July 28, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE’S MANUFACTURING ENGINEERING EDUCATION GRANT PROGRAM

On July 25, ASME sponsored a Congressional briefing on the Department of Defense’s Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program, held in the U.S. Capitol with over 120 attendees. The House and Senate Manufacturing Caucuses hosted the panel discussion with subject matter experts on how the Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program will work to strengthen the U.S. economy and national security, while safeguarding the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Dr. Said Jahanmir, ASME President-nominee, provided welcoming remarks, and Dr. Thomas Kurfess from Georgia Institute of Technology, who also serves as an ASME Manufacturing Public Policy Task Force Co-Chair, moderated the briefing. Panelists included Brennan Grignon from the Department of Defense, Dr. Laurie Leshin from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Dr. Laine Mears from Clemson University, Stephen Ezell from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), and Denise Peppard from Northrop Grumman Corporation.

The Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program was signed into law in December 2016 as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), thereby authorizing the Department of Defense to support industry-relevant, manufacturing-focused, engineering training at U.S. institutions of higher education, universities, industry, and not-for-profit institutions. Grantees are selected through a competitive process on the merits of better aligning their educational offerings with the needs of modern U.S. manufacturers.

This new program has great potential to strengthen national security and increase economic competitiveness by improving and modernizing the U.S. industrial base. Through this program, students, technologists, and manufactures will be better equipped to manufacture U.S. military equipment and technology domestically, protecting and securing the future of the American Warfighter. The Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program will not only strengthen the U.S. military’s capabilities, but will also allow the U.S. to compete against other nations economically as well.

In the area of advanced manufacturing, the U.S. is currently competing commercially against a range of European and Asian nations for global innovation advantage in areas of advanced manufacturing. Countries such as Germany and Austria, who dedicate a larger percentage of their economy to manufacturing (23 percent and 19 percent respectively) than the United States (12 percent) are pursuing several workforce development initiatives that call for revamping engineering curriculum and workforce training opportunities to better align manufacturing and engineering education more closely with the current and future needs of industry.

The briefing has been recorded and will be posted on the House Manufacturing Caucus website in the coming weeks at this link: http://housemanufacturingcaucus-reed.house.gov/115th-congress-events


BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT PROPOSES ROLLBACK OF FRACKING RULE

On March 26, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published in the Federal Register a final rule entitled, “Oil and Gas: Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands” (2015 final rule). The BLM this week proposed to rescind that final rule because the agency argues it is unnecessarily duplicative of state and some tribal regulations and imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other costs on the oil and gas industry. The agency’s new proposed rule would return the affected sections of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to the language that existed immediately before the effective date of the 2015 final rule.

In addition to proposing a rollback of the rule, the BLM is suspending implementation of the provisions of the rule that have not yet gone into effect. The BLM published its final rule on November 18, 2016, with some provisions going into effect in January 2017 and others in January 2018. The rule is intended to limit the loss through venting, flaring or leaks of natural gas from oil and gas production on public and Indian lands. 

Upon publication of the rule, two industry groups (Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America) and three states (Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana) asked the courts for judicial review, and that litigation is now pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.  The Administrative Procedures Act provides that when “an agency finds that justice so requires” it may postpone the effective date of regulatory provisions not already in effect, pending judicial review.  The Secretary of the Interior has received written requests from the Western Energy Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute to suspend or postpone the compliance dates.

The BLM is accepting comments on the new proposed rule or on the supporting Regulatory Impact Analysis or Environmental Assessment on or before September 25, 2017. The full Federal Register notice is available at:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/07/25/2017-15696/oil-and-gas-hydraulic-fracturing-on-federal-and-indian-lands-rescission-of-a-2015-rule


SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING COALITION URGES CONGRESS TO LIFT BOTH DEFENSE AND NON-DEFENSE CAPS

A coalition representing 500 combined scientific and engineering organizations and universities is urging Congress to lift both defense and non-defense budget caps that are constraining federal spending on science and engineering. In a letter to House and Senate leadership dated July 18, the bipartisan coalition, of which ASME is a member, stated that the nation needs to maintain robust federal investments in America’s innovation enterprise and called for a reaffirmation of commitment to scientific and engineering research by crafting a budget agreement that raises the spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs.

In recent years, Congress has passed bipartisan legislation, such as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which raised the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and gave Congress the flexibility to better prioritize the nation’s federal spending and avoid automatic sequestration budget cuts. As fiscal year 2018 approaches and BCA budget caps come back into effect, Congress must agree to a new budget plan in order to avoid over $6 billion in automatic spending cuts that would hit many popular domestic programs, include science and engineering research.

To read the letter in full, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/PS-17-13-FY18-Coalition-Bipartisan-Budget-Agreement-Letter.pdf


NIST HAS FLEXIBILITY IN ADJUSTING ITS PROGRAMS TO ACHIEVE A 13 PERCENT REDUCTION IN ITS LAB PROGRAMS

Acting National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Kent Rochford recently presided over a meeting providing a general update on recent news and policy developments at NIST, which included welcoming the new Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) members and describing how NIST developed its fiscal year 2018 budget request.

With regard to the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, NIST still has some flexibility when it comes to proposing which programs are to be cut in order to achieve a 13 percent overall reduction to its laboratory programs. During the meeting, there was discussion around the set of prioritization criteria that NIST directors were using to apply cuts, such as cutting into external grant programs, activities that have reached technological maturity, projects with less need for NIST’s leading-edge measurement science capabilities, and projects that have insufficient resources to support a critical mass of effort.

VCAT members encouraged NIST to improve its outreach efforts to communicate the role NIST has in science and engineering and the impact of its work on the lives of Americans. By doing so, that might allow less budgetary pressures in the future.

More information about this meeting can be found: https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2017/06/12/1._rochford_-_nist_update.pdf

 


HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON POWERING AMERICA: EXAMINING THE STATE OF THE ELECTRIC INDUSTRY THROUGH MARKET PARTICIPANT PERSPECTIVES

The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently met to examine the state of the electric industry and the energy market. The hearing covered concerns ranging from sustainable energy’s reliability on the grid, to cybersecurity, to the effects of low wholesale prices on the power sector.

Alex Glenn, Senior Vice President of State and Federal Regulatory Legal Support of Duke Energy Corporation, said in his testimony that Duke would like to see a reduction of costly delays associated with critical infrastructure projects, an update on the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) to enable utilities to serve customers at the lowest cost, and enhanced cybersecurity by amending the Safety Act to expressly include cyberattacks. Glenn also addressed the difficulty of working with the government on cybersecurity, due to delays in attaining security clearances, and the challenges that energy projects can face in the industry. Specific challenges included Duke Energy’s Catawba-Wateree Hydro project, whose application for a new license was submitted in 2006 but took longer than nine years before its review was completed by the federal government.

Other witnesses called for the reexamination of PURPA, because federal and state policies have led to substantial growth in renewable energy in many places with deleterious effects on some baseload energy suppliers. This growth has made many of PURPA’s requirements obsolete and created new challenges for the industry.

The full hearing and witness testimony is available at: https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings-and-votes/hearings/powering-america-examining-state-electric-industry-through-market


HEARING EXAMINES FISCAL YEAR 2018 FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION BUDGET REQUEST

The recently appointed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, recently testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The hearing specifically pertained to the agency’s fiscal year 2018 budget request. Senators from both parties on the subcommittee emphasized their commitment to working with Dr. Gottlieb and the FDA to ensure the continuation of high performance from the agency. During the hearing, there was a major concern surrounding the $854 million reduction in the administration’s discretionary budget. The proposed 34 percent cut raised questions regarding the administration’s ability to perform its essential functions with such limited funding.

When asked by the subcommittee if the FDA would be capable of meeting the needs it had been met in fiscal year 2017, Dr. Gottlieb stated that the administration will have to focus on doing more with less. Dr. Gottlieb assured the subcommittee that the FDA “can always be more efficient but we do appreciate the funding that we have already been given.”

The FDA which regulates products that include human and animal drugs, medical devices, biologics, such as vaccines and blood, dietary supplements, and cosmetics, continues to face many challenges. These include addressing the opioid crisis, the importation of drugs from other countries, lowering health care and prescription drug costs, producing more effective risk- based tools and policies, and medical product safety. In light of these issues, Dr. Gottlieb testified that the medical products field is advancing quickly and the FDA needs the resources to keep pace. The fiscal year 2018 budget recalibrates how the agency finances medical product review work, calling for an increase of $1.2 billion in user fees. The fiscal year 2018 budget includes a total program level of $3.2 billion for medical product safety investments, which is $505 million above the fiscal year 2017 continuing resolution level. The budget finances the full cost of FDA pre-market review through user fees. These resources will dramatically increase the agency’s capacity for pre-market review, and bring more new products to market quicker.

The fiscal year 2018 budget also calls for the creation of a special team to clear out the backlog of orphan drugs requests, i.e., requests made by a sponsor for drugs that treat rare diseases. The team will have 90 days to fully complete addressing the backlog of these drugs. In order to increase efficiency, a new policy will require that all orphan drugs will have 90 days before their sponsors must be provided with a response. The Commissioner also stated that though the opioid crisis is a challenging and multifaceted public health emergency, new regulations and addiction research are being explored in order to assess how best to address the issue.

In regard to the explosion of drug prices and the extreme lack of generic drug equivalents, Dr. Gottlieb argued that more targeted drug policies are needed in order to close loopholes that are currently being exploited by private companies blocking generic brands from attaining medicines.

For more information, please visit:

https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/review-of-the-fy2018-food-and-drug-administration-budget-request

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
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/asme-eclipse-intern-goes-to-washington/
*The U.S. No Longer Has One of the Top Three Fastest Supercomputers
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/the-u-s-no-longer-has-one-of-the-top-three-fastest-supercomputers/
*South Korea Scraps Plants, Signals Shift from Nuclear Energy
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/south-korea-scraps-plants-signals-shift-from-nuclear-energy/
*Manufacturing in U.S. Settles In at Solid Pace of Expansion
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/manufacturing-in-u-s-settles-in-at-solid-pace-of-expansion/

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