March 24, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


TRUMP BUDGET PROPOSES DRAMATIC CUTS FOR R&D, ENERGY, MANUFACTURING PROGRAMS

President Trump has released his $1.1 trillion ‘skinny’ budget proposal to Congress, which includes overarching goals of providing a large increase in defense spending and substantial increases for immigration enforcement and border security activities. To pay for these increases, the budget proposes dramatic cuts for almost every other area of government, including research and development, energy, education, manufacturing, and a host of other federal programs categorized under ‘discretionary spending’.

The budget includes a $54 billion increase for the Pentagon and a $2.89 billion increase for border security and immigration enforcement activities. At least one science and engineering area, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), would be largely safe, but most other programs in areas important to the science and engineering enterprise in the U.S. would see substantial budget cuts and program eliminations.

At the Department of Energy (DOE), the budget proposal would cut $1.7 billion overall, eliminating loans promoting innovation in clean energy technologies, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), as well as a cut of $900 million from the Office of Science, the part of DOE that supports the nation’s 17 national labs. Instead of funding breakthrough innovation models at DOE, the budget seeks instead to “elevate the private sector as better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”

DOE funding would be focused on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy Research and Development program on limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities. In addition, there is support for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s capacity to carry out cybersecurity and grid resiliency activities that would help harden and evolve critical grid infrastructure.

In the area of environmental research, the budget asks for cuts of about $ 2.5 billion (31 percent) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which includes reductions in staffing of one fifth of the agency’s current workforce, elimination of many Energy Star, climate change, and state grant programs, as well as a 50 percent cut for EPA’s science and technology programs, many of which are geared at understanding environmental impacts on human health and well-being.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) spending would be reduced by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion total. The Budget includes a major reorganization of NIH’s Institutes and Centers to help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities, including: eliminating the Fogarty International Center; consolidating the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within NIH; and other consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities. The budget also reduces administrative costs and rebalances federal contributions to research funding.

In addition to cutting a number of science and engineering research programs, the budget would also cut programs aimed at boosting the U.S. manufacturing sector, including elimination of the $124 million Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. Currently, the MEP program provides funding for up to half the cost of State MEP centers, which provide consulting services to small- and medium-size manufacturers and would force a transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources.

Both Democrats and Republicans, including House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), are signaling major concerns about the impact of such dramatic cuts, with leaders careful to point out that it’s Congress’ job to allocate funding and make spending decisions.

Under the continuing resolution that is funding the government through April 28, Congress could opt to keep the status quo in place for the remainder of fiscal 2017 with another five-month continuing resolution ending in September, the end of fiscal year 2017. Any spending bill would require 60 votes in the Senate for passage, so at least eight members of the Democratic caucus would have to lend their support to the majority party.

The full budget is available here: http://bit.ly/2nvjrBO


NEW REPORT SAYS MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM GENERATES SUBSTANTIAL ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL RETURN

The W.E. Upjohn Institute recently released a study estimating the broader national impact of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. The study found that the MEP’s impact is substantial (nearly 9:1 for the $130 million that the federal government invests annually) in terms of economic and financial return while still taking a conservative approach.

By generating additional jobs in the United States, the study found that total employment was over 142,000 higher because of MEP center projects than without the program. This estimate includes both direct, indirect, and induced jobs generated by MEP projects. These jobs support additional manufacturing jobs critical to the supply chains and nonmanufacturing jobs. Other positive impacts of the MEP program were the additional areas of economic impact not previously reported like personal income, which was $8.44 billion higher and GDP was $15.4 billion larger due to an increase of $1.13 billion in personal income tax revenue to the federal government than without the program.

The MEP program is a public-private partnership created in 1988 to improve the global competitiveness and productivity of America’s small manufacturers. Under President Trump’s budget, which proposes cuts to a number of science and engineering research programs, there was the proposed elimination of the $124 million MEP program. Currently, the MEP program provides funding for up to half the cost of State MEP centers, which provide consulting services to small- and medium-size manufacturers and would force a transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources.

This report, which was funded by the MEP program, is available at http://research.upjohn.org/reports/226/


THE FUTURE POSTPONED 2.0 REVIEWS WHY DECLINING INVESTMENT IN BASIC RESEARCH THREATENS A U.S. INNOVATION DEFICIT

Basic research lies at the core of the U.S. innovation system with most of the technologies surrounding us having started from breakthroughs in basic science and engineering. Examples include smartphone components, magnetic resonance imaging, and cancer therapies. It often takes years for fundamental research to become useful to society. Additionally, it is almost impossible to know which fields of study will prove most fruitful.

Even though the United States continues to lead the world in total expenditure on research and development, this lead is slowing. It is important that federal support for basic research continue since it has proven important to our economic growth and improving living standards in the post-war era.

The Future Postponed 2.0, supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,details 15 science opportunities ripe for advancement and gives a snapshot of 13 additional breakthrough opportunities for basic research and their potential long-term impacts. Topics include the use of synthetic proteins in energy, technology, and medicine; using Earth’s forest to absorb carbon dioxide; using nanoscale catalysts to bring us inexpensive fuels and understanding dark energy and dark matter.

To review the report, please visit:  http://www.futurepostponed.org/


REGULATORY REVIEW BOARDS TO BE ESTABLISHED AT ALL FEDERAL AGENCIES

President Trump is pushing for government-wide regulatory reform with an executive order requiring every agency to establish a regulatory reform task force, which will evaluate existing regulations and identify candidates for repeal or modification. These taskforces will be held accountable by measuring and reporting progress.

Touting how past Administrations have resulted in more regulations not less, President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated. The House of Representatives has also advanced two bills that would expand presidential influence over the federal rulemaking process.

The first bill, HR 1009, the OIRA Insight, Reform, and Accountability Act, would subject independent agency draft regulations to White House review—through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The second bill, HR 998, the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act (SCRUB) Act, would create a review board, composed of presidential appointees, “to determine if a rule or set of rules should be repealed.”
Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said “A primary concern with subjecting independent agencies to OIRA review of rulemakings is that those agencies are designed to be independent.” Independent agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Communications Commission are run by a board of appointed commissioners and are appointed on a bipartisan basis to ensure dissenting views are part of the rulemaking process.

To read the executive order in full, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/24/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-regulatory-reform-agenda


NEW REPORT EXAMINES THE IMPACT OF UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR STEM STUDENTS

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examines the impact on undergraduate research experiences (UREs) for STEM students, and recommends more well-designed research to gain a deeper understanding of how these experiences affect different students and analyzes the aspects of UREs that are most beneficial.

There are rapidly evolving UREs with a variety of lengths and focuses (content, context, the diversity of the student participants, and the opportunities they provide for learning). UREs now provide course-based learning experiences, internships, and co-op positions, as well as “wrap-around” programs, which are a combination of mentoring, learning study skills, and research approaches and ethics.

The report’s conclusion was that there were still many unanswered questions about the role of UREs in undergraduate learning and how these mechanisms could support various student, faculty, and institutional goals. 

More information about the report can be found at: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24622/undergraduate-research-experiences-for-stem-students-successes-challenges-and-opportunities

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

*Six Years After Fukushima, Much of Japan Has Lost Faith in Nuclear Power
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/six-years-after-fukushima-much-of-japan-has-lost-faith-in-nuclear-power/

*Trump to Nominate Gottlieb for FDA Commissioner
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/trump-to-nominate-gottlieb-for-fda-commissioner/

*Edible Robots Made from Gelatin May Soon Get to Work in Your Intestinal Tract
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/edible-robots-made-from-gelatin-may-soon-get-to-work-in-your-intestinal-tract/

*NIH Celebrates Pi Day to Recognize Importance of Building a Diverse Biomedical Workforce
https://nihpiday.nih.gov/

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