June 16, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


A House Appropriations Subcommittee recently held a budget hearing where Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), served as the key witness in order to assess the Trump Administration’s proposed FY18 budget for NSF. In this hearing, Dr. Córdova addressed the 10 big ideas of the foundation, providing examples from each scientific branch on how critical appropriate funding is to maintaining and improving the lives of all Americans.

Dr. Córdova also presented cases, such as research to create organs out of one’s own tissue: “Just imagine the lives that could be saved,” she testified. She suggests that some of the biggest discoveries yet to come are just nearly within reach. While thanking the committee for its long standing support for the agency, she urged them to remember that the trailblazing discoveries the Foundation is known for are only made possible through consistent and reasonable funding from the government.

Dr. Córdova reminded the committee members that it is “our continued goal to keep our nation at the very forefront of the global science and engineering enterprise.” Concerns during the hearing included the effect that the proposed budget would have in dramatically reducing grants for students. Funding would only provide for 8,000 grants; a 12% decrease from the previous year. She also addressed the importance of cyber security and the enormous interest and demand for it after facing questions of whether or not the progress that has already been made will be eroded if the proposed budget is implemented.

Throughout the hearing, it was made clear that global leadership through scientific and engineering advancements and discoveries is a major priority of both the Director and the Appropriations Committee.

In the Senate, the Commerce, State, Justice Subcommittee on Appropriations held a hearing on the Commerce budget for FY2018, which encompasses the work of the National Institute of Standards. During this hearing, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked about the Department’s proposal to eliminate the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which supports U.S. small and medium-sized businesses around the country. He testified elimination would result in a savings of $124 million and would eliminate $110 million in funding to the MEP centers, $4.8 million in contract support for the MEP system, and $9.3 million and a 100 percent reduction of NIST MEP federal employees who support and administer the MEP program. The $6.0 million in the FY 2018 budget will be used for an orderly shutdown of the program.

According to Senator Jeanne Sheehen (D-NH), the $130 million invested in MEP in 2016 returned $1.13 billion in federal income tax, a return of almost $9 for every dollar spent and it created or retained more than 142,000 jobs. She questioned how eliminating programs like this made fiscal sense.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) also disagreed with the administration's prioritization with regard to manufacturing. He called for strengthening small and medium manufacturing as a higher priority for our country and said that Manufacturing USA and the critical role of NIST plays is something he wanted to work on a bipartisan basis to achieve. The Senator also believes the country would be harming its competitiveness to significantly cut NIST and to abandon the Manufacturing USA.

To review the testimony from the NSF hearing, please visit: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP19/20170607/105998/HHRG-115-AP19-Wstate-CordovaF-20170607.pdf

The NIST testimony is available at: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/review-of-the-fy2018-budget-request-for-the-us-department-of-commerce


A bipartisan groups of lawmakers have made it clear that they oppose the sale of the nation’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMA). Under President Trump’s budget request for the Department of Energy, the sale of transmission assets of the Western Area, Southwestern and Bonneville Power Administrations would be allowed.

PMAs market and transmit power generated at federal hydropower dams primarily to rural electric cooperatives and public power utilities serving 34 states. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), also issued a statement opposing the Trump Administration’s privatization proposal. NRECA represents more than 900 consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives, public power districts and public utility districts in the U.S.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a bipartisan group of Senators expressed strong opposition to the privatization of the Bonneville Power Administration, serving 12 million people in the Pacific Northwest. Among those signing were Ranking Democrat of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY).

The sale of PMA transmission assets would threaten the integration of these facilities with the PMAs’ power marketing responsibilities, including investments in hydropower capabilities, flood control, navigation, irrigation, and other activities, according to the Senators.

The full letter can be found at: https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=1932CA4B-351D-4431-B8EE-67CF91CDDD2D


The House Manufacturing Caucus recently asked the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) to brief them on the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program, a program which the Trump Administration proposed to eliminate in its FY18 budget. The briefing focused on how the program delivers value to the economy and national security of the United States through the services it provides to small- and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers.
The most recent statistics on MEP performance, based on 2016 data, were presented to the audience at the briefing. According to this data, a new study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found that when applying the most conservative methods of measuring, the MEP program sees 8.71 return on investment to the U.S. taxpayer, which is significantly higher than most federal programs. According to the data, this means that the $130 million MEP program offers a return of $1.13 billion to the U.S. treasury—a net profit of over $1 billion to U.S. taxpayers.

The event was comprised of panels of economic and manufacturing experts, including representatives from individual state MEPs, MEP clients, and a representative from the Upjohn Institute. Some of the client companies focused their remarks on how a decline in MEP funding could negatively affect the national security of the U.S., offering what happened to the defense budget during sequestration as an example. During sequestration, military supply chain manufactures were hit hard by the downturn in funding. As a result, one Virginia-based company, Morphix Technologies, had to lay off 2/3 of its workforce, shifting from 60 employees to 20, and of those 20, those on the management team took no salary while they were working to protect the survival of the company. Morphix Technologies began working with GENEDGE, the Virginia MEP, and together they were able to develop a plan and identify gaps they needed to fill in order to get to new markets and survive as a company. Today, Morphix Technologies is alive and thriving as a result of their work with the Virginia MEP.

At the briefing a Rhode Island-based company, Goetz Composites, whose work with POLAIRS, the Rhode Island MEP, helped the company stay competitive in a time of mass-unemployment in the state. The MEP helped Goetz Composites to understand and manage risk by identifying which of their employees needed specific types of training, and where there were gaps that needed to be filled. As a result of these efforts, the company was able to hire 50 people in the past 2 years, 80% of which filled advanced manufacturing jobs. Additionally, of those advanced manufacturing jobs, 70% were filled by someone with no past manufacturing experience, and a majority were filled by individuals who had been previously underemployed or unemployed.

The MEP program works with small companies that are not able to invest in the type of services that MEP provides due to the very real financial and personnel constraints these small companies face. Yet, these companies are vital to the economic well-being and security of the United States. Eliminating MEP could harm our small and medium manufacturers, and thereby negatively affect our domestic supply chains capabilities, particularly in the area of national defense. As an example of the importance of small companies in the supply chain, the Rhode Island MEP representative shared that 95% of manufacturing companies in the state have less than 100 employees, and 74% have only 10-19 employees.

The briefing was recorded and ASME Government Relations will make the recording available once it has been posted.

To view the new report by the Upjohn Institute on “The National-Level Economic Impact of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP),” please visit: http://research.upjohn.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1229&context=reports


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new assessment of the costs of resuming licensing activities of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, outlining several major challenges that numerous stakeholders must address before to complete the licensing process. 

Currently, power plants in 33 states store nearly 80,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. In 2008, the Department of Energy (DOE) applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build an underground repository for this waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Due to strong political opposition in Nevada and elsewhere, the Obama Administration’s DOE reversed course in 2010 and said Yucca Mountain was no longer a workable option. DOE and NRC then took steps, such as eliminating funding and vacating NRC's custom facility for public hearings—making it harder to resume licensing in the future.

The GAO’s new report identifies four key steps that would likely be needed to resume the Yucca Mountain licensing process, including receiving guidance and rebuilding lost capabilities:

  • The Commission and parties receiving direction to resume the licensing process, and the Commission deciding on the timing and other details, so NRC and parties can identify their funding needs for the adjudication.
  • Rebuilding organizational capacity, including, as needed, recruiting personnel to recreate DOE's, NRC's, and nonfederal parties' project offices; obtaining legal, scientific, or other experts for the adjudication; and rebuilding physical infrastructure. Also at this step, DOE and NRC may need to update key documents used for the licensing process.
  • Reconvening the parties and completing the remaining phases of the adjudication, including witness depositions and evidentiary hearings.
  • Carrying out the process's remaining steps, including the Commission's final decision on whether to authorize construction of the repository.

To read the full report, visit:  https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-340


On June 26, the National Academy of Sciences will hold a forum on regenerative medicine that covers research and development of gene and cell therapies, tissue engineering, and non-biologic constructs. With the increased growth in this field, there are unique regulatory and manufacturing challenges in the development of therapies due to the reliance on living cells and tissues. Such reliance adds complexity to the manufacturing and scale-up process that is not found in the manufacturing of non-biologic products.

During the public workshop, there will be an exploration of what measurements, characteristics, and technologies may be important in the development of new regenerative medicine products and therapies. Using existing examples of manufacturing of early generation regenerative medicine products, the attendees will discuss how progress could be made in identifying and measuring critical quality attributes as well as designing and adhering to standards to help in the navigation of the scale-up process from a research laboratory to the manufacturing environment.

To attend the event and to learn more, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/yagdkge6

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:
*Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee Calls for the Establishment of a Director for Nuclear Energy
*Building Blockchains in Energy Markets
*Study Finds Manufacturers are Profiting from the IoT
*Renewable Energy Push is Strongest in the Reddest States

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