June 15, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to conduct oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this week. For the first time in almost a decade, all five FERC commissioners – Chairman Kevin McIntyre, Cheryl LaFleur, Neil Chatterjee, Robert Powelson, and Richard Glick – testified before the committee.

Committee Chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) opened the hearing noting that there have been a number of significant changes in the energy sector since the last time the full Commission was before the committee, citing the shale gas revolution, the increasing role of renewables, and advances in energy storage innovation. Murkowski also highlighted the need for robust energy infrastructure. 

Questions surrounding the retirements of nuclear and coal-fueled electric generation were prominent in the hearing. Commenting on the President’s proposal to force grid operators to purchase electricity from coal and nuclear plants in order to address what the White House calls a national security threat to the stability of the electric grid, Murkowski offered that, “In my view, FERC should be pointing the way on policy improvements that address grid vulnerabilities, while reaffirming our commitment to competition in wholesale power markets. I have been concerned about this issue for years now, and find it unfortunate that prior Commissions did not lead more effectively.”  Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) was more direct, noting that she viewed the President’s directives as an attack on the independence of FERC and a private sector led energy sector itself. 

In January, FERC unanimously rejected DOE’s initial proposed rule which would have provided special support for coal and nuclear power plants. Asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) whether they believed the U.S. faced a national security emergency in wholesale power markets because of the closures of coal and nuclear plants, none of the FERC Commissioners answered in the affirmative; four of the five members were appointed by President Trump. 

To view full witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing, visit:  https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=4B7691CA-CA57-4742-B756-43897ABF55BE


ASME joined with leading experts in industry and government this week to convene a briefing for congressional staff on the value of commercial nuclear technology exports. Participating organizations included the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration (ITA), Westinghouse, Curtiss-Wright, the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and experts from across the nuclear industry. 

Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing at the ITA, emphasized the strategic importance of nuclear technology exports and the Trump administration’s commitment to ensuring the U.S. nuclear industry is well positioned to compete internationally. According to Department of Commerce figures, the U.S. could capture up to $58 billion in export potential as demand for low-carbon energy ramps up in the coming decades. ITA’s Civil Nuclear Energy Top Markets Report details the growing demand for nuclear power technologies worldwide and, with it, new export opportunities for U.S. companies.

Continuing the theme of export market potential, Graham Cable, Vice President of Global Growth & Strategy for Westinghouse, explained that overseas nuclear projects have a major impact domestically because an average of $400 million in U.S. exports are generated for each $1 billion spent on overseas nuclear projects. Westinghouse is currently building four nuclear power plants in China, the only current international U.S. reactor sales project. Carol Berrigan, Senior Director for Supplier Policy and Programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute, matched these export figures to jobs, which are estimated as supporting approximately 475,000 U.S. jobs and almost $60 billion in U.S. GDP.

Other speakers highlighted the importance of nuclear technology partnerships in foreign policy, arguing that U.S. industry is faced with a large amount of state-owned enterprise competition that aims to meet growing demand over the next 20-30 years. Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, now a partner in Pillsbury-Winthrop’s energy practice, concluded the briefing with recommendations for policymakers ranging from support for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, advancing international technology agreements, and investment in Department of Energy research on advanced reactor design and new fuel technologies. 

ITA’s 2017 Top Markets Report on civil nuclear technologies is available at:  https://www.trade.gov/topmarkets/pdf/Civil_and_Nuclear_Top_Markets_Report_2017.pdf  


The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently approved by voice vote H.R. 5906, “The ARPA-E Act of 2018”. The legislation, sponsored by Science Committee Vice Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson, establishes policy for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program. ARPA-E is a government agency created in 2009 that falls under the Department of Energy. It is responsible for promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies for the creation and simulation of clean, affordable energy. President Trump had proposed eliminating the program in his Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request, but Congress chose instead to give it a $47 million increase to $353 million.

The ARPA-E Act of 2018 seeks to expand the work of ARPA-E, and invest resources towards developing science and technology solutions to ongoing energy, economic and national security challenges.

During the hearing in which Committee members voted on the bill, Vice Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) stated, “With the right mission goals and management, I believe ARPA-E’s innovative approach can build on the basic science and early-stage research at the department and help fast track new technologies that will grow our economy.”

To view the bill, click here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5906/text?r=78


Over the past year, MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight conducted a series of roundtables with industry experts and thought leaders to gather perspective on the current state of American manufacturing, including the “grand challenges” facing the sector. These roundtables were carried out in an effort to identify ways in which both the public and private sectors can help strengthen the foundations of U.S. innovation and manufacturing. The findings of these discussions are now being shared in the recently released report “Manufacturing Prosperity: A Bold Strategy for National Wealth and Security.”

As stated in the report, “Maintaining the trajectory of recent decades—a shrinking manufacturing base and large trade deficits in advanced technologies—will result in a second tier industrial economy, unable to maintain superiority in defense or global economic leadership.”

Grand challenges that must be addressed include:

  1. Rebuild the Industrial Commons
    The United States has lost fundamental production skills and capabilities—the Industrial Commons—in many industries. This has meant the loss of entire industrial sectors over time, with noticeable impacts on the national innovation system. Production can provide competitive advantages that are difficult to replicate. Maintaining domestic manufacturing capabilities is essential to retaining the know-how needed to produce next generation technologies and to meet critical defense production.
  2. Convert national R&D to national wealth and security
    Leading the world in R∓D spending is not sufficient to ensure prosperity. Technologies invented here are being licensed, sold, or given away to manufacture overseas, which, in effect, is subsidizing R∓D for other countries. Results of R&D should be strategically nurtured to create new products, including defense-critical technology products that are made in America at commercial scale to generate wealth, jobs, and exports.
  3. Lead emerging industries
    To ensure future economic strength and defense superiority, the United States must have a leadership position in emerging industries such as autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing, bio-manufacturing, energy storage, advanced materials, and quantum computing, to name a few. Dependence on foreign suppliers is creating defense vulnerabilities and significant long-term costs.

To ensure future economic strength and defense superiority, the United States must have a leadership position in emerging industries such as autonomous vehicles,  additive manufacturing, bio-manufacturing, energy storage, advanced materials, and quantum computing, to name a few. Dependence on foreign suppliers is creating defense vulnerabilities and significant long-term costs.

The report states that bold steps are needed to ensure that these challenges are met quickly and aggressively.  It provides recommendations on critical next steps, which include establishing additional Manufacturing USA institutes to rebuild foundational manufacturing know-how while, at the same time, advancing capabilities in platform manufacturing technologies for multi-industry applications.

To view the full report, click here: http://mforesight.org/download/7817/  


As the U.S.’s global R&D leadership continues to be called into question, Innovation Imperative, a group of nine of America’s largest corporations have come together to issue a call to action for Congress. “Innovation: An American Imperative” beseeches Congress to “enact policies and make investments to ensure that the United States remains the global innovation leader.”

Innovation Imperative recently released a progress report on their efforts. Included in the report is an overall status update on federal support of U.S. innovation in 2018. Under this topic, the report also examines the status of more specific initiatives such as the need to stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing, achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and streamlining or eliminating costly and inefficient regulations.

For further information about Innovation Imperative, and to view the most recent status report, click here: http://www.amacad.org/content/innovationimperative/


Despite recent efforts to bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at all educational levels, a skill gap persists between what skills are needed at the professional level, and what students are learning in school. In the first of a series of reports, STEMConnector joins the conversation that has become a top legislative priority for the Department of Education with its report, “The State of STEM: Defining the Landscape to Determine High-Impact Pathways for the Future Workforce.” This comes following the Trump administration’s directive to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last year to prioritize high-quality STEM education, instructing her to spend at least $200 million per year in existing grant funds on that priority.  Secretary DeVos followed suit, including STEM in its list of priorities for competitive grant programs.

The report does a deeper dive into the specific types of gaps that exist within the STEM field—including a comprehensive look at what is a “talent gap”— and how to address them. Specific gaps that are examined include those in fundamental skills, postsecondary pathways, geography, demographics, and students’ self-perception. In addition to this analysis of current gaps, the report provides its own contribution to the greater dialogue happening at all educational levels of how to address these issues.

“It was encouraging to learn through this research that employers, educations, and others are generally aligned on an overall goal of STEM talent development-to create and harness both personal and economic opportunity,” explained report author Erin White, Senior Director of Product Development and Research at STEMConnector. “State of STEM creates a common framework action and investment to achieve that common goal.”

To view the full report, click here: https://www.stemconnector.com/stemconnector-releases-state-of-stem-report/

To view the Trump administration’s STEM funding directive to Education Secretary DeVos, click here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-secretary-education/

To view the Education Secretary’s list of priorities for competitive grant programs, click here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/03/02/2018-04291/secretarys-final-supplemental-priorities-and-definitions-for-discretionary-grant-programs  

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

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

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.