July 14, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


This year Kushi Sellahennedige was selected as an intern for the Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE) after being a proud ASME member for eight years. The ECLIPSE program is for early career engineers to participate in the growth of ASME by participating in highly visible leadership and volunteer roles. During her orientation which was held in Washington DC, she met with fellow interns (current and future) and prepared for upcoming congressional visits (associated with the Symposium event mentioned below) to have a seat at the table with policy decision makers.

This year, the congressional visits had a great deal of impact on her (as a fellow engineer and ECLIPSE intern) since President Trump had just recently proposed his ‘skinny’ budget. His proposal consisted of cutting research funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, all of which have a strong impact on the future of science and engineering.

Read the full article here: http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/asme-eclipse-intern-goes-to-washington/


Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) the committee’s ranking member, recently introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA). The bill is the successor to last year’s broad, bipartisan energy legislation, and was placed directly on the Senate calendar for expedited floor consideration.

The ENRA features eleven titles, including efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy issues. The bill aims to promote energy savings in the economy, expand supply, promote innovation, modernize and secure the electric grid, boost energy trade globally, bolster the energy workforce, reauthorize certain conservation programs, facilitate better management of federal lands, and minimize risks from natural hazards and disasters.

“It has now been a full decade since Congress has passed legislation to modernize and reform our nation’s energy and resource policies,” Sen. Murkowski said. “We came very close to achieving that goal last year, and have continued to work with our congressional colleagues and a wide range of stakeholders to write another strong bill. This stands not only as an opening for bipartisan accomplishment, but more importantly, as a significant opportunity to boost our economic growth, improve our infrastructure, enhance our security, and bolster our global competitiveness—results that we all support and should be working toward.”

“Our energy infrastructure is under attack and we need the tools to fix it right now,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Our bipartisan legislation will not only help modernize our energy infrastructure, but secure it from extreme weather, climate change, and serious cyber threats. I am looking forward to continuing to refine this legislation through robust debate and then sending it to the President’s desk.”

For more information on S. 1460, please visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1460/text


The Energy Information Agency (EIA) recently convened its annual conference in Washington D.C, featuring panels and exhibits about the latest energy technologies and trends in the energy industry. The conference included a series of discussions about the opportunities and challenges for energy suppliers and consumers, and shared expert insight with more than 900 energy stakeholders from across the United States.

Chairman Greg Walden of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee provided a keynote speech, where he said that a new President means that Congress will need to write a new energy bill to reflect the President’s ambitious energy agenda. Walden noted that the Senate’s bipartisan legislation from the last Congress, recently re-introduced in the Senate (see story above), marks a starting point for discussion, but that House Republicans want to see more of their energy policy priorities included in any final bill.

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry also spoke of his charge to “make America energy dominant.” Secretary Perry proposed that this can be done without harming the environment and that the administration wants develop a true all-of-the-above strategy – including growing the renewable energy industry as well as boosting other energy resources. During his speech, he announced that DOE will soon issue a report on regulatory burdens challenging baseload energy providers.

To see more details from the conference, including speaker presentations, visit: https://www.eia.gov/conference/2017


The House Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee recently released a draft of its spending bill for FY18. The draft allocates funds to agencies such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The legislation encourages NASA to prioritize planetary science and astrophysics over earth science while holding funding for NSF’s research grants and education programs flat. NOAA is expected to suffer a much deeper cut through this year’s bill; receiving funding just under $5 billion. This is a substantial reduction of $710 million from the FY17.

Subcommittee Chair John Culberson (R-TX) reported that the CJS Subcommittee received a $54 billion discretionary funding allocation. Even though this allocation is roughly $2.6 billion less than the amount allocated for the FY17, it is still $4.8 billion more than what was requested by the Trump administration. While the Republicans in the House still have not agreed on a formal framework for the budget for FY18, the House Appropriations Committee has capped non-defense discretionary spending at $511 billion. The Committee capped defense discretionary spending even higher at $621 billion. The Trump administration’s requests were significantly lower at $462 billion and $603 billion, respectively.

The proposed bill is set to provide NASA with $19.87 billion in addition to $5.86 billion for its Science Mission Directorate (SMD). According to Chairman Culberson, the bill provides NASA with the highest funding level in its history. He added in his statement that “NASA has been overloaded with too many missions and not enough funding,” for far too long. Though the Trump administration had previously called to terminate the Office of Education, this proposal was rejected by the Subcommittee. Though the bill is expected to cut $10 million from its budget, it would still maintain level funding for the Space Grant program as well as the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The bill will also maintain funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account at $6 billion, rejecting the $672 million cut proposed by Trump. Funding for the NSF’s Education and Human Resources program will be also be maintained at $880 million.

NIST will be saved by the Subcommittee from the full cuts proposed by the Trump administration. However, as in the previous year, the subcommittee is proposing a cut of roughly 10 percent to the Agency. The distribution of these reductions will be different from the previous fiscal year. NIST’s science and manufacturing programs are expected to see the heaviest cuts. The Agency’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program would receive $100 million, $30 million below current levels, but $100 million more than the Administration’s request, which proposed the elimination of the program. The Manufacturing USA program funded in part by NIST would receive $5 million from the NIST budget, $10 million below the Administration’s request. Funding for NIST’s laboratory programs would also fall to $660 million, $30 million below the FY17 levels.

To learn more about the bill, go to: https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394951

Note: The Full Appropriations Committee marked-up the CJS bill on Thursday, July 13, which occurred after Capitol Update goes to press. Updates will be reported in the next edition of Capitol Update.


ISHOW (Innovation Showcase) is devoted to facilitating hardware social entrepreneurs, some of whom are engineers, and their inventions on their journey to make tremendous social impacts. This showcase has continuously provided a platform for hardware social entrepreneurs to compete as well as cultivate their products, companies, and ideas. The benefits of the event extend far beyond the monetary prizes. Finalists are exposed to various experts in manufacturing, marketing, and more.

This year, the grand-prize winners of the ISHOW USA were BioLite’s HomeStove, PlenOptika’s QuickSee, and Evaptainer’s EV-8 Cooler. A special award was presented to Project Vive for their Voz Box and Team Sixth Sense was named “Fan Favorite” for their Sensory Feedback for Lower-limb Prosthesis. The ISHOW USA, held June 22nd in Washington D.C. at the District Architecture Center, was the last ISHOW competition of the year, and ten teams competed to be finalists.

The ISHOW USA finalists presented prototypes of their innovations to a panel of judges and advisors that included entrepreneurs, academics and founders of venture-funded startup companies. The three grand-prize winners will not only share in more than $500,000 in cash prizes, but also customized technical support and extensive design and engineering review of their products. Each grand-prize winner met the trend of scaling their hardware to emerging markets.

The first grand-prize winning team, BioLite and their HomeStove, started 11 years ago in 2006. The team set out to design a clean cookstove that would not be dependent on fossil fuels or batteries. By 2009, the team had developed a fully functioning prototype that not only achieved their goal of being the world’s cleanest cookstove, but it was also able to generate electricity while remaining financially viable. Their business model of “Parallel Innovation” retails their product in two distinct markets. First they work in emerging markets for families living in energy poverty. Second, they work in commercial markets for outdoor enthusiasts seeking off-grid energy solutions. These two markets are made to interconnect as the company reinvests the revenues from their outdoor recreation market to build a commercially sustainable emerging markets business.

PlenOptika’s QuickSee team was the second grand-prize winner. The team developed the QuickSee to make eyeglass prescriptions more attainable for billions of people worldwide. The QuickSee is a low-cost handheld device that enables anyone to provide accurate eyeglass prescriptions in 30 seconds. The product replaces the need for eye experts and extensive training in rural and slum areas where access to accurate eye care is limited.

The third grand-prize winner was Evaptainers with their EV-8 Cooler. Similar to the BioLite cookstove, Evaptainers’ EV-8 Cooler is capable of selling to both the commercial and emerging markets. The design of the low-cost mobile refrigerator that runs on water is ideal for low income, off grid families that are unable to afford a conventional refrigerator.

More information about the ASME IShow can be found at: www.thisishardware.org


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently launched a competition – the 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge -- to spur breakthroughs in treating blinding diseases.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of NIH, opened the first stage of a federal prize competition designed to generate miniature, lab-grown human retinas. Over the next three years pending availability of funds, NEI plans to offer more than $1 million in prize money to spur development of human retina organoids.

In the stage I ideation stage of the challenge, the aim is to generate innovative ideas that can later be turned into concrete concepts. Ideas and the application of new technology, as well as participants from diverse fields such as vision research, stem cell biology, material science and 3 D printing, are being sought. Running until August 1, 2017, the total prize purse for the ideation stage is $100,000.

In stage II, the development will require demonstration of a functional retina organoid prototype. This stage is planned to launch in fall 2017 and is expected to offer $1 million in prize money. 

Full details of the 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge prize competition are available: https://nei.nih.gov/3DROC


For nine years, the General Accountability Office’s has conducted an annual look at the status of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) major projects. In May, it released its ninth report that describes (1) the cost and schedule performance of NASA’s portfolio of major projects, (2) the maturity of technologies and stability of project designs at key milestones, and (3) NASA’s progress in implementing initiatives to manage acquisition risk and potential challenges for project management and oversight.

GAO found that projects are being executed within their cost and schedule estimate, and there are plans to spend in FY2017 over $6 billion on 22 major projects. There is also an overview of NASA’s planning and execution of key projects across mission areas, such as the Space Launch System for human exploration, Mars 2020 for planetary science, and Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) for Earth science. Of the many NASA projects, GAO found that the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System were the two most expensive projects with likely cost overruns, due to the phase of development when cost and schedule problems are most likely to occur.

Nonetheless, there’s been continuous improvement in NASA’s major project portfolio cost and schedule performance even with NASA projects experiencing late design changes. Project management tools are being used to manage acquisition risks- but like many organizations, there are workforce and funding challenges.

GAO has made recommendations to NASA in the past and NASA has generally agreed but still has not acted on all of them. For example, NASA has not implemented a best practice for monitoring contractor performance, a November 2012 recommendation.

The full report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-303SP

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:
*ASME Eclipse Intern Goes to Washington
*The U.S. No Longer Has One of the Top Three Fastest Supercomputers
*South Korea Scraps Plants, Signals Shift from Nuclear Energy
*Manufacturing in U.S. Settles In at Solid Pace of Expansion

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