January 20, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


DOD ANNOUNCES ROBOTICS MANUFACTURING INSTITUTE AS AWARD RECIPIENT

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, recently announced in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes, the Defense Department’s award of its eighth department-led institute and the 14th Manufacturing USA institute to American Robotics, Inc., of Pittsburgh.
“Our adversaries and potential adversaries are designing weapons systems aimed directly at defeating U.S. capabilities,” Kendall said, “particularly power-projection capabilities.”

To maintain the United States’ technical superiority, he added, “The department requires investments and advanced [technologies] to shape the capabilities of innovation … and timely acquisition of our nation’s defense systems for tomorrow. … It’s for that reason the Manufacturing USA Program has been so important to DOD.”

Robotics are increasingly necessary to achieve the level of precision required for defense and other industrial manufacturing needs, but the capital cost and complexity of its use often limits small to mid-size manufacturers from using the technology, DOD officials said. The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) institute’s mission is to create and deploy robotic technology by integrating the diverse collection of industry practices and institutional knowledge across many disciplines. These disciplines include sensor technologies, end-effector development, software and artificial intelligence, materials science, human and machine behavior modeling, and quality assurance to realize the promises of a robust manufacturing innovation ecosystem. 

The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) will be led by CEO Dean Bartles, a longtime ASME Industry Advisory Board member, and operate on agreed-upon financial support of about $80 million in federal funding and $173 million from cost-sharing. The ARM team is comprised of 123 industry partners, 40 academic institutions and 64 non-profit and government entities who will collaborate to meet present and future challenges on multiple DOD platforms and improve our warfighters’ ability in the field using both manned and unmanned teams.

To read more about ARMI, please visit: http://www.arminstitute.org/


Editor’s Note: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who holds a B.S. in civil engineering, was inadvertently left off the list of U.S House of Representatives’ members with engineering degrees in January 20th edition of Capitol Update.” We regret this error.

MEET THE ENGINEERS IN THE 115TH CONGRESS

The Congressional makeup typically does not have a high number of members with engineering or scientific backgrounds. ASME conducted an analysis of the 115th Congress and found that there are two Senators who have engineering backgrounds: Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), who earned his B.S. in chemical engineering in 1984; and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) who earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1995. 

In the House, there are ten Members with engineering degrees, but some listed below went on to get advanced degrees in business and law and did not practice engineering prior to their Congressional career:

You can learn more about the demographics of the 115th Congress at the following link:
http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/party-diversity-gap-to-remain-in-115th


CYBERSECURITY- HIGH PRIORITY ISSUE IN ENERGY DEPARTMENT QUADRENNIAL REVIEW

The Energy Department has urged the 115th Congress to bolster national security and cybersecurity protections for the electric grid in the department's Quadrennial Energy Review, the final major report issued under Secretary Ernest Moniz. Calling for improved cybersecurity and for the advancement of clean energy technologies, there are a total of 76 recommendations for policy changes that call for executive branch changes or congressional action.

“Congress should hurry and implement the elements of the QER specific to giving DOE the authority it needs" to strengthen the grid's resiliency and defenses against hackers,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said at an event unveiling the report. Specifically, the report said Congress should amend Federal Power Act authorities “to clarify and affirm that the electricity system — from bulk power to the distribution — is a national security asset, making its protection a fundamental federal responsibility and called for an emphasis on the federal government’s abilities to address potential threats to the grid, including cyber threats, electromagnetic pulses and even extreme weather. It is expected that some of the QER recommendations will be included in President Trump’s infrastructure bill, a silver lining to a stalled comprehensive energy bill from the last Congress.

To read the report issued in January, please visit: https://energy.gov/epsa/downloads/quadrennial-energy-review-second-installment


PROGRESS MADE FROM SUNSHOT INITIATIVE, MORE PROGRESS BY 2030

With support from the SunShot Initiative started in 2011, solar has moved from less than 0.1% of the U.S. electricity supply to supplying more than 1% of U.S. electricity demand. The focus of the SunShot Initiative was to make solar electricity cost-competitive with conventionally generated electricity by 2020. To date, there has been solid progress with the solar industry being more than 90% of the way to achieving SunShot’s original 2020 cost target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar power, dropping from about $0.23 to $0.07 per kilowatt-hour.

By 2030, the goal of SunShot is to cut the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from utility-scale solar by an additional 50% between 2020 and 2030 to $0.03 per kilowatt hour. At $0.03 per kilowatt-hour, electricity from utility-scale solar would be among the least expensive options for new power generation and it would be below the cost of most fossil fuel-powered generators.

For more information, please visit: https://energy.gov/eere/sunshot/sunshot-2030


ENCRYPTION WORKING GROUP FINDS WEAKENING ENCRYPTION IS AGAINST OUR NATIONAL INTEREST

ENCRYPTION WORKING GROUP FINDS WEAKENING ENCRYPTION IS AGAINST OUR NATIONAL INTEREST
Members of the bipartisan encryption working group, established in March 2016 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), laid out key observations and next steps after extensive meetings with a variety of federal, state, and local government entities, former government officials, private industry and trade associations, civil society organizations, consultants and legal experts, academia, and cryptographers.

The encryption working group’s recently released report concluded that encryption is inexorably tied to our national interests and has complicated the missions of the law enforcement and intelligence communities. However, common ground must be found because it is our collective responsibility: to prevent crime, protect national security, and create the conditions for peace and prosperity. 
Below are key observations of the report.

  1. Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest.
  2. Encryption technology is a global technology that is widely and increasingly available around the world.
  3. The variety of stakeholders, technologies, and other factors create challenges with respect to encryption and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the encryption challenge.
  4. Congress should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies.

The full report can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2hQMtth

On a related note, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is coordinating a group of cybersecurity advisers for President Trump. The Washington Post article can be found at: http://wapo.st/2k55qMQ


NEW GAO REPORT RELEASED ON THE FEDERAL GRANT MERIT-REVIEW SELECTION PROCESS

A recent General Accountability Office (GAO) report 17-113 entitled,Grants Management: Selected    Agencies Should Clarify Merit-Based Award Criteria and Provide Guidance for Reviewing Potentially Duplicative Awards, looks at how federal agencies decide who should receive grants. The focus was particularly on the design and implementation of the merit-based review process at parts of the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture.

In responding to Congress, GAO developed recommendations on how to improve transparency in the grant merit-review process. These recommendations included: written guidance be given on all competitive grant programs to clarify in the public notice of funding opportunity all the review criteria, including cost sharing factors, and their related scores used to make final award decisions and providing written guidance be provided to ensure grant management staff review grant applications for potential duplication and overlap before making awards.

Read the full report here: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-113

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