January 11, 2019
Capitol Update

In this issue:


APPLY FOR A 2019-2020 ASME CONGRESSIONAL FELLOWSHIP! OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE IN ENERGY, BIOENGINEERING AND ADVANCED MANUFACTURING

Since 1973, ASME has sponsored over 100 Federal Fellows providing them with an opportunity to serve a one-year term in the Administration or U.S. Congress. Fellows serve as independent, non-biased advisors in engineering, science and technology, bringing a nonpartisan, pragmatic approach to analysis and input which has a profound impact on the decision making process. The result is effective and technologically appropriate public policy based on sound engineering principles.

Applications for our “2019-2020 ASME Congressional Fellowships” are now being accepted until January 31, 2019. Applicants for these Fellowships must have a strong background in energy, bioengineering and/or advanced manufacturing.

General information about the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program is available at https://www.asme.org/about-asme/get-involved/advocacy-government-relations/federal-fellows-program

To apply, please visit: https://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations/federal-fellows-program/energy


ASME HOSTS CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING HIGHLIGHTING CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING ROBOTICS IN THE UNITED STATES

ASME recently sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight “Robotics in the Manufacturing Environment: An Insider’s Look at Advanced Technologies in the United States”. The event was cosponsored by The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, the Computing Research Association, IEEE-USA, and the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), and convened in conjunction with the Congressional Robotics Caucus and the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The purpose of the briefing was to inform Members of Congress and congressional staff on what industry leaders are doing to prepare for the future adoption of robotics technologies in the manufacturing environment.

ASME brought together a panel of leading experts in the field of robotics to share their thoughts and insights on opportunities and challenges facing the future of manufacturing robotics, as well as how government, industry and universities are collaborating to ensure the U.S. maintains leadership in robotics.

ASME Executive Director Tom Costabile kicked off the event with welcoming remarks. He discussed the importance of embracing technological advancements in manufacturing robotics while remaining mindful of its effect on the American workforce. ASME President Said Jahanmir echoed this sentiment, noting that, “As we continue to see a rise in the integration of robotics and automation technology into our daily lives, it’s important to understand that along with the ease and benefits this technology provides, it also comes with its share of challenges.” He then introduced Congressmen Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rob Woodall (R-GA), co-chairs of the Congressional Robotics Caucus, who discussed the importance of partnerships between the manufacturing, education and workforce development sectors.

Dr. Byron Clayton, chief executive officer of the Manufacturing USA Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, began the panel discussion with a presentation addressing a challenge that is prevalent within the world of engineering: workforce development. He commented that an increasingly common issue for many employers today is that students are coming out of school ill-prepared for the workforce, which includes a lack of understanding and knowledge of codes and standards. Dr. Clayton commented that this leaves many fearing that an increased presence of robots in the workplace will nullify the need for the American worker in the future, but that this worry can be diminished with adequate preparation as robots and human workers are most effective when they support one another and work in tandem.

Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and the Robotic Industries Association, (RIA), followed Dr. Clayton’s presentation. In his remarks, Burnstein pointed out that automation and robots in factories is not a new phenomenon. He stressed that robots have been in factories for more than 50 years, and that the technology was pioneered right here in the U.S, but that U.S. leadership in robotics technology is rapidly waning. Burnstein noted that the U.S. is no longer among the top five technologically advanced countries and is currently ranking behind countries such as Korea, Japan, and Germany. One factor these more technologically adept countries share is that they have ardently embraced robots for some time. China too is now rapidly ascending through the ranks thanks in part to government initiatives and programs that specifically call for industry to embrace robots. Burnstein cautioned that if the U.S. fails to get on board with robots in the workplace, its rank among technologically advanced nations will only continue to decrease.

Following Burnstein’s presentation, Milton Guerry, president of the customer- and industry-focused SCHUNK USA team, presented to the audience. Guerry began by showing examples of robot prototypes that have been developed to work in conjunction with workers and keep them safe in factory settings rather than replace them in their job functions. He elaborated on points made by Burnstein, explaining that, “Robotics is a technology that is keeping us competitive.” He went on to say that China is deploying robots at an astounding rate, with the worldwide supply of robots projected to grow by 65 percent from 2016 to 2019 by 65 percent, and while the U.S. is playing a part, other economies are playing a significantly larger role and reaping the benefits.

Dr. Charles Thorpe, dean of the School and Arts and Sciences at Clarkson University and co-chair of the ASME Robotics Public Policy Task Force, rounded out the panelists with some closing remarks. Dr. Thorpe previously served as an ASME Federal Government Fellow in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as assistant director for Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics as part of the White House team that created the National Advanced Manufacturing Initiative. In discussing the need to embrace these new technological advances, Thorpe said, “We talk a lot in [Washington, D.C.] about whole-of-government efforts. This can’t be a whole-of-government effort, this has to be a whole-of-country effort.” He stressed the need for strong public-private partnerships, with federal, state, and local governments working in conjunction with industry and academia to strengthen the United States’ overall research and development (R&D) efforts, and embrace advanced robotic technology.

Following the briefing, Tom Costabile met with a bipartisan group of engineers and engineering champions in Congress to discuss a wide range of issues important to ASME. Along with his longtime friend, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Costabile also met with Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Tom Reed (R-NY), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Rob Woodall (R-GA) to discuss a myriad of topics ranging from scientific integrity, clean energy and manufacturing, as well as standards in the robotics industry and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

During these visits, Costabile also stressed the importance of ASME’s Federal Government Fellowship program which provides engineers with the opportunity to serve in the Executive or Legislative branches of government for one year. The offices of Reps. Lipinski and Reed – currently hosting ASME Congressional Fellows Laurel Kuxhaus and KC Morris, respectively – expressed their deep appreciation for the program and their eagerness to host more Congressional Fellows in the future.


GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN IMPACTS RESEARCH COMMUNITY

The current government shutdown occurred after stopgap funding for roughly 75 percent of the government expired and congress failed to reach a consensus on President Trump’s request for $5.6 billion to construct a wall along the Southern U.S. border with Mexico on December 22, 2018. Should the shutdown last through Saturday, January 12, this will be the longest government shutdown to date. With a government shutdown, any employees deemed “nonessential” are not permitted to work or check their government email accounts.

Fortunately, there are a few agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) remain open despite the shutdown. These agencies remain open as they are funded either partly or entirely through legislation that was not part of the December 22 debate.

Several other science agencies that have been affected are continuing their work in a limited scope. The New York Times explains that NASA is still providing “tracking, operation and support” for the International Space Station, while the Fish and Wildlife Service has essential caretakers continuing to report to work.

The shutdown has meant furloughed employees are absent from many laboratories, the field and science conferences currently taking place. The shutdown also means that most grant reviews are on hold, meaning no further grant or contract funds are currently being distributed. Consequently many projects that operate on grants are at risk of running out of funding and unable to continue should the shutdown continue.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman designate Nita Lowey (D-NY) recently submitted legislation to reopen the government and fund those agencies currently in limbo through the end of fiscal year 2019. “Responsibly funding the federal government is one of the most important duties of Congress. This legislation fulfills that responsibility, reopens federal agencies shuttered by the Trump Shutdown, and ensures that the federal government is working for the American people,” Chairwoman-elect Lowey said in a recent statement. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that he would not schedule a vote on a new funding deal that the president does not support. In a recent Cabinet meeting President Trump was confident that an agreement could be reached between Democrats and Republicans, but also noted that he was willing to keep the government shut down “as long as it takes” to get the requested $5.6 billion for the wall.


NATIONAL QUANTUM INITIATIVE ACT IS SIGNED INTO LAW

President Trump recently into law the National Quantum Initiative Act. The bill calls for the implementation of a National Quantum Initiative Program that will establish a set of goals and priorities for a 10-year plan that that will augment and ameliorate U.S. quantum information science and technology applications. The plan itself encompasses several federal agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Within the NQIA’s directives, NIST is mandated to carry out “specified quantum science activities” such as hosting a workshop to discuss the new and evolving needs of the burgeoning QIS industry. DOE is mandated to implement a basic research program on QIS, as well as create a slew National QIS Research Centers to support this research. NSF is mandated to carry out similar activities through executing both research and education programs centered around QIS and engineering. These programs are to be supported through grants establishing Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education.

Click here to view the NQIA in full: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6227


DR. KELVIN DROEGEMEIER IS CONFIRMED AS DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The United States Senate recently confirmed Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). President Trump announced Dr. Droegemeier’s nomination this summer, and it was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee with no issue. Dr. Drogemeier is a meteorologist with strong ties to the National Science Foundation (NSF), serving as deputy director of the NSF Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS), cofounding the NSF Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, and serving for 12 years on the National Science Board. Following his nomination, National Science Foundation Director France Cordova expressed her pleasure with the announcement, stating “I am grateful that such a champion of basic research has been selected for this important role.”

The role of OSTP is to advise the president on science-related issues as they pertain to the country’s economy, national security, foreign relations and environment. The office was formed over 40 years ago and sits under the Executive Office of the President. Prior to Dr. Droegemeier’s confirmation, OSTP had been without a director for 712 days reports the American Institute of Physics. The previous head of OSTP to serve under President Obama was John Holdren, who served for eight years. Since President Trump assumed office, the role of de facto OSTP director was filled by Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Assistant to the President, Michael Kratsios.

During his confirmation hearing Dr. Droegemeier listed three specific priorities to guide his tenure at OSTP:

  • A coordinated and comprehensive portfolio of Federal science and technology initiatives across the whole of government.
  • An education framework to produce a capable and diverse workforce essential to America’s future, covering K-12 schools, career techs, two- and four-year colleges, and America’s preeminent research universities.
  • Initiatives and new models of public-academic-private partnerships that move scientific research outcomes out of the lab and into the economy more quickly and efficiently.
In addition to his previous experience working with and supporting the federal government, Droegemeier also brings with him a strong sense of excitement to the new role, “What I love most about OSTP is that it measures its success not by what it does, but rather by the extent to which America succeeds because of it.”


PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS NEW LAW PROMOTING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS

President Trump recently signed into law the Innovations in Mentoring, Training and Apprenticeships Act. The bill, first introduced to Congress by the House Science Committee last year, directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer research grants and further support STEM education and STEM-related workforce development. The legislation was introduced last congress and sponsored by former House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy, and is looking to build on the U.S’s STEM capabilities. The bill specifically states that “To remain competitive in the global economy, foster greater innovation, and provide a foundation for shared prosperity, the United States needs a workforce with the right mix of skills to meet the diverse needs of the economy.”

The legislation’s directives include provisions authorizing the use of NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate for the following grants:

  • Grants for Associate Degree Programs in STEM Fields;
  • Grants for STEM Degree Applied Learning Opportunities
  • Grants for Computer-Based and Online STEM Education Courses
Examples of specific provisions within each of these grants include the authorization of a minimum $5 million per year over the next four years designated to community colleges to “develop or improve” their associate degree and certificate programs in STEM areas. Another provision a minimum $2.5 million per year over this same four year period to support universities that partner with employers to “that commit to offering apprenticeships, internships, research opportunities, or applied learning experiences” to students interested in completing a four-year STEM degree.

To view the bill in full, click here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5509

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