the release.
  • States and local monitoring agencies should consider establishing an emergency air monitoring plan that can be expeditiously deployed in the event of a leak.

The full report is available at:


The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have developed a technology that allows the sensation of touch directly in the brain through a neural interface system connected to a robotic arm. The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

Man has been using artificial limbs since anywhere from 950 to 710 B.C. made from wood and leather. Through this new endeavor, four microelectrode arrays were placed in a man’s brain, two in the motor cortex and two in the sensory cortex regions that correspond to feeling in his fingers and palm. The wires ran from the arrays to his robotic arm. The artificial arm contains torque sensors that detect when pressure is applied to its fingers, and converts these physical “sensations” into electrical signals that the wires carry back to the arrays in the man’s brain to provide a precise pattern of stimulation to his sensory neurons.

To learn more, go to:


A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report RS21339 delves into the historical background of preparing for the incoming 115th Congress and also speaks to more recent changes in the process of educating a new Congress.

From the beginning of the first Congresses, winners of Congressional elections came from the colonies to take the oath of office. Initially, there was no formalized method of providing newly elected Members the knowledge they needed to understand the legislative process, how to manage an office budget, or how to hire staff among other things. On the job training has now been replaced with more formal training. The thinking is that our national issues have become more numerous and complex, and there is an increased urgency for Members to be quickly up to speed.

Currently, educational sessions are offered to not only Members, but their staff too. They are sponsored by the political party’s caucus and conferences, campaign committees, the House Administration and Senate Rules and Administration Committees, CRS, and others. Industry groups and scientific and engineering societies like ASME are also preparing to meet the incoming Members and to provide them with educational background information about issues such as energy and manufacturing.

During the organizational session, class officers will be selected as well as regional representatives to steering and policy committees. Office assignments will be made, and often the Chairmen of committees will be elected as well as a roster of Committee members. The Committee assignments are still subject to official ratification at the start of the new Congress on January 3, 2017.

The CRS report is available at:

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036