February 12, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


On January 14th, ASME Government Relations hosted a webinar on “Federal Government Fellows: Technology Intersecting Policy and Politics,” highlighting a current ASME Congressional Fellow and a former ASME Congressional Fellow. ASME Fellows are placed in positions in the Legislative and Executive Branches to provide technical and engineering expertise to government officials. Established in 1973, the ASME Federal Government Fellows Program has placed over 100 fellows in Congress and the Administration and is now sponsoring fellows at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation institutes as well.

Kalan Guiley, Chair of the ASME Committee on Government Relations, hosted the webinar and provided information about the fellowship program and current opportunities. The webinar spoke to the accomplishments and challenges associated with the fellowship and provided an engineer’s view of government processes.

Participants heard from Briana Tomboulian, ASME’s 2015 Congressional Engineering Fellow, who served in the office of Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), and Stephen Lehrman, who served as ASME’s 2006 Congressional Engineering Fellow for Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and, after his fellowship, went on to fill a full-time staff position in the office of Senator Pryor. 

This webinar is a resource for all those thinking about applying for an ASME Federal Government Fellowship and for those looking to gain a better understanding of the federal policymaking process.

To view the archived webinar, please visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center (PPEC, ppec.asme.org) or click the following link: https://engage.vevent.com/index.jsp?eid=2434&seid=1395. Type in your e-mail in the login box and then click “Register Now.”


On February 9th, the Obama Administration unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request. The Budget provides $152 billion for R&D overall, a $6 billion or a four 4 percent increase from 2016 enacted levels. Within the total R&D investment, the Budget provides $73 billion for basic and applied research, a $4 billion or six percent increase from 2016 enacted levels. Following is a summary of selected budget highlights for key research performing agencies.

National Science Foundation (NSF): The request calls for $7.96 billion for NSF, an increase of $500 million or 6.7 percent over FY 2016. Research and Related Activities would receive $6,425 million, an increase 6.5 percent. The request includes $176 million for advanced manufacturing that leverages both disciplinary and topical mechanisms to advance knowledge for the production of novel products through processes that depend on the coordination of information, automation, computation, networking, or other emerging scientific capabilities.

Department of Energy (DOE): The request totals $32.5 billion for DOE, focusing on increasing investments for clean energy research and development. The Administration seeks to double clean energy R&D funding in five years, with most funding managed within the DOE. The request includes:

  • $5.7 billion to support fundamental research at DOE’s Office of Science, a 6 percent increase. This includes funding for high energy, nuclear, and plasma physics; materials and chemistry; biological systems and earth system components; and mathematics—as well as crosscutting high-performance computation and simulation;
  • $2.9 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 40 percent increase;
  • $1.5 billion in mandatory funding in FY 2017 for clean energy technology development and deployment; $1.3 billion for advanced clean transportation; and

$500 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): The request would increase NIST’s budget $1.0 billion, a 5.3 percent increase. The budget again requests additional funding to expand the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes by providing $42 million to launch two new institutes in 2017 and continue operations of the first Department of Commerce led institute. The Budget proposes an additional $1.9 billion in mandatory funding for an additional 27 institutes, completing the President’s vision for a network of 45 institutes over the next ten years.

Other highlights:

  • $3.0 billion in STEM education programs, maintaining the 2016 enacted funding level. The Budget funds the President’s Computer Science for All initiative to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science in school with $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts.
  • $12.5 billion for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Science & Technology program and $3.0 billion for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The request includes $137 million to support the nation’s manufacturing innovation institutes, including one focused on flexible hybrid electronics.
  • $19.0 billion for NASA, including $790 million, a 23 percent increase, for aeronautics research programs.

Additional detailed information may be viewed at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/.

Go to: http://livestream.com/aaasorg/events/4769723 to see an archived video of the Administration’s Research and Development (R&D) budget rollout.


On February 4th, the Research & Technology and Oversight Subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a joint hearing on recommendations made in a recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report, National Science Foundation: Use of Cooperative Agreements to Support Large Scale Investment in Research. The hearing focused on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) project management for large-scale projects, and NSF provided testimony.

On December 17, 2015, NAPA released its final report which offered 13 specific recommendations. The study committee found that while cooperative agreements are an appropriate mechanism for NSF to support large-scale research facilities, several reforms would strengthen the oversight of these projects. The panel found that the critical factor for the success of these types of projects is a combination of project management discipline, a rigorous review process, and capacity and capability of a skilled workforce to carry out and oversee project management responsibilities. The study panel analyzed practices at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science to provide lessons learned and identify practices that could be adopted by NSF.

The recommendations included:

  • Four recommendations for bolstering NSF’s ability to detect and address potential cost issues prior to release of award funds, strengthening internal controls of contingency funds, improving cost estimating and rigor in the process, and eliminating the potential for inappropriate use of federal funds through management fees.
  • Two recommendations for improving transparency and adding more rigor in how the NSF and NSB work together to enable mission accomplishment and perform management oversight, and to clarify and codify roles, responsibilities, and working relationships.
  • Seven recommendations for ensuring that external review panels and the NSF Director are being advised by individuals with expertise in managing large projects and cost estimating, as well as bolstering the authority of the Large Facility Office (LFO) to help manage projects across the Foundation, and requiring that project managers have the skill capabilities to successfully manage projects.

Detailed information on the hearing is available at https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/subcommittee-research-and-technology-and-subcommittee-oversight-hearing-review.


Renewable energy was the biggest source of new power added to U.S. electricity grids last year as falling prices and government incentives made wind and solar increasingly viable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Developers installed 16 gigawatts of clean energy in 2015, or 68 percent of all new capacity, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said in its Sustainable Energy in America Factbook (http://www.bcse.org/sustainableenergyfactbook.html) released on February 4th with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. That was the second straight year that clean power eclipsed fossil fuels.

The biggest growth came from wind farms, with 8.5 gigawatts of new turbines installed as developers sought to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was due to expire at the end of 2016; Congress extended it in December.

Demand for energy, meanwhile, flatlined in the U.S. last year, holding steady even as the gross domestic product grew 2.4 percent, BNEF said. Since 2007, U.S. energy consumption has dropped 2.4 percent while GDP has grown by 10 percent.

U.S. clean energy investments rose to $56 billion last year, up 7.5 percent from 2014. The majority, $30.2 billion, went to solar. Investors pumped $11.6 billion into wind energy and $11.1 billion into technology to improve grids, boost efficiency, develop storage systems, and other ways to better manage power usage.

Power from natural gas-fired plants accounted for 25 percent of capacity added to grids last year. Nearly one third of all electricity in the U.S. is now generated by gas, putting it nearly on par with coal.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is announcing that its FY 2016 Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) is open. The “Phase I” FFO will close on April 14, 2016. SBIR is a competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federally funded R&D opportunities that have the potential for commercialization. Phase I is used to determine the technical feasibility of the research. Awards of up to $100,000 are given.

The FFO describes 19 specific technologies for development under the following broad categories:

  • Advanced Sensing for Manufacturing
  • Throughput Biomanufacturing
  • Cryptography and Privacy
  • Cyber Physical Systems
  • Lab to Market
  • Materials Genome
  • Quantum-based Sensors and Measurements

The complete FFO is available on the Grants.gov website under grant opportunity 2016-NIST-SBIR-01 at http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281304.

For more information, please visit the NIST SBIR program website at http://www.nist.gov/tpo/sbir/.


On Wednesday, the House debated and passed H.R. 3293 – Scientific Research in the National Interest Act sponsored by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith(R-TX). The legislation passed with 236 ayes, including 7 Democrats, and 178 noes, including 4 Republicans. The vote was largely cast on party lines.

The legislation would require recipients of National Science Foundation grant funding to justify research as “in the national interest,” based on a definition related to NSF’s mission and founding charter. The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Smith, says the measure is necessary to “ensure that our investments fund the highest quality basic research in science that serves our nation’s interest.” While the Congressman believes the bill aims at greater transparency and accountability in science funding, some in the science community warn that the bill may hinder the scientific merit review process arguing that science delivers the best societal outcomes when it operates largely independent of political direction.

Even before debate began on the House floor, President Obama threatened to veto the legislation. In a statement put out by the White House, it said, “from promoting the progress of science in the United States, it would replace the clarity of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 with confusing language that could cast a shadow over the value of basic research which, by its nature, will have outcomes with contributions to national interests other than the progress of science which cannot be predicted in advance.” 


Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
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Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations