June 2, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


As a follow-up to the May 26 edition of Capitol Update, this issue will provide an additional analysis of the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget request. In the request, NIH receives $26.92 billion, a $7.16 billion (21 percent) reduction from the FY17 level. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) summary, 1,946 grants would be lost as a result of this $7 billion cut. If this reduction was enacted, it could essentially wipe out NIH’s previous budget-doubling from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The NIH budget also:

• Proposes the elimination of the Fogarty International Center and transfer of $25 million to the Office of the Director to support international research;
• Moves the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from HHS to NIH and renames it the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality with a budget of $272 million to support health services research; and
• Institutes a uniform 10 percent cap on indirect costs for all NIH grants, which is detailed in the accompanying “Major Savings and Reform” budget document.

The largest cut in dollars for FY18 would be made at the largest of NIH’s 27 centers and institutes: the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which would be cut by $1.031 billion and $838 million respectively.

As Members of Congress likes to say, it is Congress that has the power of the purse; not the White House. The proposed NIH cuts could be largely ignored on Capitol Hill, especially since Congress recently approved increasing NIH’s budget by 6%, or $2 billion, for the remainder of FY17.

“I can say NIH will remain a priority in my budget, and we’re going to do everything we can to stay on the course we’re on—which is predictable and modest increases in funding,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, told Vox.

The proposed FDA budget would increase user fees by $1.306 billion or 68% from FY17, to $3.22 billion. This would account for nearly two-thirds of the agency’s total budget, up from 42.5% in FY16.

Higher user fees may also be a non-starter on Capitol Hill, as the Wall Street Journal reported that “Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, told HHS Secretary Tom Price in a letter that the user fee hikes were ‘an interesting proposal’ but ‘way too late to have an impact on this year's agreements, which have been negotiated over the last 2 years’ with biopharma and other FDA-regulated industries.”

The full FY18 funding request for NIH is now available at: https://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/br.html


In FY18, the Trump Administration has proposed $5.65 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a $2.4 billion—or 30 percent—cut from last year’s budget of $8.05 billion. In addition, only $397 million is provided for EPA S&T programs, which is a 44 percent cut from the FY17 level of $714 million. If these cuts are enacted, the EPA workforce would be reduced by approximately 3,700 FTE.

Overall, there would be a ‘savings’ of $983 million from the eliminated programs, which include a number of Indoor Air and Radiation programs, the GHG Reporting Program, the Homeland Security Critical Infrastructure Protection program, Water Quality Research Support Grants, all Geographic Programs, and a host of other programs.

It is unclear how supportive Congress will be of these cuts, since they only reduced EPA’s budget by one percent in FY17 and no staffing cuts were made. In FY17, President Trump had proposed to cut EPA’s budget by 31 percent and eliminate 3,200 staff positions.

To review the full EPA request, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy2018


In FY18, National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $6.65 billion, an $841 million reduction. While this funding would mean approximately 8,000 new research grants, this is still roughly a 10 percent reduction of new grants from FY16. In terms of research grants, the estimated funding rate would fall to funding only 19 percent for research grant proposals submitted to NSF, down from 21 percent in FY16.

Specific cuts to NSF major accounts include:

  • $5.36 billion for Research and Related Activities (11 percent cut)
  • $761 million for Education and Human Resources (14 percent cut)
  • $183 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (13 percent cut)

During the NSF budget rollout, Director France Córdova said, “While tough choices had to be made, you'll see that we are continuing to selectively invest in fundamental research and talented people who make the innovative discoveries that will transform our future. We've carefully looked at all our programs and taken the approach to reset some of our investments closer to the levels you would have seen in NSF's budget a decade ago. NSF remains committed to our mission - to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense. With this proposed budget, we will continue that vital work.”
The Engineering Directorate (ENG) would receive $833 million, which would be a nine percent cut from FY16.
The NSF budget is available at: https://nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2018/index.jsp


The Research and Technology and Oversight Subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a joint hearing to examine the indirect costs of research that are currently being funded by science and engineering Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation. In this hearing, the Subcommittees addressed various questions, including whether the scope of the costs claimed by grant recipients is reasonable and whether the government’s method of setting indirect cost rates through institution-by-institution negotiation is sound.

After suggesting that there has been a recent expansion in overhead costs, Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) raised questions on whether the amounts that are being funded are excessive and if they are being used appropriately. The argument made by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) advised the subcommittees to understand that indirect costs should not be used in an attempt to justify such major cuts to research funding. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also addressed the recent claim made by Tom Price, the Health and Human Services Secretary, which stated that reducing indirect cost funding has the potential to pay for proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health budget with minimal harm to research.

To review the hearing’s witness testimony or view an archived webcast, please visit: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/joint-research-and-technology-and-oversight-subcommittee-hearing-examining


House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) recently introduced the STEM Opportunities Act of 2017, which “directs the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to carry out programs and activities to ensure that Federal science agencies and institutions of higher education receiving Federal research and development funding are fully engaging their entire talent pool, and for other purposes.”

In introducing the bill, Ranking Member Johnson said, “The need for full engagement in STEM by women and underrepresented minorities goes beyond enabling individuals to fulfill their dreams of becoming a scientist. Our economic future relies on what we do now to nurture the STEM talent that will be necessary to meet the demands of an increasingly technological and knowledge-based economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that STEM employment is the fastest growing sector, with computer science and engineering jobs among the fastest growing STEM occupations.”

ASME President, K. Keith Roe, P.E. agreed, saying, “By improving the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the STEM workforce, the U.S. can leverage the diversity of these individuals to fuel the innovation necessary for our global competitiveness, as well as meet the challenges of a changing world.”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

To read more about the bill and see other endorsements, go to: http://democrats.science.house.gov/bill/hr-stem-opportunities-act-2017


The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing oil and gas development on federal lands and mitigating the environmental impacts by applying requirements to the leases and drilling permits it issues.
In a recent General Accountability Office report, GAO examines BLM's efforts to mitigate environmental impacts from oil and gas development by determining the extent to which BLM (1) approved requests for exceptions to lease and permit requirements, (2) involved the public in the development of lease and permit requirements and exception requests, and (3) implemented and assessed the effectiveness of its best management practices policy.
The following six recommendations resulted from this report:

  1. BLM should develop a policy to ensure that field offices consistently track exception data.
  2. BLM should develop bureau-wide written procedures for consistently considering and clearly documenting the information and processes used to make exception decisions.
  3. BLM should direct field offices to make the results of exception request decisions available to the public, such as on BLM's public website.
  4. BLM should clarify guidance related to documentation of environmental inspections to ensure that inspections are documented in a manner that indicates whether all permit requirements were checked as part of the inspection.
  5. BLM should provide additional guidance to field offices on how to collect and use data collected during monitoring inspections and, in doing so, determine and implement an approach for using the data to assess the effectiveness of the agency's mitigation efforts, including its best management practices.
  6. BLM should establish a policy requiring staff responsible for conducting environmental and monitoring inspections to take standardized training.

The GAO report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-307

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

*Developing a Research Agenda for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration
*Nanotechnology Flight Test: Material Impact on the Future
*U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $55 Million Funding Opportunity for Clean-  Energy Transit Bus Projects
*Meat Breweries That Make Protein Instead of Beer

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